Subject: Hassan hails international support for RI-Timor Leste commission

The Jakarta Post Friday, September 8, 2006

FM hails international support for work of RI-Timor Leste commission

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The joint Indonesia-Timor Leste Truth and Friendship Commission has received overwhelming support from the international community in uncovering human rights abuses in the then East Timor in 1999, helping to build trust between the countries, according to an Indonesian official.

Speaking at a one-day seminar Thursday in Jakarta, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said that in the beginning most people were pessimistic about the commission, believing it would only serve to pardon people involved in abuses.

But recent developments, Hassan said, showed that many countries had begun to place their trust in the commission.

"UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, for instance, has recommended that the Security Council welcome efforts by Indonesia and Timor Leste, and support the commission to increase its efficiency and credibility," Hassan said during the seminar on Indonesia-Timor Leste relations.

He said the UN Security Council issued Resolution No. 1704 on Aug. 25 to express its trust in the commission.

"The Security Council ... welcomes the efforts so far by Indonesia and Timor Leste in persuance of truth and friendship, and encourages the two governments and the commissioners ... to strengthen the efficiency and credibility of the Truth and Friendship Commission in order to ensure further conformity with human rights principles ...," the resolution reads.

Indonesia and Timor Leste established the 10-member commission in August 2005, with five representatives from each country charged with investigating human rights abuses committed in East Timor before and after the independence referendum in the former Indonesian province. According to the United Nations, at least 1,500 people were killed by militia groups allegedly backed by the Indonesian Military.

The commission, with a mandate until August 2007 and modeled on similar bodies set up in South Africa, Chile and Argentina, has no powers to prosecute human rights violators. However, it can give recommendations to the Indonesian and Timor Leste governments to grant amnesty to people who have confessed to involvement and expressed remorse, and to compensate victims.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry's director general for multilateral affairs, Moh. Slamet Hidayat, said the international community, however, wanted the commission to just to recommend amnesty for rights violators.

"Further international acceptance of the results of the commission's works depends on whether the investigation process and recommendations are credible in the sense that the commission has followed international standards for human rights abuse investigations," he told participants of the seminar.

The commission's co-chairman from Timor Leste, Dionisio Babo Soares, said they had reviewed all existing materials documented by the Indonesian National Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights Violations in Timor Leste (KPP HAM), and the Ad-Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor, as well as reports from the Special Panels for Serious Crimes and the Commission of Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor Leste, to determine the existence of human rights violations and people implicated in the acts.

He said the commission had identified 14 incidents of gross human rights violations that occurred in 1999 around the time East Timor voted to split from Indonesia, including the Liquisa incident, the Suai Church incident and the Los Balos case.

"In one or two months, we will begin interviewing all people related to the cases," he said, adding that they expected that they could submit the report and recommendation early next year.

A commission member from Indonesia, Achmad Ali, added that Gen. (ret) Wiranto, the military chief during the violence, was among the high-ranking officials who agreed to meet with the commission to explain the course of events in 1999.

The legal expert from Makassar's Hasanuddin University declined to name other former and active officers, but based on documents Brig. Gen. A. Nur Muis, a former chief of the now defunct Wira Dharma Military Command that oversaw East Timor during the ballot, and the then chief of the Dili Military Command, Lt. Col. Sudjarwo, will likely be questioned.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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