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Letter to UN Security Council on Justice and Accountability for Serious Crimes Committed in Timor-Leste

The following letter to the UN Security Council was signed by 65 individuals, representing nearly 50 organizations worldwide. PDF version here.

President
Security Council
The United Nations
1 United Nations Plaza
New York, New York 10017

October 20, 2009

Your Excellency

We have long been concerned with the justice and accountability for human rights and war crimes committed in Timor-Leste.

As you meet this week to discuss the situation in Timor-Leste, we remind you that United Nations -- and more specifically Security Council -- pledges and obligations concerning human rights and accountability for serious human rights crimes remain unfulfilled.

Once again we urge the Security Council to implement the recommendations of the 2005 Commission of Experts (CoE) report and Chega! (Enough!), the final report of the Timor-Leste's Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR). Both reports urge establishing an ad hoc international tribunal should other efforts at justice fail. If anything, recent events confirm that the governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia are unwilling or able to pursue justice. It is time for the Council to act.

 

A full decade has passed since Indonesia’s violent exit from Timor-Leste. Indonesia has repeatedly demonstrated that it will act to prevent credible prosecution of Indonesian citizens for crimes connected with Indonesia’s occupation of Timor-Leste.


Recent events have highlighted the necessity for international involvement in prosecuting serious crimes committed in Timor-Leste between 1975 and 1999, including the August arrest and extra-judicial release (under Indonesian pressure) of the former militia leader Martenus Bere. He had been arrested under an outstanding indictment for serious crimes committed in 1999 after crossing the border into Timor-Leste. His release not only undermined the rule of law in Timor-Leste, it clearly demonstrated that the government of Indonesia continues to undermine efforts by the judiciary in Timor-Leste to prosecute Indonesian citizens accused of serious crimes committed in 1999 and before.

There was an outcry from broad segments of Timor-Leste society against Bere's release, as shown by letters recently delivered to you from East Timorese.

Both the spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights properly took issue with the release. The Secretary-General in his recent report to the Security Council on UNMIT, expressed his "hope that the Governments of both Timor-Leste and Indonesia will ensure that Martenus Bere is brought to justice taking into account the report of the Commission of Experts appointed in 2005 (see S/2005/458)."

The recent report of UNMIT and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights "Rejecting Impunity: Accountability for Human Rights Violations Past and Present" makes clear that "Victims of past violations have continued to call for the perpetrators of crimes against them or their family members to face justice." The report states "grave human rights violations were committed by members of the Indonesian security forces" during the Indonesian invasion and occupation. These were contrary to international law, the UN Charter and the Security Council's own resolutions.

Some of Timor-Leste's leaders have expressed the certainty that the United Nations and the Security Council will never act in a substantive way to hold accountable those responsible for the crimes committed during the illegal occupation of Timor-Leste. While we are not naïve about the obstacles, we hold you to a higher standard. We believe that the United Nations and the Council must live up to its promises to deny impunity to worst perpetrators, if only to reinforce your own credibility. We urge you to act now to implement the UN’s repeated promises by allocating the necessary political, financial and legal resources to end impunity for these crimes against humanity.

We strongly believe that real accountability will reinforce democracy and the rule of law in both Indonesia and Timor-Leste, as well as support genuine reconciliation between the two peoples.

The Security Council ended the serious crimes process in May 2005, although UNMIT has resumed investigating murders committed in 1999, but without a mandate or mechanism for issuing indictments or bringing perpetrators to trial. In addition to this far too-restrictive mandate, the Serious Crimes Investigative Team’s (SCIT) investigative process is appallingly slow. As reported to you by the Secretary-General, "As at 31 August, the team had completed investigations into 89 of 396 outstanding cases; an additional 21 cases are currently under investigation." More than 300 suspects were indicted by the UN-backed Serious Crimes Unit, nearly all in Indonesia. We urge the Council to reject the recent statement of Timor-Leste's president to close the SCIT. Instead its resources should be increased, and its scope broadened.

A full reconstitution of the serious crimes processes is required, in line with recommendations the CAVR's Chega! This requires at a minimum: A Serious Crimes Unit working within the Office of the Prosecutor-General, a commitment of sufficient resources, and a mandate to investigate and prosecute major crimes committed during the Indonesian occupation. Timor-Leste’s judicial system remains weak, with no ability to reach perpetrators outside the country. Timor-Leste's leaders made clear, in the debate about the Bere case, that they fear retaliation from their large neighbor.

