03 September 2009

Victims Congress in Dili: No Amnesty for Human Rights Crimes

TRANSLATION OF LUSA Brazil Article 2 September 2009 - Dili, 2 set (AP) - The idea of a general amnesty for crimes committed between 1974 and 1999, launched by East Timorese President Ramos-Horta, was hotly debated in Congress of the network of victims
of human rights violations in East Timor.

The congress which is meeting in the capital, Dili, is being attended by one hundred and fifty delegates, will run until Friday, and comes just days after the East Timorese president has advocated for the adoption of a general amnesty.

The spokesman of the organizing committee, Elio Saldanha, told Lusa that the first national congress of the victims want their rights to be safeguarded.

"The purpose of this meeting is to present their ideas and demands, and seek to protect and safeguard the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparations," said Saldanha.

The congress is sponsored by various non government organizations, including the "November 12 Committee”, formed by survivors of the massacre at Santa Cruz, and is being attended by a delegation of Indonesian victims from the time of the Suharto dictatorship.

Moreover, representatives from various districts participated, chosen at local gatherings of victims and their families, brought about since March by the forum for non-government organizations FONGTIL.

The network aims to protect victims' interests and views in the national discussion with the intention of expanding the possible solutions for outstanding issues relating to justice, reconciliation and compensation.

On the first day of work, the Congress had as guest speakers Aniceto Guterres, Frentlin MP and member of the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), Lois Garcia, of Integrated Mission in East Timor United Nations (UNMIT) and Marek Michon, Head of the Serious Crimes
Investigation (SCIT) of that mission.


Numerous participants criticized the idea of a general amnesty for the crimes they suffered, and the predominant view was synthesized by Saldanha.

"Crimes against humanity can not go unpunished, so we do not accept that they are capable of being amnestied," he said.

Most of the congress participants come from the districts, and they support the establishment of a tribunal to try serious crimes that occurred in the country, basing their demands on the Constitution of East Timor.

According to Saldanha, "the President’s thinking breaches the 2002 Constitution, which stipulates in Article 160 that crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes must be prosecuted in national and international courts."

"The justice that we claim is not intended to revive hatred or revenge, but to educate future generations of this nation and prevent future violations of human rights," he added.

"We believe it will be useful to promote justice and peace, and to conflict prevention, ensuring respect for the rule of law, as a condition for peace," he said.

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