Subject: AI: recommendations on Timor-Leste to UN Commission on HR


AI INDEX: IOR 41/001/2004 1 January 2004

2004 UN Commission on Human Rights: Mission: to promote and protect human rights


The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) gained independence only two years ago. The new country joined the UN in 2002. The government has acceded to several key human rights treaties, although limited progress has been achieved in developing a national legal framework to protect human rights and strengthen the newly established judiciary, police force and other key institutions. These weaknesses within the justice system, particularly the lack of human resources, training and oversight of officials, continue to undermine the rule of law, security and human rights. However, underlying the country's efforts to build a nation founded on the rule of law, is an entrenched legacy of impunity for human rights violations committed in Timor-Leste while under Indonesian rule and in the context of the August 1999 ballot which resulted in the country becoming independent.

It is estimated that 1,400 people were killed in the months proceeding and in the aftermath of the ballot, and that 30 percent of the population were forcibly deported or fled to West Timor, where an estimated 28,000 remain in refugee camps. Other human rights violations including torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence were committed, overwhelmingly against supporters of independence.(206) These widespread and systematic violations were carried out by militia, set up and supported by, and sometimes with the direct involvement of, the Indonesian security forces, in order to influence the outcome of the ballot and disrupt the implementation of the result.

In response to this violence the Commission convened a Special Session in September 1999 to consider the human rights situation in Timor-Leste. In recognition of the responsibility of the international community to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes of such a serious nature as those committed in Timor-Leste, it adopted a resolution affirming that the international community would exert every effort to ensure those responsible for the violence are brought to justice.(207) The demand that perpetrators be brought to justice in a manner consistent with international fair trials standards has been reiterated in statements by the Commission Chairperson in subsequent years.(208)

Obstructions to Accountability

Two parallel processes were established to bring to justice alleged perpetrators of human rights violations in Timor-Leste.

In Indonesia, a Human Rights Court was established in 2001 by a Presidential Decision(209) to hear some of the most egregious cases of violence in Timor-Leste. These trials have all but come to an end, but have not succeeded in delivering justice to the thousands of victims and their families in Timor-Leste. Throughout the process AI repeatedly drew attention to the shortcomings in these trials, including the limited territorial and temporal jurisdiction of the court,(210) the decision of the Attorney General's Office to investigate only five out of the many hundreds of crimes committed; the decision to prosecute only 18 lower and middle-ranking officials(211) out of potentially hundreds of suspects and the weakness of the cases presented by the prosecution, including their failure to present before the court well-attested evidence.(212)

In Timor-Leste, the work of the Special Panels, established by the UN in 2000, is proceeding. As of the beginning of December 2003, indictments had been issued against 369 people of whom many are charged with committing crimes against humanity. Of the 369, 280 are currently in Indonesia, including senior military and police officials, some of whom have been tried and acquitted in Indonesia's Human Rights Court and others who were never subjected to investigation. The Indonesian authorities have publicly stated that they will not transfer these suspects to Timor-Leste for trial,(213) claiming the Special Panels have no jurisdiction over these international crimes.(214)

In responding to the failure so far to provide justice to the people of Timor-Leste it is important that the international community realizes that the pattern of human rights violations committed by the Indonesian security forces, or their militia proxies, in Timor-Leste in 1999 continues to take place elsewhere in Indonesia. Following the imposition of a military emergency in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam on 19 May 2003 grave human rights violations have been reported, including extrajudicial executions, including of children, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence including rape and forcible displacement. Local human rights defenders have been subjected to arbitrary detention, harassment and intimidation. Combined with restrictions on access to international humanitarian and human rights workers, this means that there is virtually no independent monitoring of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the province. In Papua peaceful expressions of support for independence are prohibited and individuals have been brought to trial for involvement in flag raising ceremonies. Other human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions and torture, also continue to be documented.

Amnesty International calls on the Commission to:

· Condemn in the strongest terms Indonesia's failure to fulfil its stated commitment and duty to bring to justice, in a credible manner that conforms to international standards for fair trial, all perpetrators of serious crimes, including crimes against humanity, committed in Timor-Leste during 1999;

· Express serious concern at the continued reluctance of the Indonesian authorities to cooperate with the serious crime investigations, prosecutions and trials process in Timor-Leste, including by urging them to transfer the 281 suspects against whom indictments have been served, to Timor-Leste for trial;

· Support all efforts to ensure that credible and effective trials of all perpetrators, including those residing in Indonesia, be brought to justice;

· Express serious concern at reports of grave human rights violations in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) Province under the current military emergency, and urge the government of Indonesia to grant access to international humanitarian and human rights workers and to guarantee the protection of local human rights defenders.

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