Justice must be a direct UN responsibility to ensure that there is no impunity for serious crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

 
UN officials and others address the National Victims' Congress in Dili, September 2009. Photo by John M. Miller/ETAN  

A full decade has passed since Indonesia’s violent exit from Timor-Leste. Indonesia has repeatedly demonstrated that it will act to prevent credible prosecution of Indonesian citizens for crimes connected with Indonesia’s occupation of Timor-Leste. We urge Interpol to issue arrest warrants for all those indicted by the Serious Crimes Unit who remain at large, at a minimum to discourage these suspects from traveling internationally. Other sanctions should be considered as well.

The Secretary-General in his most recent report on UNMIT to the Council writes, "On 2 September, participants in a three-day 'National Victims’ Congress' organized by non-governmental organizations in Dili, with support from OHCHR, called for an international tribunal to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights abuses committed during the 1974-1999 period." As an alternative to a revived and strengthened serious crimes process, the Security Council should implement this recommendation, echoed by the CoE report and the CAVR by creating an ad hoc international criminal tribunal for Timor-Leste.

More than ten years ago, the Council, in Resolutions 1264 and 1272 expressed its commitment to justice for the people of Timor-Leste. Failure to do so reinforces the impression that the UN supports a double standard of justice, undermining the rule of law and respect for human rights in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and internationally.

Yours sincerely,

John M. Miller
National Coordinator, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
UN Representative,  International Federation for East Timor (IFET)

Charles Scheiner, Secretariat
International Federation for East Timor

Susi Snyder, Secretary General
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Pedro Pinto Leite, Secretary
International Platform of Jurists for East Timor, The Netherlands

 

Sr. Sheila Kinsey, OSF-FCJM, General Councilor
Franciscan Sisters Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Rome, Italy

La'o Hamutuk: Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis

Rosa Maria de Sousa, Executive Director
Fokupers ((Forum Komunikasi Untuk Perempuan Timor Lorosa’e). e. Timor-Leste

Jose Caetano Guterres, Former CAVR Senior staff and currently Coordinator of Coordinating Committee Member

East Timor Crisis Reflection Network (ETCRN).

Filomena Barros dos Reis, Activist for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, Timor-Leste

Teresa Alita Verdial , Advocacy Program Manager/ Acting CEO
Alola Foundation,  Timor-Leste

Veronica Correia, Maternal and Child Health Program Manager

Alola Foundation

Apolonia da Costa, Womens Resources Centre Coordinator

Alola Foundation

Jacinta da Cruz, Womens Resources Centre Program Officer

Alola Foundation

Maria Fatima, Fereira- Womens Resources Centre Liaison Officer

Alola Foundation

Elizita Rogerio, Womens Resources Centre Trainer

Alola Foundation

Elda Barros, District Support Worker Project Officer

Alola Foundation

Inacia Tamele- Education Program Manager, Alola Foundation

Paulina Azziz, Advocacy Program Staff, Alola Foundation

Kerry Brogan, former researcher on Indonesia, Timor-Leste and PNG for Amnesty International

Jude Conway

Asia Pacific Support Collective

James Dunn
2001-2002 UNTAET expert on Crimes Against Humanity in East Timor


Dr. Clinton Fernandes
Australian Coalition For Justice For East Timor

Eko Waluyo, Program Coordinator 
Indonesian Solidarity, Australia

Rosemary McKay, Chair
Bill Fisher, Committee
Australia East Timor Friendship Association South Australia

Shirley Shackleton
Australia

Dr Tim Anderson, Senior Lecturer in Political Economy
University of Sydney

Edwina Hughes, Coordinator
Peace Movement Aotearoa

Tim Howard. Spokesperson
Whangarei Branch, Indonesian Human Rights Committee - New Zealand

Gabriel Jonsson, Chairman
The Swedish East Timor Committee
Beryl Bernay, Senior Correspondent
Worldview Reports

Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton
Detroit, MI

Alan Muller, Executive Director
Green Delaware

 

