29 August 2009

Prosecutions needed for Timor abuses, says Amnesty

August 27, 2009 Thursday Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) Lindsay Murdoch in Dili - THE failure to prosecute most of the people responsible for atrocities that marred East Timor's 1999 independence vote threatens the country's stability, Amnesty International says.

Only one person is in jail for crimes committed during a wave of bloodshed that left 1500 people dead and most of East Timor's infrastructure destroyed, Amnesty says in a report released today.

"Of those who have been prosecuted in Indonesia, all have been acquitted in proceedings which have been severely criticised as fundamentally flawed," the report says.

Amnesty says the path pursued by East Timor and Indonesia has weakened the rule of law in both countries. It says the victims need a clear commitment by the two governments and the United Nations to bring to justice those responsible for human rights abuses.

Amnesty calls for the UN Security Council to establish an international criminal tribunal with jurisdiction over all grave human rights abuses in East Timor since Indonesia's invasion of the former Portuguese territory in 1975. The council has in the past said it favours a tribunal but has not acted to establish one.

"The failure to rebuild the justice system effectively and to bring those responsible for past human rights violations to justice contributed to an environment where there was no strong deterrent to political violence and human rights violations," the report says. "The denial of justice through effective criminal proceedings has eroded key pillars of the new state."

The report says East Timor's political leaders put Dili's relationship with Indonesia before justice for the victims.

Amnesty is releasing the report in advance of events in East Timor marking the 10th anniversary on August 30 of a UN-sponsored referendum in which more than 70 per cent of Timorese defied threats and intimidation and voted to break away from Indonesia.

East Timor's President, Jose Ramos-Horta, has reportedly told the Portuguese news agency Lusa that he would favour a general amnesty law if Indonesia acknowledges the abuses that were committed since 1975.

Non-government organisations plan to transport hundreds of victims of atrocities to Dili next week, where they are expected to demand justice and compensation from the Government.
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