Subject: JP: Doubts over CTF credibility as final hearing nears

September 22, 2007

Doubts over CTF credibility as final hearing nears

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

With the Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) due to hold its final hearing Monday, critics are asking if its findings will have any credibility with the victims or the international community.

"If it seeks forgiveness from Timorese victims then it will not get it because so far no parties or individuals have admitted that they are responsible or guilty.

"So, how can you say sorry if you feel you're not guilty?" an international relations expert at the University of Indonesia, Hariyadi Wirawan, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He expressed fear victims and right activists at home and abroad would dismiss the findings of the commission because nobody had been found guilty despite there clearly being many victims.

The CTF is set to hold its fifth hearing in Dili next week. Timor Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and Timor Leste Armed Forces chief Taur Matan Ruak are due to testify on Monday.

From Tuesday to Friday, the CTF will hear testimony from Timor Leste militia members, officials and victims.

CTF co-chairman Benjamin Mangkoedilaga said his team met Friday with Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta in Denpasar on his way to New York for a UN meeting.

Indonesia and Timor Leste agreed to establish the CTF to investigate the violence that followed the UN-supervised independence vote in East Timor in 1999.

Violence blamed on militias backed by the Indonesian Military hundreds dead and forced thousands from their homes. Much of the areas infrastructure was destroyed in the upheaval.

Indonesia claims only about 100 people were killed in the violence 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 their efforts as inadequate, with no Indonesian high-ranking military officers being punished.

CTF credibility was further put into question when in July the UN prohibited its officials from testifying for the commission.

Criticizing the commission for offering amnesty for those who committed serious crimes, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told UN officials not to testify before the panel.

The University of Indonesia's Hariyadi said parties and victims unsatisfied with the CTF's conclusions might try to set up a human rights tribunal similar to one in Cambodia to seek justice.

"An allegation that the CTF is merely being used to avoid some people being brought to justice has circulated among people. I think many have thought of seeking justice through a human rights tribunal," he said.

The decision by Cambodian authorities to arrest Nuon Chea, 82, the Khmer Rouge's top surviving leader, earlier this week has been seen by many analysts as having boosted the credibility of Cambodia's UN-backed genocide court.

An international law expert at the University of Indonesia, Hikmahanto Juwana, said that from the beginning the CTF was not focused on punishing perpetrators, but finding the truth to enable both countries to move on with better relations.

"We should respect whatever conclusion the CTF comes up with as we should see the CTF as a way to improve future friendship and relations between the two countries," he said.

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