|Subject: Ban urges U.N. officials not to
testify before truth commission
Also AKI - East Timor: No amnesty for human rights violators, UN warns
Friday July 27, 3:18 PM
Ban urges U.N. officials not to testify before truth commission
(Kyodo) _ U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has told U.N. officials not to testify before an Indonesia-East Timor "truth commission" investigating human rights abuses committed in East Timor in 1999 unless the commission drops its recommendation that those responsible for serious crimes be amnestied.
The United Nations "cannot endorse or condone amnesties for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or gross violations of human rights, nor should it do anything that might foster them," Ban said Thursday in a statement issued in New York.
"Unless the terms of reference are revised to comply with international standards, officials of the United Nations will, therefore, not testify at its proceedings," he added.
The Commission of Truth and Friendship was jointly set up by Indonesia and East Timor in 2005, tasked with establishing a "conclusive truth of events" about human rights violations that occurred prior to and following the 1999 referendum in which East Timorese voted to separate from Indonesia.
It is intended to promote reconciliation and friendship and to ensure that such tragic events are not repeated.
It also recommends amnesty to those found responsible for committing gross human rights violations in the 1999 violence.
The commission has held a series of sessions in Jakarta, Dili and Bali to hear testimonies of East Timorese and Indonesians in connection with the 1999 violence blamed mostly on pro-Jakarta East Timorese militiamen.
They also repeatedly invited U.N. officials, including former Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General in East Timor Ian Martin, to testify, but none showed up. Martin is now U.N. special envoy in Nepal.
The commission is modeled on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Unlike the one in South Africa, however, the commission will have no decision-making power. The commission can only make recommendations to parliaments of both sides and cannot prosecute anyone.
The commission, which was scheduled to last for one year, was extended for another year in 2006. The mandate of the commission was subsequently extended for another six months when Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta met in Jakarta last month.
Militia groups, armed and supported by the Indonesian military, in April 1999 began escalating acts of violence and intimidation against pro-independence East Timorese in the run-up to the referendum on independence on Aug. 30 that year.
Soon after the results of the vote were announced Sept. 4 that year, the militia groups launched a campaign of violence and destruction across East Timor, which had been invaded by Indonesia in 1975.
Hundreds of people were killed, hundreds of thousands more forcibly displaced and 70 percent of East Timor's buildings and houses were destroyed.
Indonesia, under pressure from the international community, implicated 18 individuals, mostly military and police officers, but acquitted all of them except militia leader Eurico Guterres, who is now serving a 10-year jail term.
East Timor's government has ruled out the idea of seeking justice at an international tribunal and has instead made efforts to build a close relationship with its former occupier and giant neighbor.
East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, became fully independent in May 2002 after more than 24 years under Indonesian occupation and two-and-a-half years under U.N. transitional administration.
East Timor: No amnesty for human rights violators, UN warns
New York, 27 July (AKI) - United Nations officials will boycott a commission set up jointly by Indonesia and East Timor (Timor-Leste) to foster reconciliation after the tiny south east Asian nation's struggle for independence if the body is allowed to recommend amnesties for crimes against humanity and other gross violations of human rights.
UN policy "is that the Organisation cannot endorse or condone amnesties for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or gross violations of human rights, nor should it do anything that might foster them," secretary general Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson said on Thursday. "It is the firm intention of the Secretary-General to uphold this position of principle."
Spokesperson Marie Okabe noted that the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), established by Indonesia and East Timor in 2005, had on several occasions invited former staff members of the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to testify at its proceedings.
But the CTF's terms of reference into the bloodshed that followed East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999, and in which nine local UN personnel were killed, do not preclude it from recommending amnesty for crimes against humanity, gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, Okabe noted.
"Unless the terms of reference are revised to comply with international standards, officials of the United Nations will, therefore, not testify at its proceedings or take any other steps that would support the work of the CTF and thereby further the possible grant of amnesties in respect of such acts," she said.