La'o Hamutuk, The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and
Analysis, P.O. Box 340, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin, Australia)
Mobile: +61(408)811373; Land phone: +670(390)325-013
Table of contents:
back to top
Women and Justice
By Kate Halliday
The number of cases of violence against women in East Timor has risen sharply according to media reports (see The La’o Hamutuk Bulletin, Vol. 2, Nos. 1&2) with the majority of offenders being husbands and brothers. East Timorese women activists have repeatedly raised concerns about this matter.
The Vulnerable Persons Unit of CIVPOL in Dili also notes that there has been an increase in women reporting domestic violence crime over the last year. However, they also report that women are experiencing difficulties with the criminal process and that they are very vulnerable to pressure to withdraw their complaints of violence.
The justice system can respond to violence against women in a number of important ways by:
The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women states that women are entitled to equality before the law. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women recognizes that violence against women is an impediment to equality and the full enjoyment of human rights.
At the moment in East Timor the legal situation in relation to violence against women is quite complex due to the continuing existence of Indonesian law in some areas and the introduction of UNTAET regulations in other areas. However the first regulation passed by UNTAET in 1999 makes it clear that international human rights standards, including the standards contained in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, have a clear role in the law in East Timor. Public officials must exercise their duties in accordance with these standards. Indonesian law only continues to apply in East Timor as long as it complies with these international human rights standards or until it is replaced by UNTAET regulation.
The Indonesian criminal code does not provide adequate protection for women from violence. Under this law, for example, it is not prohibited for a man to rape his wife. Threats of violence and attempted assault are also not prohibited by the code. This law fails to give a clear message to the community that domestic violence is the same as other forms of violence. It is also inconsistent with international human rights standards, in that women do not have the full support of the law in seeking protection from violence.
UNTAET’s law on criminal procedure introduced some important rights for victims of violence. Under this law an investigating judge has the power to prevent a perpetrator who has been arrested for domestic violence from living in the family home while the court is investigating and prosecuting a case of violence. When convicting a perpetrator of violence, a judge may order the perpetrator to pay compensation to the victim. This is a significant law for victims of violence as many would not be able to pursue civil proceedings against a perpetrator for compensation.
An International Tribunal is the most pressing demand in the
interests of justice. Of all the victims of Indonesian military violence the
greatest suffering was borne by women, who up to this time, have not met with
the justice they hoped for.
-- The East Timorese Women’s Network,
Many East Timorese communities continue to use traditional dispute resolution mechanisms that also involve the payment of compensation to a victim by the perpetrator. Recently, however, there have been allegations that some judges are blurring these traditional roles with their new authority in the formal legal system, and “resolving” domestic violence disputes merely by ordering payment of compensation, rather than proper prosecution of criminal behavior. It is vitally important that judges and prosecutors are trained adequately in domestic violence issues.
Ensuring that the law itself protects women and complies with international human rights standards is only the first step. In addition, there must be effective community education about women’s rights and sensitive administration of the laws.
It is the responsibility of all those involved in the justice system law makers, police, prosecutors, lawyers and judges -- to ensure that women achieve full equality before the law.
Kate Halliday is an Australian-based lawyer who recently volunteered with Fokupers in Dili.
back to top
Editorial: Time to Get Serious About Justice for East Timor
The East Timorese deserve the right to justice as much as any people in the world. As this country recovers from 24 years of conflict and gross human rights abuses, it is now time for justice and accountability with full international backing. Indonesia’s 1975 invasion and occupation were flagrant violations of international law, causing one of the highest death tolls proportionate to population in the last half-century.
The final act of terror of the Indonesian occupation--the September 1999 rampage after the overwhelming pro-independence vote--was a blatant violation of Jakarta’s international obligations. As the International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor (ICIET) wrote in January 2000, the “actions violating human rights and international humanitarian law in East Timor were directed against a decision of the United Nations Security Council ... and were contrary to agreements reached by Indonesia with the United Nations to carry out that Security Council decision.”
