29 August 2009

Rights group urges creation of East Timor independent criminal tribunal

Jurist Legal News and Research Jaclyn Belczyk at 2:33 PM ET - JURIST The UN Security Council should establish an independent criminal tribunal [press release] to investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses stemming from East Timor's 1999 referendum for independence from Indonesia, Amnesty International (AI) urged in a report Thursday. AI's report, based on a June visit to East Timor, claims that officials responsible for human rights abuses between 1975 and 1999 have yet to be prosecuted before an impartial tribunal. According to the report:

Today, despite various national and internationally-sponsored justice initiatives over the last decade, most of those who were suspected of committing the 1999 crimes are still at large in Indonesia, and are yet to be brought before an independent court. Of those who have been prosecuted in Indonesia, all have been acquitted in proceedings which have been severely criticized as fundamentally flawed.

Only one remains imprisoned in Timor-Leste. Similarly, a comprehensive programme of justice and reparations are yet to be delivered for victims of the pre-1999 crimes, although the crimes against humanity and other human rights violations which occurred then have been thoroughly documented by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor.

AI urged the Security Council to end impunity by establishing an international criminal tribunal and urged the Indonesian and East Timorese governments to commit to achieving justice for victims.

Both Indonesian and East Timorese leaders have rejected calls for prosecution, arguing that it could hinder the reconciliation process between the two nations. In July 2008, Indonesia formally accepted a joint Indonesian-East-Timorese Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) finding that Indonesia was responsible for human rights violations following a the 1999 independence referendum.

This was the first time that Indonesia has accepted any responsibility for the attacks in East Timor, which it has previously blamed on local militias. In 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the CTF for violating international humanitarian standards because it allowed amnesty for some perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

The Indonesian foreign minister responded that the government of East Timor had voluntarily agreed to the CTF to resolve past disputes without injuring long-term relations with Indonesia. The CTF, established in 2005 by the East Timorese and Indonesian governments, does not have independent authority to prosecute suspects.

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