Subject: STP-CAVR: Learning the Lessons of the CAVR Report in Australia

Post-CAVR Technical Secretariat (STP-CAVR) Media Release

17 November 2006

Learning the Lessons of the CAVR Report in Australia

Australians are getting a rare opportunity to learn about Timor-Leste and to better understand its story through Chega!, the Final Report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR). This report is being officially launched in six Australian cities ( Sydney, Melbourne , Ballarat, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra) from the 12th to the 28 th of November 2006. It will be presented to a wide range of Australian stakeholders including representatives from government, parliament, civil society, church groups, the Australian East Timorese community and the general public. In some cities the launch will be held together with justice and reconciliation forums and traditional East Timorese music performances.

Timor-Leste's President, Xanana Gusmao, officially received the Report on the 31th of October 2005. He delivered it to the national parliament a month later on the 28th of November. Despite the passing of nearly a year, parliament is yet to discuss its findings and yet to debate or implement any of its recommendations.

The Report describes the tragic events that gripped Timor-Leste from 1975 to 1999 during the years of its brief civil war and the subsequent Indonesian occupation. The Report runs to over 2,500 pages and its findings are presented together with 204 recommendations aimed at preventing the repetition of mass human rights abuses in the future.

The recommendations are aimed at Timor-Leste's government, political parties and civil society groups; countries like Indonesia, Portugal , Australia, and the United States of America ; the United Nations and Security Council members; the Vatican , ASEAN and the international community generally. Many believe the implementation of these recommendations would have had a positive effect in preventing the re-emergence of violence this year.

In a video message specially recorded for the Australian launch of the CAVR Report, Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said:

"The CAVR process was an extraordinary endeavour both in terms of the workload, the magnitude of the task…but also in terms of its emotionall impact on anyone who lived through…or who dared to reaad the report and its conclusions and recommendations.

"As Prime Minister of this country I will do my best to cooperate, assist and support, firstly the dissemination of the report so it becomes a learning process for all of us so that we learn from the past so that we don't repeat the same errors that in part contributed to this tragedy.

"The recommendations are numerous. The government as a whole with the parliament and others will endeavour to implement them. We owe it to the people, we owe it to the victims, we owe it to the current generation and the future generation so that Timor-Leste can live in peace."

Mark Byrne is Convenor of the Australian Coalition for Transitional Justice in East Timor (ACTJET), a group which assisted the Post CAVR Technical Secretariat (STP-CAVR) in organising the launches in Australia. He agrees with Prime Minister Ramos-Horta regarding the importance of the CAVR Report and argues that it is especially relevant during the current crisis.

"The crisis in Dili this year is a reminder that without justice and reconciliation, the past will continue to haunt the people of a new post-conflict nation such as East Timor."

Rev Agustinho de Vasconselos, Executive Director of the STP-CAVR, believes that one of the most important lessons of the CAVR Report is that reconciliation and justice must work together or neither will be effective.

"Whether you look at the period of the Indonesian occupation or the current crisis it is clear the breakdown of rule of law and criminal impunity are key factors which facilitate ordinary crime and more serious human rights abuses. When reconciliation and justice walk hand-in-hand people begin to look to the future instead of the past."

He also spoke of the significance of launching the CAVR Report in Australia.

"It is important for all Australians to understand the role their nation played in Timor-Leste's historic struggle for independence. At times this role was very positive, such as when INTERFET arrived in 1999 and Australian civil society's continuing efforts to bring attention to the human rights violations being perpetrated in Timor-Leste during the occupation.

"At other times, however, the Australian government chose politics over principle and pragmatism over people. These decisions contributed to the suffering and ongoing persecution of the East Timorese in their own land. We believe there are lessons in this report for the leaders of both our countries and that these lessons must be learned well to ensure our countries do not repeat the mistakes of the past."

Former CAVR Chair Aniceto Guterres Lopes and Former CAVR National Commissioner Isabel Guterres have traveled to Australia for the launches together with the Senior Adviser to CAVR and STP-CAVR, Pat Walsh. The national launch of the CAVR Report will be on the 28 th of November at the Australian Parliament.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Rev Agustinho de Vasconselos , Executive Director STP-CAVR Telephone: (+670) 331 1263 Daniel Scoullar , Adviser to STP-CAVR Telephone: (+670) 728 0991


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