02 September 2009

Ramos-Horta 'out of touch' over amnesties: Timor opposition



Agence France-Presse 02/09/09 East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta is out of touch with the people over his refusal to accept an international tribunal to try perpetrators of past atrocities, the opposition said Monday.

The Nobel laureate came under fire for his trenchant criticism of international justice during a speech Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of a historic referendum which effectively ended Indonesia's military occupation.

"The president is out of step with the people on the issue of amnesties," Fretilin party spokesman Jose Teixeira said.

"We have to enforce all laws in our country and do so equally to all, free of political interference and external considerations."

Ramos-Horta has offered Indonesian generals and their militia proxies amnesty for crimes against humanity committed during Indonesia's brutal 24-year military occupation of the tiny half-island.

In the interests of building better relations with East Timor's massive neighbour, he has rejected pressure from the United Nations and rights groups such as Amnesty International for suspects to be tried in court.

Indonesian former army chief Wiranto is among the senior officers who have been indicted by UN prosecutors over gross human rights abuses during the occupation, which claimed an estimated 100,000 lives.

In his anniversary speech, Ramos-Horta accused "those in the US and UK" of simplistically asserting that "the absence of prosecutorial justice fosters impunity and violence".

"My stated preference, both as a human being, victim and head of state, is that we, once and for all, close the 1975-1999 chapters of our tragic experience and forgive those who did harm to us," he said.

The president later danced on stage with Indonesian pop star Krisdayanti as she performed before thousands of people outside the government palace.

Teixeira said Ramos-Horta had no right to amnesty alleged war criminals.

"Only the parliament can pass a general amnesty law, not the president," he said.

The Indonesian Army and paramilitaries went on the rampage after the 1999 referendum, killing around 1,400 people and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to other parts of Indonesia.

Australian-led United Nations peacekeepers restored order, ending an occupation that is estimated to have claimed around 100,000 lives through fighting, disease and starvation.

East Timor formally became independent in 2002.

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