Many in East Timorese civil society demand an international tribunal to hold those who committed Crimes Against Humanity in East Timor accountable for their actions. At an October 16 conference in Dili, 75 East Timorese activists and survivors unanimously appealed for such a process. This builds on the call from East Timor’s National Council (the former legislature), many East Timorese NGOs, all 16 political parties, and prominent individuals, such as Bishop Carlos Belo. The ICIET made the same recommendation in its report to the Security Council. Although the UNTAET Administration has taken on the task of investigating and prosecuting certain crimes committed during 1999, it is severely limited in resources and in its ability to obtain Indonesian cooperation.
In January 2000, the Security Council decided not to establish a tribunal, deferring to Indonesia. The Security Council also stated that Jakarta had to bring the perpetrators to justice “as soon as possible,” implying that if they failed to do so, the Security Council would establish an international tribunal for East Timor.
More than 20 months later, Indonesia has not indicted anyone for crimes committed in East Timor. Nevertheless, the United Nations is not moving to implement its promise to establish a tribunal if Jakarta fails to fulfill its commitment. Thus, apart from a few UNTAET trials of East Timorese militia members, the justice process has gone nowhere.
Megawati Sukarnoputri became president of Indonesia in July, promising to set up an ad hoc court to try some 1999 crimes committed in East Timor. We doubt her commitment. Soon after taking office, Megawati changed the scope of the ad hoc court from only crimes committed after the 30 August vote to also cover crimes committed in April 1999. At the same time, her decree limits the court to crimes committed in Dili, Liquiça and Suai. Amnesty International responded “with dismay” to the new decree and called it “a case of one step forward, two steps back,” but Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer characterized it as “a very positive step forward,” and most other governments were silent.
Megawati then appointed M.A. Rahman as Attorney General. Last year, as head of the team deciding prosecution for crimes committed in East Timor, Rahman recommended prosecuting only low-ranking officers, ignoring those with most responsibility for the crimes. Some suggest he obstructed the work of the team.
Jakarta hopes to avoid serious action until the UN loses interest, or at best to placate the countries that dominate the United Nations by prosecuting only a handful of low-level perpetrators, mainly militia, for a few of the crimes committed in 1999. They believe that continued stalling will avert the possibility that the Security Council would expend the political and financial resources required to establish an international tribunal. Some East Timorese leaders are reluctant to push hard for a tribunal, or to confront Indonesia’s intransigence, as East Timor has little leverage without strong UN backing.
It is for such reasons that concerted and sustained advocacy for an international tribunal must take place within East Timor for which there is far greater potential now that there is an elected legislature and an East Timorese cabinet and around the world.
Until now, the voices in East Timor and within the international human rights and solidarity community have not been sufficient, nor have they adequately challenged the United Nations’ willingness to accept that which is clearly unjust: prosecution of low-level perpetrators of some crimes committed in 1999, but not for those in charge, or for any crimes committed from 1975 through 1998.
The October 16 “Seminar on Justice and Accountability for East Timor” held in Dili drew many interested activists who unanimously supported a call for international justice. We hope that their enthusiasm will give new life and effectiveness to the campaign both here and internationally.
As Jon Cina suggests, an international tribunal as conventionally conceived is not the only route to justice for East Timor. An international tribunal is not an end in itself, but a means to ensure justice and accountability for perpetrators of terrible crimes. In this regard, there are a number of potential mechanisms, each requiring that the international community provide political backing and material resources. But whatever justice mechanism arises, it must have a true commitment to working with civil society while ensuring a high degree of East Timorese participation and ownership of the process.
A far-reaching dialogue within East Timor, in conjunction with international supporters, is beginning to identify the most appropriate mechanisms and the best means to struggle for them. International activists and civil servants can help in this area. East Timor’s political leadership is severely constrained by the need to maintain a working relationship with Indonesia and to avoid alienating powerful members of the international community. It is thus incumbent on East Timor’s international supporters to create a space so that East Timorese activists can respond to the call for justice voiced across East Timor.