Peter Bohmer

Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace

faculty in economics and political economy, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA

Chuck Warpehoski, Director
Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, Ann Arbor, MI

Chris Lundry, PhD
Hugh Downs School of Communication
Arizona State University

Jeffrey J. Smith, Barrister
The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy,  Tufts University

Bill Towe , Board Member

North Carolina Peace Action

 

Tom Mahedy
Monmouth County Pax Christi

Dr. Brad Simpson 
Director, Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project*

 

Jakob Schmidt
SUNY Stony Brook

 

Miriam Tonkin, committee member
Australia-East Timor Friendship Association

 

Progressio (UK)

Clionadh O'Keeffe, PhD Candidate
School of Political Science and Sociology National University of Ireland, Galway

Luis de Oliveira Sampaio, Executive Director
Judicial System Monitoring Programme

Roger S. Clark, Board of Trustees
International League for Human Rights

 

Koalisi Anti Utang (Anti-Debt Coalition) Indonesia  

Garda Sembiring, Coordinator
People's Empowerment Consortium (PEC) ,  Jakarta

Gustaf Dupe, Chairman
Association of Prison Ministries,  Jakarta

Edwina Hughes, Coordinator
Peace Movement Aotearoa

Maire Leadbeater,  Spokesperson
Indonesia Human Rights Committee, New Zealand

 

Rev. John Chamberlin, National Coordinator
East Timor Religious Outreach

 

Monika Schlicher
Watch Indonesia! - Working Group for Human Rights, Democracy and Environmental Protection in Indonesia and East Timor, Berlin

Carmel Budiardjo, founder and co-director
Paul Barber,Coordinator
TAPOL (UK)

Cristina Cruz, President of the Board of Directors
CIDAC - Centro de Informa
ção e Documentação Amílcar Cabral

Suzana Braz

IPJET, Portugal

Associação Amizade Portugal Sahara Ocidental

Dini Widiastuti. Programme Manager - East Timor and  Indonesia
CAFOD

Jean Inglis
Free East Timor Coalition, Japan
Sharon Silber and Eileen B. Weiss, Co-Founders
Jews Against Genocide

Kirsten Moller, Executive Director
Global Exchange

Kathy Kelly, Co-Coordinator

Voices for Creative Nonviolence

 

J.J. Sahetapy
Stg. Timor Lorosae Solidarity, The Netherlands

Koen J. de Jager

Foundation Pro Papua, The Netherlands

Bruno Kahn
Directeur de recherche au CNRS, Paris, France

Ed McWilliams
West Papua Advocacy Team

Joseph K. Grieboski, Founder and President
Institute on Religion and Public Policy

Greg Stanton, President
Genocide Watch

Marie Lucey, OSF, Associate Director for Social Mission
Leadership Council of Women Religious

Marie Dennis, Director
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Glen Gersmehl, National Coordinator
Lutheran Peace Fellowship
Director, Peace & Justice Resource Center, Seattle

Carol Jahnkow, Executive Director
Peace Resource Center of San Diego

Pierre Labossiere, Co-Founder
Haiti Action Committee

David McReynolds, former Chair

War Resisters International

Jeffrey Ballinger, Executive Director
Press for Change

Mary Anne Mercer, DrPH, Deputy Director
Health Alliance International 

Ben Manski, Esq., Executive Director
Liberty Tree Foundation

John J. Witeck, Coordinator
Philippine Workers Support Committee

Sue Severin

Former IFET-OP and SOMET election observer

Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
Brunswick, ME

 

David Hartsough, Executive Director
PEACEWORKERS, San Francisco, CA USA

Diana Bohn, NICCA Co-Coordinator
Nicaragua Center for Community Action

Elaine Donovan
Concerned Citizens for Peace, Honeoye, New York

Lon Burnam
Texas State Representative

Dr Michael McKinley, Senior Lecturer, International Relations & Strategy, Political Science & International Relations Programme. School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University

Ellen E Barfield, Activist
WRL, VFP, SOA Watch, NCNR, WILPF, Baltimore Pledge of Resistance

Jesse Lokahi Heiwa
Asia Pacific Action in Turtle Island & elsewhere

 

 

* organization for identification purposes only

 

Cc: members UN Security Council

UN Secretary-General

 

see also


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