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United States should support justice, not endorse impunity, says ETAN

Administration Should Respond to CAVR Report, Not Endorse CTF

contact: John M. Miller, (718) 596-7668; (917) 690-4391

April 4 - U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill has stated that whatever the joint Indonesia-Timor-Leste Commission on Truth and Friendship (CTF) reports is "good enough" for the U.S. government. [see transcript here]

In response the U.S.-based East Timor and Indonesia Action Network said:

"A U.S. government endorsement, sight unseen, of the report of the CTF demonstrates how little justice and accountability for the peoples of Timor-Leste and Indonesia matters to the current administration.

"We do not understand how this fundamentally-flawed process can contribute to either truth or friendship between the peoples of the two countries. It is an exercise in diplomacy to the detriment of democracy and the rule of law in both countries.

"It is shameful that the U.S. government is eager to abandon efforts to bring to justice the people responsible for Indonesia's illegal occupation which killed one-third of East Timor's people. Assistant Secretary Hill has apparently accepted the CTF's results before seeing its report, ignoring thousands of testimonies and the mountains of evidence collected by much more credible investigations. We are disappointed that he appears to endorse impunity.

"This is not merely a bilateral issue. The UN Security Council, with U.S. support, has described the actions of the Indonesian military and its militias in 1999 as crimes against humanity and the international community, needing an international response.

"The CTF has had its mandate extended several times because it has an impossible task -- reporting on unpleasant truths without disturbing important people in Jakarta. But the reality is that numerous Indonesian military and civilian officials, both on their own and implementing state policy, designed and carried out more than two decades of crimes against humanity in East Timor. The CTF was set up to prevent these high-level perpetrators from being held accountable for these crimes.

"We find it hypocritical that a top U.S. official is willing to endorse the CTF's unseen report, even though Washington has not yet responded to the detailed 2005 report of Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR). A number of the CAVR's recommendations are directed at the United States.

"Finally, genuine, lasting reconciliation between the peoples of Timor-Leste and Indonesia requires more than a whitewash by governments of the day. Without a foundation of genuine accountability for decades of systematic human rights violations by the Indonesian military, Timor-Leste's people will never feel secure, and Indonesia's citizens cannot complete their journey to democracy."

Background

On the same day as Secretary Hill spoke, the Indonesian Supreme Court overturned the sole conviction from Indonesia's Ad Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor. East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres had received 10 years in prison for human rights violations committed in 1999; all Indonesian officials charged in this court were acquitted or had their convictions overturned. More than 70% of the people indicted by the United Nations Serious Crimes Unit in Timor-Leste enjoy sanctuary in Indonesia.

Secretary Hill is currently in Indonesia and is scheduled to visit Timor-Leste on Sunday.

In July 2007, the UN formally announced its refusal to cooperate with the CTF because its terms of reference contradict international norms against impunity. Civil society groups in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and around the world have strongly criticized the mandate and conduct of the commission.

On March 18, a number of organizations in Timor-Leste issued a statement describing the CTF as not "reflect[ing] the principles of justice for the Timor-Leste people." They called it "a political cosmetic which is intended to eliminate judicial processes for the perpetrators of crimes from the Indonesian military... in Timor Leste from 1975-1999."

Hill, asked about the CTF, told the Associated Press in Jakarta that "If it's good enough for East Timor and Indonesia, it should be good enough for us." "What we want to see is reconciliation between Indonesia and East Timor," he said. "This is the way to go. If you look at East Timor's future, it needs a good relationship with Indonesia."

The CTF, which covers only 1999, has said it will present its final report to the presidents of the two countries after President Jose Ramos-Horta recovers from the gunshot wounds he received on February 11.

As prime minister, Ramos-Horta committed to "endeavour to implement" CAVRís recommendations. "We owe it to the people, we owe it to the victims, we owe it to the current generation and the future generation so that Timor-Leste can live in peace," he said. The CAVR report covers the entire Indonesian occupation.

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: http://www.etan.org.

-30-

see also


US praised much criticized East Timor truth commission


By CHRIS BRUMMITT,
 
Posted: 2008-04-04 06:16:39
 
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - The United States has said it would accept the findings of a truth commission probing killings by Indonesian troops during East Timor's break from Jakarta - despite a boycott of the process by the United Nations and criticism by rights groups.

The joint Indonesian and East Timorese commission is expected to present its final report to the presidents of both countries within weeks. Its members have worked for months to find an account that is acceptable to both sides.

"If it's good enough for East Timor and Indonesia, it should be good enough for us," Christopher Hill, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said Friday in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

Hill's comments to The Associated Press are the strongest indication yet that the United States will not allow the lack of justice over past rights abuses to hurt its growing ties with Indonesia, a large Muslim nation seen as a counterbalance to China's growing clout in Asia.

"What we want to see is reconciliation between Indonesia and East Timor," he said. "This is the way to go. If you look at East Timor's future, it needs a good relationship with Indonesia."

Hill, who met Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is due to travel to East Timor on Sunday.

The Commission of Truth and Friendship was set up in 2005 to head off demands for a U.N-backed international tribunal to try those responsible for the violence during the 1999 independence ballot.

At least 1,000 people were killed by vengeful Indonesian troops following East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence after 24 years of often brutal rule, according to a previous U.N. inquiry and scores of witnesses.

Amid intense international pressure, Indonesia put 18 military officers on trial for the violence, but all were found not guilty or acquitted on appeal.

East Timor leaders - who are battling massive poverty, social unrest and rebel soldiers who last month almost killed the president - have not pressed for more trials or an international tribunal out of fear of upsetting their giant neighbor.

The commission has heard testimony from military officers and victims, but has no power to prosecute individuals or order anyone to testify. It could also recommend amnesties to people found guilty of major crimes.

The United Nations said last year it was boycotting the commission because of the amnesty provision. East Timorese and international rights advocates have dismissed it as a facade designed to ease international pressure for a U.N.-sponsored tribunal.

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