As international solidarity activists wrote to the CNRT Congress in August 2000, “the issue of justice goes beyond the scope of East Timor. The crimes committed by the TNI in East Timor are not ordinary crimes. They are Crimes against Humanity. As such, they ... concern Humanity as a whole. Not addressing these crimes will undermine the international efforts for accountability and prevention of further such crimes.” In this regard, justice is important not only for East Timorese society, but also for Indonesia, and for the entire world.
It is past time to work for full accountability for war crimes and Crimes Against Humanity committed from 1975 to 1999. This means challenging UNTAET and the United Nations, but more importantly the world’s most powerful countries, including the United States, Britain, France, and Japan all of whom supported Indonesia’s crimes in East Timor. Not surprisingly, they are doing very little to ensure that East Timor receives the justice it needs and deserves.
When should accountability start?
Crimes Against Humanity have universal jurisdiction and no statute of limitations; they can be prosecuted regardless of the alleged perpetrator, time, location and context. From the beginning, efforts in the United Nations have had a fundamental flaw. The international community, following the lead of Indonesia, is ignoring crimes committed before 1999. Thus, there have been no official efforts by the United Nations, its member states, or Indonesia to investigate or prosecute crimes committed between 1975 and 1998.
We fear that the United Nations position does not only reflect the views of Indonesia’s powerful allies on the Security Council, but also results from limited commitment on the part of key UN figures, including High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. In August 2000, Robinson told a Dili meeting that the UN is concerned only with the events of September 1999 because they occurred during a UN mission.
Although such a position has no basis in international law, some international human rights organizations appear to accept these parameters, apparently believing that calling for full accountability would undermine already weak international support for justice for East Timor. Some also contend that starting with a small demand justice for 1999will open the door to prosecuting crimes committed earlier.
Although we understand the political motivations of diplomats in supporting a narrow framework for justice for East Timor, human rights organizations have an obligation to criticize such a framework and to do so publicly and forcefully. A self-inflicted compromise is dangerous: when one limits one’s demands, one is likely to get even less.
An uncountable number of Crimes Against Humanity were committed during the 1975-1999 period in East Timor. Although an international court could not pursue all of them, it could prosecute a limited number of the worst crimes such as the 1975 invasion, the mass killings at Matebian in 1979, Lacluta in 1981 and Kraras in 1983, the 1991 massacre at the Santa Cruz Cemetery, and a handful of the most horrible atrocities committed in 1999. Such an approach would have the advantage of limiting the duration and costs of the tribunal while covering the entire period of the Indonesian invasion and occupation, thus increasing the likelihood that many of the principal architects and perpetrators would be held accountable.
It would also confirm that the invasion, occupation and destruction of East Timor by Indonesia was a long-standing, systematic, criminal conspiracy, planned and ordered at the highest levels of government. Many of the perpetrators continue to wield authority and influence in East Timor’s nearest neighbor. The future of peace, justice and democracy in both East Timor and Indonesia depends on holding the highest-level perpetrators accountable.
In Brief . . .
On 21 August, the East Timor Prosecutor General indicted a Civilian Police officer from Jordan on suspicion of raping an East Timorese woman. Police arrested the suspect on 5 July following an alleged incident that occurred at a Dili hotel. Prosecutors have asked for an expedited hearing on the case so the trial is expected to begin soon at the Dili District Court.
Press reports from late August indicate that the Australian government was continuing to side with Phillips Petroleum to pressure East Timor to agree to a tax framework favored by the oil company. While Canberra stated that it would not interfere in negotiations between East Timor and Phillips, reportedly refusing the oil company’s request that it intercede directly to influence Dili, Canberra continued to exert pressure indirectly. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia would encourage the oil company to hold “a more intense debate” with officials in Dili. Natural Resources Minister Nick Minchin said that he hoped that Phillips would be able to persuade Dili to adopt a “more realistic and pragmatic” stance on taxes for Timor Gap oil and natural gas by honoring an agreement made in October 1999 between oil companies and the East Timorese resistance (see Bulletin, Volume 2, No. 5). Otherwise, Minchin said, East Timor would lose valuable revenues, implying that oil companies would not invest under an alternative agreement. UNTAET officials called Canberra’s words “arrogant” and Mari Alkatiri called upon Australia not to interfere in the negotiations, stating that East Timor “will not allow it [Canberra] to influence our decisions, much less our system of taxation.” While what East Timor is seeking is not public, press reports indicate that Dili is hoping to establish a tax rate of 40 percent or more. Phillips Petroleum plans to return to the negotiating table soon, and hopes to have a taxation agreement with East Timor’s Constituent Assembly by early November.
