Subject: Timor truth body struggling to get documents from military

May 29, 2007

Timor truth body struggling to get documents from military

Olivia Rondonuwu


A truth commission investigating the violence surrounding East Timor's historic vote for independence in 1999 says it is having trouble accessing documents, including from the Indonesian military.

The East Timor Indonesia Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) hopes to crosscheck the information in the archived documents with the testimony of high profile military personnel who have fronted the inquiry.

Former head of the Indonesian armed forces General Wiranto - who contested Indonesia's presidential elections in 2004 - denied there were any gross violations of human rights in East Timor in 1999 when he appeared before the truth commission earlier this month.

The commission was established by the presidents of Indonesia and East Timor to come up with a conclusive truth to the 1999 violence to help repair relations between the two nations.

"The documents are spread, some are still at the Serious Crime Unit ... some documents are in institutions such as Indonesian military headquarters," said East Timor commissioner Cirilo Varadales.

"These documents are very important to know, and to look at, so the commissioners can review and crosscheck to find out whether there was an institutional responsibility in 1999 or not.

"We are hoping to have a good cooperation and collaboration with those institutions."

The documents include telegrams sent from Indonesian military (TNI) headquarters to military and government leaders in East Timor at the height of the violence. The CTF had filed a request for the documents to the Indonesian military's legal department in February, he said.

Indonesian commissioner Agus Widjojo said the bureaucracy inside the Indonesian military made it difficult to access the documents.

"The documents are still in archive, maintained by the TNI (Indonesian military)," Widjojo said.

"We have obtained some but because this happened long in the past and was issued by different levels of command it is taking time to find it."

The CTF is due to wrap up by August, but has asked for a one-year extension.

Widjojo said it was awaiting a reply from the two governments, although Indonesian officials had hinted it would only be given until January next year to submit its final report.

The commission, which has been criticised by human rights groups because it has the power to recommend amnesties to perpetrators of human rights violations, is expected to hold three more public meetings.

East Timor's former president Xanana Gusmao is expected to be among those to testify, following the tiny nation's parliamentary elections next month.

Indonesian major-general, Kiki Syahnakri, had asked to testify at an upcoming hearing in Dili, where there is still a warrant for his arrest.

Syahnakri was one of several high-ranking Indonesian generals indicted by East Timor's Special Panels in absentia in Dili District Court for crimes against humanity in 2003, but never prosecuted because they remained outside the court's jurisdiction in Indonesia. "We need (Syahnakri) to explain the political and security situation in martial law, and we are considering possibilities like if he got arrested when he arrived there," Indonesian co-chairman Benjamin Mangkoedilaga said.

Commissioner Varadales, meanwhile, said the CTF was "trying our best to give what Syahnakri wants, because he shows a good will to appear in front of the Timor people, to reveal what really happen during that (vote for independence) and that deserves an appreciation".

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