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For Immediate Release
June 28, 2005

Contact: John M. Miller (718-596-7668)

ETAN Supports UN Commissionís Call for International Involvement in Justice for East Timor

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has reportedly handed-over the report of the Commission of Experts on justice for East Timor to the Security Council. The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network issued the following statement:

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) congratulates the UN's Commission of Experts (COE) for its thorough and thoughtful report. ETAN agrees with the COE that continued strong international involvement is essential to ensure that impunity does not prevail for the brutal crimes of Indonesia's security forces in East Timor in 1999. Although the COE's mandate did not include pre-1999 crimes, we urge the international community not to impose an arbitrary cut-off on justice for the people of East Timor.

The report's analysis supports our own conclusions and those of objective observers in East Timor, Indonesia and internationally that justice has not yet been achieved. Clearly, existing mechanisms to prosecute the organizers and perpetrators of crimes against humanity and others have proven woefully unsatisfactory.

The COE was appointed earlier this year by the Secretary-General to evaluate existing judicial processes and propose next steps to hold accountable those responsible for serious crimes in East Timor in 1999. The Commission examined the UN-initiated Serious Crimes process in East Timor and the Indonesian government's sham Ad-hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor. Neither process has been able to hold any higher-level perpetrators accountable.

International involvement is crucial: The crimes committed in 1999 were not only against the people of East Timor, but against a United Nations mission and personnel. The 1975 invasion and subsequent occupation of East Timor violated international law and specific UN resolutions. Crimes against humanity were committed, and all humanity has an interest in seeing their perpetrators are brought to justice. Both the Secretary-General and Security Council have stated that impunity should not prevail in this case.

The truth of what happened in 1999 is well-established. We urge the governments of East Timor and Indonesia to set aside for now their joint Commission on Truth and Friendship (CTF) and fully cooperate with more substantive efforts toward justice and accountability. Currently, the CTF can recommend amnesties but not prosecutions, which will only institutionalize impunity. Friendship between the peoples of both nations requires justice, openness and the rule of law; genuine justice will build security and respect for human rights in both countries. We agree with the UN COE that no international support should be provided to the CTF unless its mandate is substantially altered to facilitate accountability and to conform to both international law and the wishes of the victims.

For the past five years, the Indonesian government has taken every opportunity to obstruct justice. We are skeptical that Indonesia will in the near term hold credible trials or engage cooperatively with a continued serious crimes process in East Timor. However, should the Security Council decide to give Jakarta a second chance, we agree with the COE that it must be time-limited and closely monitored. Should Indonesia again fail to hold its own accountable, the UN should move quickly to establish an international criminal tribunal or its equivalent.

The COE has provided several ways to move forward. It is now up to the Secretary- General, the Security Council and the governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia to choose a path and embark on a process toward genuine justice. The credibility of the international community and the suffering of the victims demand no less.

The executive summary of the report can be found at

Please note: the COE report has now (July 27) been officially released by the UN. Click here for full report.


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