Subject: AT:  Justice before Security Council seat for Indonesia


Oct 12, 2004

Asia Times

Indonesia has recently made public its desire for permanent membership of the [United Nations] Security Council. This is timely. In order for the international community to bestow such a powerful role upon a state, that state must demonstrate a firm commitment to the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations. Respect for and protection of basic human rights is one of these objectives. Indonesia's success in moving from dictatorship to democracy must now be matched by a demonstrated commitment to human rights. Given the extent and seriousness of the crimes committed by Indonesians in East Timor, and the failure of the legal process in Jakarta, the UN must make clear to Indonesia the prerequisites for its consideration for a permanent seat on the Security Council. These must include: 1) The arrest of all of those persons in Indonesia who have been indicted by UN investigators for serious crimes in East Timor. 2) A demonstrated commitment to human rights throughout Indonesia. 3) The payment of reparations to the victims of the serious crimes in East Timor. 4) A public apology for the role of the TNI [Indonesian armed forces] in the serious crimes in East Timor throughout the occupation. The governments of East Timor, Indonesia and the USA have recently stated that they do not support the establishment of an international tribunal for East Timor. It is clear that this position is grounded upon "national interest", with justice or accountability for crimes being sidelined. International human-rights law does not recognize national interest as an excuse for failing to ensure justice in the wake of serious human-rights violations. Instead it requires justice for victims and their families, and payment of reparations where state responsibility is established. One cannot expect East Timor, a nation that remains reliant upon Indonesia for imports of basic foodstuffs and fresh water, to be in a position to exercise an independent view on this issue. It is clearly constrained due to economic and political pressures applied by Indonesia. If the government of East Timor is unwilling or unable to protect the rights of its citizens, the international community must afford this protection in its place. It should be remembered that the overwhelming majority of East Timorese people want an international tribunal, and continue to press for one through organizations such as the Timor Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal. Indonesia's new president must weigh the question of accountability for human-rights violations carefully. If no action is taken on this front, many will ask themselves: If Indonesia is not willing to confront its past, what guarantee is there that it will respect human rights in the future? What guarantee is there that Indonesia would not use its power of veto in the Security Council to block action by the council to address human-rights violations in East Timor, Indonesia and beyond in the future?

Ben Clarke
Senior Lecturer in Law
University of Notre Dame Australia (Oct 5, '04)


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