On 3 September, the London-based Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) warned that the democratization of East Timor could falter unless UNTAET and the Constituent Assembly “take full account of the input of women.” Based on the observations of a CIIR delegation present in East Timor for the 30 August election, CIIR contended that most political parties “have not prioritised the needs of women in their programmes” and that many party leaders admitted to the delegation of not being aware of their parties’ policies towards women. Moreover, it raised concerns about the failure of many to recognize the seriousness of domestic violence in East Timorese society. The delegation also concluded that the civic education campaign failed to reach many women, especially in rural areas.
On 4 September 2001, Suara Timor Lorosa’e newspaper reported that East Timorese Defense Force (FDTL) Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak accepted the offer from the Indonesian military (TNI) to train East Timor’s armed forces. The previous day, Indonesian General Kiki Syahnakri stated that TNI would like to help train FDTL. Matan Ruak gave the following explanation: “From a political perspective, we can’t continuously be at war forever. While until now, we have faced political problems, we must not fight one another as enemies forever.”
La’o Hamutuk comment: During 24 years of occupation, TNI carried out major campaigns of violence against the East Timorese, including mass kidnapping, rape, torture and killing. TNI trained and armed the militias that destroyed East Timor in 1999 and forcefully deported over one third of the population. It is too early for these kind of joint trainings and East Timor’s Defense Force must not learn the cruel and inhumane techniques exhibited by TNI.
The East Timor NGO Working Group on Refugees and Returnees wrote to Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to express its “concerns and recommendations regarding the winding down and the closure of the UNHCR operation in East Timor.” The 8 September letter called plans to close the UNHCR field offices in Baucau and Maliana on 31 September and to cease humanitarian assistance to returnees “untimely,” especially given the expectation that returns will increase significantly following the 30 August elections. The NGO coalition foresees this process continuing through 2002, writing that a significant reduction at this time “in UNHCR staff and its departure from East Timor . . . would be an indication to the East Timorese, the Government of Indonesia and the refugees themselves that the situation of the refugees has been resolved or is irresolvable.” For such reasons, the NGO grouping advocated that the UNHCR “continue to ensure the protection and long-term reintegration of returnees” by maintaining its presence and continuing to provide humanitarian assistance to returnees at least until June 2002. It also called upon the UN agency to increase “co-ordination and co-operation with both governmental and non-governmental organizations” working with refugees in West Timor, as well as with local NGOs assisting with the process of reintegrating returnees into their communities. In light of the concerns expressed in this letter, the UNHCR is reevaluating its plans.
On September 11, Megawati Sukarnoputri accepted Japan’s controversial plan to contribute troops to the peacekeeping mission in East Timor (see Bulletin, Vol. 2, No. 5) while meeting in Jakarta with General Nakatani, the head of the Japanese Defense Agency. The meeting took place eight days after East Timorese NGOs, including La’o Hamutuk, wrote to Japan’s Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro and Foreign Minister Tanaka Makiko regarding the plan. Recalling the “bitter experience” of the East Timorese people with the Japanese military during World War II and Tokyo’s support for Indonesia’s illegal occupation of East Timor from 1975 to 1999, the NGOs urged the Japanese government to abandon its plan to send troops to East Timor. Instead, they advocated, Tokyo should use the funds they would have expended on sending the troops “to compensate victims of abuses during World War II and during Indonesia’s occupation.” In addition, they called upon Tokyo to “publicly acknowledge that past policies have caused great suffering to the East Timorese people.” They concluded that Japan could better assist in enhancing East Timor’s security by pressuring Jakarta to stabilize the situation along the West Timor boundary and to institute constructive diplomatic relations with Dili.
