02 September 2009

Forgive Indonesian crimes, Ramos-Horta urges East Timorese

August 31, 2009 Source: The Sydney Morning Herald LINDSAY MURDOCH IN DILI THE President of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta, has called on the United Nations to stop gathering evidence against the killers of hundreds of Timorese, saying his people must put the past behind them.

In a speech yesterday marking the 10th anniversary of his country's vote for independence, Mr Ramos-Horta said Timorese must forgive Indonesians who ''committed heinous crimes against us''.

''The tens of millions of dollars spent on the Serious Crimes Unit and Panel could have made a greater difference in providing training and resources to our young judiciary,'' he said.

Later, police used force to disperse a news conference in a Dili park where activists displayed banners reading ''end impunity. UN must act''.

About 200 activists were attending a three-day conference that called on the UN to establish an international tribunal to prosecute people who had committed crimes in East Timor.

Many of the activists were among Mr Ramos-Horta's strongest supporters when he was in exile pushing for East Timor's freedom.

Mr Ramos-Horta told guests at a ceremony in Dili that the UN should disband its serious crimes unit, which has completed only 86 investigations into 396 cases.

Up to 1500 people were killed before and after a UN-sponsored vote in which 75 per cent of Timorese defied threats and intimidation and voted to break away from Indonesia.

Mr Ramos-Horta said no international tribunal would be established to prosecute those responsible, even though two years ago an inquiry by a UN-appointed expert panel recommended that one be established. No action has been taken on the recommendation.

''I am saying let's put the past behind,'' Mr Ramos-Horta said.

A UN spokesman in Dili declined to comment on his statement. Mr Ramos-Horta said the people who committed the crimes were ''the ones who have to live with these crimes and the ghosts of their victims haunting them for the rest of their lives''.

He said he believed that as Indonesia consolidated its democracy and rule of law the country would bring to justice those who committed serious crimes in Indonesia and East Timor between 1974 and 1999.

Amnesty International and some victims' groups in East Timor also support a tribunal.

Hundreds of victims are expected to attend a conference in Dili this week.

The serious crimes unit in Dili is mandated to gather evidence against people accused of crimes in 1999 but does not have authority to prosecute them.

It has sent 86 briefs of evidence to the prosecutor-general's office, which has a backlog of 5000 cases.

Since the UN Security Council set up the unit in 2000 it has issued 303 arrest warrants, including for the former General Wiranto, the commander of Indonesian troops in East Timor in 1999.

More than 75 per cent of the people named remain free. Only one person is in jail in East Timor for crimes committed in 1999.

No prosecutions have been successful in Indonesia.

Fewer than 100 non-official Timorese watched a formal flag raising and parade outside Dili's new presidential palace to mark the anniversary.

Later, thousands celebrated the anniversary at a festival.

The Australian Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, and the retired general Peter Cosgrove, who led Australian forces into East Timor to quell violence in 1999, were among the guests.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
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