Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: National Alliance for International Tribunal Letter UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


13 March, 2003

Mr. Sergio Viera De Mello United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Geneva, Switzerland

Dear Sir,

We represent the East Timorese civil society groups who are members of National Alliance for an International Tribunal For East Timor. Together we are working for accountability for the serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999. We wish to forward our views about the indictment issued on the 24 February 2003 by the Serious Crimes Unit of UNMISET against seven Indonesian military officers and the former Governor of East Timor for commiting crimes against humanity in our country in 1999.

We warmly welcome the indictment signed by the Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes that was filed with the Special Panel for Serious Crimes of Dili District Court. This is the first attempt to hold the primary perpetrators responsible for crimes they committed in East Timor. Many East Timorese greeted the indictment filed on the 24 February against the primary perpetrators as a first step in seeking justice and feel that acknowledgement of crimes commited in 1999 will help to alleviate the suffering of both victims and their families.

Over the past three years the victims and families of victims of the violence in 1999 have awaited this indictment. During this period, the Serious Crimes Unit has filed numerous indictments for crimes against humanity in Dili District Court. But East Timorese victims have complained that these indictments only charged lower-ranking Indonesian military and police personnel as well as militia members, but failed to address the primary perpetrators. The people of East Timor, who since 1975 have lived under Indonesian military occupation and suffered from repeated acts of violence and terror, are well aware that the violence in 1999 was part of an ongoing systematic and planned use of violence against our people.

Similarly we very much welcome your report to the 58th Session of the Commisson on Human Rights (Item 9 of the Agenda) in which you highlight the slow progress in establishing an effective and accountable system of justice in East Timor. Additionally we note in your report the explicit support by UNMISET for the Serious Crimes Unit and the Special Panels.

It is however of the gravest concern to us as members of East Timorese civil society therefore that the statement made by United Nations Spokesperson Fred Eckhard, who in a press briefing on 25 February 2003 said that the indictment was not issued by the United Nations. He claimed that the UN was merely providing "advisory assistance" to the Government of East Timor. According to the United Nations News Centre on the same day UNMISET in Dili also stated that the indictment had been filed by the Government of East Timor. We feel that it is critical to remember that the crimes committed in East Timor in 1999 were not only crimes against East Timorese, they were in fact Crimes against Humanity. It is thus imperative that the international community now assume responsibility for ensuring that the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice. This is not the job of the East Timorese people alone.

Further, at this time in East Timor's history when the trials of the Ad-Hoc court for Human Rights in Indonesia, which were intended as an alternative to an International Tribunal, can be seen so clearly to be a disgrace and a sham that we require the explicit support and involvement of the international community in the Serious Crimes process in East Timor.

As Transitional Administrator during the UNTAET period you would of course be aware that the Serious Crimes Unit was established by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution No. 1272 (25 October 1999). This resolution states that one of UNTAET's mandates is: "To provide security and maintain law and order throughout the territory of East Timor." This resolution also "Condemns all violence and acts in support of violence in East Timor, calls for their immediate end, and demands that those responsible for such violence be brought to justice."

In order to carry out this mandate, UNTAET established the Serious Crimes Unit. The mandate of SCU is to investigate serious crimes that took place between January 1 1999 and October 25 1999 and prosecute those reponsible for commiting these crimes. Please recall that the International Commission of Inquiry -- formed by UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1999/S-4/1, dated 27 September 1999 - categorized the violence in East Timor as violations of international humanitarian law and violations of international human rights law. The Indonesian Commission of Investigation for Human Rights Violations (KPP HAM) also found that "systematic and widespread attacks were carried out against civilians" and concluded that "crimes against humanity" had been commited. According to international law, the acts perpetrated in East Timor in 1999 violate the norms of jus cogens, norms of international law from which no derogation is permissible.

In order to prosecute those individuals who commited serious crimes in 1999, UNTAET passed Regulation 2000/15 forming the Special Panel at Dili District Court. This regulation stipulates that serious crimes include genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, and sexual assault, and adopts the norms of international law as the basis on which these crimes are to be prosecuted.

When the UNTAET mission was completed, the UN Security Council passed Resolution No. 1410 (17 May 2002) establishing the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET). The Serious Crimes Unit then became a civilian component of UNMISET. In his report to the Security Council on 17 April 2002, the Secretary General noted that the Serious Crimes Unit of UNMISET will focus its investigations on those individuals who organized, ordered, instigated, or otherwise aided in the planning, preparation and execution of the crimes. East Timor gained independence on 20 May 2002, but the United Nations retained the authority to investigate and prosecute serious crimes committed in 1999. Furthermore, the United Nations remains responsible for the security and defense of East Timor at this time.

The legal format in which serious crimes commited in East Timor in 1999 are being tried can be considered a "mixed tribunal" or an "internationalized court." This involves both local East Timorese and international UN staff working in the court and a combinaton of national and international law.

For this reason one can not say that the indictment issued by the Serious Crimes Unit was issued by East Timor alone. This indictment was issued by the Government of East Timor and the United Nations.

Furthermore, this is not the first indictment issued by the Serious Crimes Unit. All previous indictments have been sent to the United Nations in New York and have not resulted in public denials of UN involvement. It is, therefore, curious that this particular indictment would elicit such a vociferous response.

After UN Spokesperson Fred Eckhard's statement, General Wiranto, the former Commander of the Armed Forces of Indonesia - who is charged in the indictment, stated that the indictment did not have the legal backing of the United Nations. He claimed that the indictment was no more than a "release issued by the Serious Crimes Unit." The Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda was also dismissive of the indictment. After asking the Ambassador of East Timor in Jakarta for explanation, Hassan Wirayuda said that this was merely a "recommendation to the Government of East Timor," not a legal indictment.

We conclude that the statement made by the United Nations spokesperson is not only factually incorrect, but has hindered efforts to seek justice. In order to establish the rule of law in East Timor and ensure justice and accountability for its people the United Nations can not afford to derogate from its clear and apparent responsibilities.

In light of the above facts, we call on you both as the High Commissioner for Human Rights and as the former Transitional Administrator of UNTAET to address these falsehoods currently being perpetrated by the United Nations, both in the current forum of the 58th Session of the Commission on Human Rights but also directly with the United Nations in New York.

We hope for justice for the victims of violence in East Timor and people throughout the world. We and the people of East Timor look forward to your prompt response. Sincerely,

East Timor Civil Society members of National Alliance for International Tribunal for East Timor.

1. East Timor NGO Forum___________________________

2. Perkumpulan Hak_________________________________

3. Fokupers___________________________________

4. Sahe Institute For Liberation (SIL) ____________________________

5. Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP )_____________________

6. Oxfam_____________________________

7. East Timor Student Solidarity Council (ETSSC)_________________

8. AKKOH__________________________________

9. GMPD________________________

10. Asosiasau Mane Kontra Violencia _________________

11. La'o Hamutuk ______________________

12. Legal Aid (Hukun Rasik An) _____________________________

13. ETWAVE __________________________

14. OPMT_______________________________

15. Escouteiro Motael______________________________

16. IRC____________________________

17. Caritas Australia_____________________________________

18. The Victims Families (Grupo Rate Laek) ___________________________

19. Novi-novi ( Mate Restu)__________________________


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