Since 8 October, an additional 88 passengers have been able to travel between Dili and Oecusse each week. UNTAET has provided an additional airplane flight and extra seats on two existing helicopter flights every week following the suspension of the ferry service between the enclave and the mainland in early September. The extra seats are free of charge and are available to both East Timorese and internationals. Negotiations are currently being held between UNTAET/ETTA, the governments of Germany and Portugal, international agencies, and transport companies, with progress towards more permanent solutions to the transportation problem, including land and/or sea transport, expected by mid-November. The Portuguese government has given US$200,000 to UNTAET for transport to the enclave, some of which is currently in use.
back to top
Letter to La’o Hamutuk from SRSG Sergio Viera de Mello
UNTAET -- UNITED NATIONS TRANSITIONAL ADMINISTRATION IN EAST TIMOR
16 August 2001
I am writing concerning your editorial, “The United Nations: Aiding or Undermining a Resolution of the Refugee Crisis?”, that appeared in the July edition of the La’o Hamutuk Bulletin. I take strong exception to the position put forward in that piece which is a disservice to the hard work and no little courage displayed by many in UNTAET and the UN system who have been working ceaselessly to seek to bring about a resolution to the refugee problem in West Timor.
Refugee crises are often among the most intractable problems that the international community must face: hundreds of thousands of Cambodians remained stuck in camps in Thailand for over a decade; the matter of the Vietnamese boatpeople has only recently been resolved; Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan many years after they left their homeland. The list goes on. Yet in well under twenty months a lifetime, admittedly, for those living in the misery of a refugee camp some 185,000 refugees have returned or been brought back to East Timor, the vast majority to be welcomed with open arms. I agree that that is not the end of the problem: many thousands more remain in West Timor but to suggest that the continued existence of refugees constitutes a “devastating indictment of UNTAET’s and the international community’s ability and, perhaps, willingness to support the human rights of the East Timorese” is as absurd as it is offensive. Did Samson Aregahegn, Carlos Caceres and Pero Simundza, three UNHCR colleagues murdered in Atambua, lack “willingness” in this regard?
There is something approaching the naïve in your intimation that because UNTAET has not prevented the terrorization of refugees by people over whom we have no control in a territory in which we have no authority then that somehow constitutes a devastating indictment of our approach to this dilemma. Refugee crises are often the product of, and in turn help generate, complex and turbulent political situations. The crisis of East Timorese refugees is no different. Pressure is being brought to bear to have the problem resolved once and for all. This is being done at the international, regional and local levels. Progress is being made as witnessed by the numbers who have so far returned. Further efforts will be required to tackle the problem head on, not least by the Indonesian authorities in ensuring that the remaining refugees are afforded the opportunity to decide their own future free from all fear and coercion. But in the final analysis, I am hopeful that the majority of those still in the camps will decide to come home following the passage of peaceful elections in East Timor. They have a critical role to play in their country’s future.
My objection to your editorial, however, does not end there. I object also to your criticism of UNTAET’s approach to the recent registration exercise in West Timor. There is nothing “inconsistent” in declaring the exercise professionally run but criticizing the context in which it took place. You criticized us for not rejecting the registration but what precisely was it that you wanted us to reject?
I further regret your criticism even if indirectly through quoting another source and naming of an individual UNTAET officer, my Chief of Staff, N. Parameswaran, without even seeking his or my views in advance of publication. Few people have worked as hard and as ceaselessly to bring an end to the refugee problem. It is through his efforts alone that many hundreds, if not thousands, of refugees have been able to return. The fact that you do not know about this is an indication not that it did not take place but rather that our priorities lie more in ending this crisis once and for all than in trumpeting every success achieved along the path to that goal. To those UNTAET staff who have criticized Param for seeking good relations with Jakarta, I would simply ask what would they have him do in such a situation?
