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Joint Commission Unlikely to Further Truth or Friendship Between Timor and Indonesia

For Immediate Release 

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668; mobile: 917-690-4391,

February 22, 2007 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) said today that the joint Indonesia-East Timor Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) can not further either goal its name suggests.  

“The current public hearings give us no reason to change our view that the CTF is meant to prematurely close the books, leaving those who masterminded Indonesia’s campaign of violence in East Timor in 1999 unrepentant and untouched,” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. “A whitewash is not a basis on which to create justice or build friendship between peoples or nations.” 

“The truth of 1999 is known. The joint commission's quest for a consensus history will only lead to a watered-down version of events which have already been well-aired. Instead of offering amnesties in exchange for self-serving statements by Indonesian officials, resources would be better used educating the Indonesian public about its military's sordid actions in East Timor and prosecuting the officials who organized and conducted those crimes,” said Miller.  

The CTF was formed in March 2005 by the presidents of Indonesia and East Timor in an unsuccessful effort to dissuade then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan from appointing a Commission of Experts (COE) to make recommendations to ensure justice for human rights crimes committed in East Timor in 1999. 

“We support good relations between the Indonesian and East Timorese people, but they will not overcome their tragic pasts or build democracies until there is genuine accountability for decades of systematic human rights violations by the Indonesian military,” said Miller. “This de facto impunity has an impact on East Timor today, contributing to the current security crisis which has forced tens of thousands in the capital from their homes.”

“Victims testifying to the commission have been treated insensitively at best by some of the Indonesian commissioners,” said Miller. 


Formed over the objections of East Timor’s Catholic Church and both countries’ civil society organizations, the CTF is to establish a "shared historical record" of human rights violations before and after Timor-Leste's independence ballot in 1999. It can recommend amnesty for those who “cooperate fully” with it and can propose people-to-people reconciliation efforts, but it cannot recommend prosecution or other judicial measures. It has no power to compel testimony or cooperation.

The UN’s COE found that the CTF’s Terms of Reference contradict international and domestic laws, and offer no mechanisms for addressing serious crimes. The COE report recommends that the governments revise the terms of reference as a precondition to receiving international support. Indonesia’s Constitutional Court recently cast further doubt on the CTF’s legal basis. Among other principles, the CTF is supposed to operate under the guidelines of Indonesia’s own Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court recently declared the Indonesian commission unconstitutional, citing provisions allowing for amnesty for serious crimes and conditioning reparations on victims forgiving their tormentors.

The CTF has access to the records of East Timor’s Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), the joint UN-East Timor serious crimes process, the Indonesian National Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights Violations in East Timor in 1999 (KPP HAM) and the deeply-flawed Ad-hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor. However, Indonesia’s military and ministries are not required to open their records, which might actually provide additional evidence.

Unlike the CAVR, the CTF will not address events prior to 1999, when the majority of the deaths and human rights crimes during Indonesia’s invasion and occupation violations occurred.

Rafendi Djamin of the Human Rights Working Group told the Jakarta Post, “It has been agreed by the international community that gross human rights violations did take place in East Timor and the perpetrators must stand trial for that.” East Timor’s Judicial System Monitoring Programme has said that any amnesties would likely be the result of “a high level political conspiracy between the Government of Indonesia and Timor-Leste,” undermining the rights of victims and paving the way for further rights violations.

ETAN was formed in 1991. The U.S.-based organization advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information see ETAN's web site:

See also

Human Rights, Accountability and Justice page

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