Subject: AKI: East Timor: Rights groups urge UN to deliver justice to population

East Timor: Rights groups urge UN to deliver justice to population

Jakarta, 26 Nov. (AKI) - As a delegation of the UN Security Council travels to East Timor for a week-long mission, representatives of more than 60 rights groups from 15 countries, have signed a letter asking the UN to deliver justice to the people of the former Portuguese colony that suffered heavily under Indonesian occupation.

An independent report has said at least 100,000 Timorese died during Indonesia's 25-year military occupation from 1975-1999.

The letter, signed by human rights groups including those from Indonesia, East Timor, elsewhere in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, United States, and Europe, rejected the Indonesian government's attempts to escape accountability.

In the strongly worded letter, the signatories called on the Security Council "to act forcefully for justice for the people of East Timor," by implementing the relevant recommendations of East Timor's Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR).

"An international norm has crystallised against impunity," said Clinton Fernandes of the Australian Coalition for Transitional Justice in East Timor, one of the groups who signed the letter.

"The UN Security Council must reinforce this norm by ensuring that those bearing responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity are brought to justice."

Established during the UN stewardship in East Timor, CAVR recommended an international tribunal prosecute several members of the Indonesian Army for war crimes.

The recommendations have been ignored by Jakarta and Dili's governments who have instead chosen the path of reconciliation.

However, the signatories noted that there is widespread support for substantive justice within East Timor, especially by the church and civil society.

On a positive note, the letter applauded the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon's decision not to give legitimacy to the bilateral Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF), unless its terms of reference are substantially changed.

The CTF began in 2005 as an effort to deflect a United Nations report calling for Indonesia to be given six months to prosecute those within its jurisdiction accused of atrocities during East Timor's 1999 independence referendum.

The Commission, which has almost run its course, has been beset by problems, including the widespread perception that it lacks legitimacy, has serious deficiencies in the standards of its public hearings, including no clear procedure for reconciling conflicting versions of the truth and a lack of clarity and transparency about its processes.

Prior to the CTF, Jakarta organised some ad-hoc human rights tribunals but they were largely considered a sham and ended by acquitting every soldier suspected of involvements in the alleged abuses.

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