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ETAN Calls for Broad International Discussion of Timor Truth Commission Report

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668; 917-690-4391 (cell)
Karen Orenstein, 202-544-6911

January 20 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today called on the United Nations to launch a broad and thorough discussion of the report of Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (known by its Portuguese acronym, CAVR). The group said such attention to the report’s findings and recommendations is needed to prevent others from suffering as the East Timorese have.

"Widespread understanding of the truth commission's report and recommendations is essential in charting a course of justice for victims," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "If such crimes are not to be repeated, the international community must acknowledge the devastating impact of the 1975 U.S.-backed Indonesian invasion and quarter-century of illegal occupation. We hope the CAVR report will spur the international community to act to end impunity.”

The President of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmão, is to present the report titled, “Chega!” (“Enough” in Portuguese) to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York today.

In a letter to Annan sent Thursday, the Timor-Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal wrote, “We also ask the UN not to put the responsibility for prosecuting perpetrators of Human Rights Violations on Timor-Leste’s shoulders. The delays in justice for the victims result from political decisions of the United Nations before 2002, which left the burden on Timor-Leste alone. If the UN does not take this up, you will send a signal to small and poor countries that they cannot rely on the UN to achieve true justice.”

The group added, “…respecting the rights of victims and ending the chain of impunity is a precondition to achieving true reconciliation in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and in the world as a whole.”

The report is the product of three years of intensive research by hundreds of East Timorese and international experts. Its recommendations include worldwide distribution of the report itself, especially among UN institutions and permanent members of the Security Council. It also asks the Secretary-General to refer the report to the Security Council, General Assembly, Special Committee on Decolonisation, and Commission on Human Rights, and that each hold a special session on its contents.

"The CAVR report will be very useful to the United Nations. The CAVR has made many similar recommendations to those of the UN Commission of Experts (COE)," said Miller. "These include the need for an effective judicial process to try those responsible for crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste, with the Security Council establishing an international tribunal if other processes fail to provide substantive justice."

To date, not a single Indonesian officer has been held accountable for the devastation of 1999, though some have been promoted. Last year, the COE, appointed by the UN Secretary-General, evaluated justice processes for Timor-Leste since 2000 and found that none had provided sufficient accountability for crimes against humanity committed in Timor-Leste in 1999. The Security Council has asked the Secretary-General to provide recommendations in response to the COE report.

The CAVR report, which covers the period from 1974 to 1999, urges increased attention to crimes committed before 1999, which include 99% of the murders and involve the Suharto dictatorship and the foreign governments which supported it. UN justice processes have so far limited their work to 1999. “The new Truth and Friendship Commission (TFC), established exclusively by the leadership of Indonesia and East Timor over public opposition, is not a substitute for genuine justice,” said Miller. “It will not refer anyone for prosecution for serious crimes and can propose amnesties. The international community, including the U.S. government, must not use the TFC to dodge responsibility for accountability. The truth is known. Now is the time for justice,” he added.

The CAVR gave its final report to President Gusmão at the end of October 2005. Although the President forwarded the report to Timor-Leste's parliament on November 28, he has declined to release the report to the public, even as he attacked some of its conclusions. However, he recently said that the handover of the report to the UN will “mark the beginning of the intensive dissemination of the content of the Report and its recommendations.”

“The President’s failure to release the report has limited discussion. We look forward to reviewing its contents and believe the cause of justice will be advanced by the responses of East Timorese and others,” said Miller. “The report has been prepared in Indonesian, Portuguese and English, and it should be made available in all three languages."

ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975 to 1999 and for restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces. For more information, go to


see also

Additional news and other reports on Truth Commission report and reaction

Human Rights & Justice page




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