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Suggestions for U.S. Delegation to UN Commission on Human Rights, 60th Session

Memo

To: Assistant Secretary of State Lorne W. Craner

From: East Timor Action Network/U.S. (Contact: Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator)

CC: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Daley, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Pierre-Richard Prosper

Date: 3 March 2004

Re: Suggestions for U.S. Delegation to UN Commission on Human Rights, 60th Session

Thank you for the opportunity to share the East Timor Action Network’s (ETAN) suggestions for U.S. government advocacy at the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The 59th Commission’s decision to limit the 2004 agenda concerning East Timor to a program of cooperation in the field of human rights under the item on technical cooperation and advisory services deeply disappointed ETAN and other supporters of human rights in East Timor and Indonesia. These two countries deserve separate resolutions, or, at a minimum, strong chairperson’s statements. We hope this will be the end result. Regardless of the vehicle, ETAN urges the U.S. delegation to raise the following concerning East Timor at every opportunity.

Justice
The Commission should strongly criticize the utter failure of Indonesia’s Ad Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor to provide justice for the victims of violence in East Timor, noting fundamental flaws recently described in the State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. These include procedural violations, weak indictments and sub-standard work by prosecutors, the failure to use evidence or witnesses from East Timor, an intimidating courtroom environment, and sentences incommensurate with the crime for the few convicted.

The Commission should recall that at a special session in September 1999, it condemned “the widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” in East Timor and called for those responsible to be brought to justice. It should further recall that an International Commission of Inquiry, set up by the UN Secretary General on the advice of the Commission on Human Rights, recommended the establishment of an international tribunal to receive complaints and try those accused of serious violations of fundamental human rights and international humanitarian law which took place in East Timor. The U.S. delegation should heed the voices of the East Timorese people and push the Commission to call for the establishment of an international tribunal for East Timor covering 1975-1999.

The Commission should encourage the Secretary General to appoint an expert commission to thoroughly review and analyze the processes of the Indonesia Ad Hoc Human Rights Court and the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) and Special Panels, and then make recommendations for next steps to achieve meaningful justice for East Timor.

The Commission should call for greatly increased human and material resources for East Timor’s very weak justice sector and the SCU and Special Panels. The Commission should note the Special Report of the Secretary-General on the UNMISET, February 13, 2004, “Only 22 judges have been appointed in the country, and limited availability of public defence lawyers and of judges has greatly restricted or prevented the functioning of courts outside Dili during the period. Long delays are experienced in issuing indictments and listing matters for trial, and many pre-trial detainees, including juvenile detainees, are held for long periods before they come to trial, including some for relatively minor, non-violent crimes. The court system also lacks efficient case management procedures and adequate implementation of human rights safeguards, including the right to appropriate legal representation, translation of proceedings to a language that is understood by all concerned, and lack of guaranteed access to relevant legal information.”

Serious Crimes Process
Until an international tribunal is established, the Commission should urge the international community to give the hybrid UN-East Timor Serious Crimes Unit and Special Panels full political backing to compel Indonesia to cooperate. The Commission should note that three-quarters of the more than 300 suspects indicted by the SCU, including all of the Indonesians, are most likely in Indonesia. The Commission should strongly press the Indonesian government to cooperate with the SCU, beginning with the immediate transfer to East Timor of those in Indonesia indicted by the SCU. Indonesia’s obstruction of the Serious Crimes process must be strongly condemned. Without sufficient backing, the SCU and Special Panels will be yet another exercise in the denial of justice.

The Commission should call upon members of the international community to act on international arrest warrants issued for those indicted in East Timor and to provide the serious crimes process with sufficient resources and capacity to carry out its mission. At a minimum, it must be able to adequately complete current investigations and trials, and to continue to transfer skills and build the capacity of national staff to continue this work. Should Indonesia cooperate, the SCU and Special Panels will need far greater resources.

The Commission should recognize that the work of the SCU remains incomplete in other ways. The Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP), an East Timorese NGO, estimates that when the current UN mandate ends in May 2004, “approximately 40-50% of the estimated 1400 murder cases from 1999 will remain uninvestigated.” The JSMP report continues, “There will be areas in East Timor in which crimes against humanity have reportedly occurred but investigations have not yet taken place or have not been completed.” This is indicative of how much work remains for the SCU to fulfill even the narrowest interpretation of its mandate -- focusing solely on serious crimes committed in 1999. It is crucial that the work of the SCU not be limited to 1999; 98% of those killed during the Indonesian occupation died before then.

Impunity and Security for East Timor
The failure to hold Indonesian military and militia members accountable for atrocities committed in East Timor bears on security threats facing East Timor. Some 3000 militia members reportedly continue to reside in West Timor. The Commission should condemn the threat to East Timor’s security and peace posed by the militia and their military mentors in Indonesia and urge that militia be disarmed and resettled off the island of Timor entirely and human rights violators prosecuted.

The Commission should express outrage that persons convicted by the Jakarta tribunal and/or indicted on serious crimes charges by the SCU -- including Adam Damiri, Timbul Silaen, and Eurico Guterres -- continue to play a role in the conflicts in Aceh and Papua, thereby perpetuating impunity in Indonesia and exposing local people to further egregious violations of human rights.

Refugees
The reasons East Timorese remain in Indonesia are complex. The Commission should continue to monitor the situation of East Timorese civilians remaining in Indonesia to ensure freedom of choice in repatriation and resettlement and decent humanitarian conditions.

Separated Children
As of late November 2003, 416 active cases of East Timorese children separated from their families remained. The vast majority of the children reside in Indonesia, especially West Timor. The Commission should raise this issue under item 13, “Rights of the Child” of the provisional Commission agenda and urge Indonesian authorities to hold those responsible for the children’s plight accountable to the rule-of-law for violating human and children’s rights.

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See also ETAN's Human Rights & Justice page


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