Finally, please can you enlighten me as to when we declared the remaining refugees in West Timor to be “voluntary migrants”? I am unaware of this change in policy. On the contrary, it is hoped that the United Nations will be able to return to West Timor in the near future and on a permanent basis. We are working hard towards that end. We are not abandoning anyone.
Having failed to consult in the preparation of your editorial, I trust that you will at least afford me the right of reply and print this letter in full in the next edition of your bulletin.
Sergio Vieira de Mello Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Transitional Administrator
back to top
La’o Hamutuk Responds: Refugee Return Too Slow, Strategy Still Misguided
La’o Hamutuk appreciates the letter from the SRSG in response to our editorial. We share his concern about how important the refugee issue remains. We hope his letter and this reply will further illuminate the difficult problems which keep one-tenth of the East Timorese people trapped in Indonesia, excluded from voting and nation-building.
In a democracy, organizations may express opinions on government policies without consulting the authorities. Although we did not talk with the SRSG’s office before writing our editorial, we based it on public information as well as discussions with current and former UNTAET staff. We have shown this reply to the SRSG before publication as a courtesy.
We share Mr. De Mello’s appreciation that 185,000 of the East Timorese taken to West Timor have returned, and that people here have welcomed them. UNTAET, UNHCR, IOM and other international agencies deserve credit for helping most of these people come home, but one-third of the original refugees remain in squalid camps in Indonesia, and the return has slowed to a trickle (see graph). At recent rates (about 1000/month) it will take more than six years for everyone to come back long after UNTAET has left East Timor.
We have serious reservations regarding UNTAET’s strategy of negotiating with criminals like Mahidi militia leader Cancio Carvalho. Although Mahidi permitted more than 900 Ainaro and Covalima-based refugees to return in September (the first positive result of this approach), the tactic undermines the rule of law and could make the refugees’ repatriation hostage to unacceptable demands (such as amnesty for militia leaders guilty of Serious Crimes). It also confuses the East Timorese refugees about the processes of justice, could pre-empt their ability to make a free choice to repatriate or not (militia leaders decide for them), and increases the power and legitimacy of militia leaders.
If UNTAET were to persuade Indonesia authorities to bring militia leaders to justice, the refugees under their control would be free to come home. Instead, the refugees observe UN officials negotiating with militia leaders, and the UN loses the refugees’ trust. Genuine refugees remain in West Timor, while militia followers and leaders, as well as East Timorese TNI soldiers, return to East Timor with impunity. Many refugees, already misled and confused about the situation in East Timor, fear that those who have been oppressing them for the past two years will resume that role if and when the refugees finally go home. No wonder only 61 refugees returned spontaneously in September, the lowest figure in six months.
We join with Mr. De Mello in his admiration and grief for the three international UNHCR workers brutally murdered by pro-Jakarta militias in Atambua on 6 September 2000. We also mourn the many East and West Timorese killed in that massacre. Contrary to Mr. De Mello’s implication, our editorial did not criticize those on the front lines who take tremendous risks and make great sacrifices. Rather, it placed the responsibility on Indonesian political and military officials who have failed to take significant action to bring their killers to justice, to disarm and remove militia from the camps, or to create safe conditions for international agencies to operate throughout West Timor. That responsibility extends to international leaders especially members of the United Nations Security Council who have not brought sufficient political pressure to bear on the Indonesian government.
Each of the estimated 75,000 East Timorese remaining in West Timor (NGOs estimate at least 2,000 have died in the camps) is just as human as the three UNCHR workers who were murdered, together with several Timorese, by pro-Jakarta militias in a sadly successful tactic to scare away international agencies attending to the refugees. The best possible tribute to these martyrs would be to enable all the East Timorese refugees who chose to go home to do so.
