|Subject: JP: UN Boycotts Timor Truth Body
The Jakarta Post Saturday, July 28, 2007
UN boycotts Timor truth body
Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Indonesia has asked the United Nations and the international community to support the efforts of the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) to investigate the events of 1999 in Timor Leste, amid UN criticism on the commission's authority to give amnesty.
"The international community should respect and support efforts by Indonesia and Timor Leste as sovereign nations to solve their past problems with a future-oriented approach," Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kristiarto Soeryo Legowo told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
He said that both nations needed UN support to reveal the truth while at the same time strengthen friendships between people of the two countries.
Criticizing the commission for allowing amnesties even for serious crimes, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told UN officials Thursday not to testify before a panel investigating the 1999 killings in Timor Leste.
"The United Nations' policy, however, is that the organization 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 was quoted as saying by Reuters.
"Unless the terms of reference are revised to comply with international standards, officials of the UN will therefore not testify at its proceedings or take any other steps that would support the work of the CTF," he said.
Among those called to testify is Ian Martin, the UN special representative in Timor Leste in 1999 and now the UN envoy in Nepal.
International relations expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Bantarto Bandoro said that Indonesia and Timor Leste should drop the amnesty provision in the terms of reference of the commission.
He doubted that the amnesty provision would be relevant for the work of the commission as there would be little chance that high-ranking military officials would voluntarily admit their crimes to get amnesty while a formal tribunal had failed to prove their involvement in the mayhem.
"The amnesty provision is seen as giving impunity to military officials so just drop it and get international support," he told the Post.
Indonesia and Timor Leste agreed to work together to investigate the events of 1999, when Timorese voted for independence under UN supervision only to see violence break out.
Riots blamed on militia backed by the Indonesian military killed many Timorese, forced 250,000 people from their homes and burned most buildings to the ground in the former Portuguese colony. An estimated 100,000 Timorese died, many from hunger and disease.
Indonesia says only about 100 people were killed before Australian troops arrived, followed by a UN peacekeeping mission.
Both Indonesia and Timor Leste have set up parallel systems to prosecute those responsible for the violence but UN reports have described those efforts as inadequate. The commission cannot prosecute but its hearings are likely to have an impact on the Indonesian public and government.
dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Indonesia urge international community to respect Timor truth body
Jul 28, 2007, 3:27 GMT
Jakarta - Indonesia urged the international community to respect a joint truth commission tasked at gathering the facts surrounding Indonesia's military rampage ahead of East Timor's 1999 vote for independence, local media reported on Saturday.
'The international community should respect and support efforts by Indonesia and Timor Leste as sovereign nations to solve their past problems with a future-oriented approach,' Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Kristiarto Legowo was quoted by The Jakarta Post as saying.
The comments came after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Thursday criticized the commission for granting amnesties to those suspected of serious human rights abuses during the elections. A spokesman for Ban said United Nations officials would not testify before the panel unless 'the terms of reference are revised to comply with international standards.'
Among those called to testify before the joint panel is Ian Martin, the UN special representative in East Timor in 1999.
The commission '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,' a spokesman for Ban said Thursday. 'It is the firm intention of the secretary general to uphold this position of principle.'
Indonesia and its former colony East Timor had agreed that the truth and friendship commission would not prosecute anyone found guilty of human rights abuses during the balloting eight years ago.
'The important things is that we do not allow ourselves to be held hostage by the past,' Ramos Horta, the current East Timor leader, said after visiting Indonesia in early June. 'It will set a precedent for other countries to deal with similar situations.'
The Indonesia-East Timor Commission of Truth and Friendship is similar to South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and occupied the former Portuguese colony for 24 years. As many as 200,000 civilians died during that period.
East Timor voted to become independent in the UN-sponsored referendum in 1999, and became a nation in 2002 after being administered by the UN for more than two years.
Human-rights groups have criticized the commission because it lacks the ability to bring senior members of the Indonesian Armed Forces to justice for ordering military-backed militias to massacre Timorese civilians and raze villages.
Both countries had agreed to extend by six months the work of the joint truth panel. The commission's mandate is now set until February 2008.