We did not write that the SRSG had “declared the remaining refugees ‘voluntary migrants.’” Rather, our editorial expressed concern about a possible future scenario, stemming from donor pressure to shift refugee agency priorities to other places, and about the disastrous consequences for Timorese on both sides of the border if the refugees are forgotten. We’re reassured that the SRSG finds this scenario as abhorrent as we do, and that UNTAET is “not abandoning anyone.” But UNTAET is a temporary mission, and IOM and UNHCR are discussing imminent downsizing.
On 8 September, the NGO Working Group on Refugees and Returnees wrote to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees “to express our concerns and recommendations regarding the winding down and the closure of the UNHCR operation in East Timor,” which had been scheduled for the end of October 2001. In response to the letter and the obvious need, UNHCR is considering whether to continue some East Timor operations into 2002, albeit with significant reductions and no permanent presence in West Timor. We remain worried that current approaches will leave tens of thousands of East Timorese stuck in Indonesia when UNHCR has other priorities and UNTAET’s mandate ends.
UNTAET should be more assertive in informing the international community of the continuing refugee problem and in asking for help. On 30 July 2001, Mr. De Mello addressed the UN Security Council. He did not mention the refugees in his 4,500 word speech. After about a dozen governments raised the issue (several praised Indonesia’s registration and “cooperation”), Mr. De Mello replied that he believed that the registration did not reflect the definitive wishes of the refugees, and that up to 80% would eventually return. We hope that this is correct, but we fear it will not happen without concerted international pressure, and we wish Mr. De Mello had asked for it in New York.
The UN Secretariat gives the refugees somewhat more attention. At the same Security Council meeting, Secretary-General Kofi Annan provided a 64-paragraph report with three paragraphs on the refugees. The S-G pointed out that although Indonesian reports of the registration showed that “98 per cent opted to remain in Indonesia … there is some question as to whether it reflects their long-term intentions. Continued disinformation and intimidation in the camps prior to the registration process, feelings of uncertainty on the part of refugees about the political process in East Timor, and a lack of clarity as to whether the benefits to which they are entitled in Indonesia would continue in East Timor, may have contributed to their reluctance to return at this stage.” During the Security Council meeting, Indonesia’s ambassador did not mention the refugees, although he did assert that “Indonesia has indeed disbanded and disarmed what was at that time called ‘militia.’”
We encourage the SRSG to focus his attention on those in Jakarta who bear responsibility for this travesty, rather than on NGOs like La’o Hamutuk who call for more effective measures to solve it. We appreciate the difficulty of resolving protracted refugee problems here and elsewhere, but we hope that UNTAET will focus its full attention to resolve the one under its mandate. UNTAET is a new kind of mission, with unprecedented authority, and it should use its powers to fulfill the task assigned by the Security Council in 1999: “... to ensure... the safe return of refugees and displaced persons.”
La’o Hamutuk reiterates our call for disarming and disbanding the militias to enable the refugees to freely chose whether to stay or return a freedom of choice which appears to be bypassed by the UNTAET-militia negotiation process. We were gratified in August when Mr. Parameswaram’s told local NGOs that UNTAET is not accepting the results of the registration, a position apparently tacitly accepted by the Indonesian government. We encourage UNTAET to inform the Security Council of UNTAET’s position, and to insist that Indonesia allow consistent humanitarian assistance to the refugees, while at the same time pressing Jakarta to bring to justice the military and militia leaders who created the refugee problem.
La’o Hamutuk welcomes the opportunity to work together with UNTAET to bring pressure on those in Indonesia and the international community to enable all East Timorese to participate in next year’s independence celebration. As expressed elsewhere in this La’o Hamutuk Bulletin, we believe that Indonesia has squandered the good will of the international community to handle justice and refugee repatriation within its own national processes. The responsibility now lies squarely with the international community, as represented by the United Nations Security Council, both to deliver justice with an international tribunal and to deliver freedom by effectively demanding that Indonesia make it possible for all East Timorese people who want to return home to do so.
back to top
Back to Part 1
La'o Hamutuk, The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis
International contact: +1-510-643-4507, firstname.lastname@example.org