Joint Statement on the Handover of the Indonesia-Timor
Commission of Truth and
John M Miller
Jul 14, 2008 20:48 PDT
Joint NGO Statement on the Handover of the Report of the Commission
of Truth and Friendship
July 15, 2008
This week the report of the bilateral Commission of Truth and
Friendship (CTF) will be handed over to the presidents of Indonesia
and Timor-Leste. The report concludes that crimes against humanity
took place for which militia groups and the Indonesian military,
police and civilian government bear institutional responsibility. The
report should be made public as soon as possible, and must not be the
end of efforts to assign responsibility for violence in 1999 and before.
While Indonesia bears most of the responsibility to respond to the
challenges posed by the report, both countries and the international
community must work together to ensure individual accountability for
the past, and reform of these institutions in the future.
The Commission was formed by the two governments to "establish the
conclusive truth" about the events of 1999 "with a view to further
promoting reconciliation and friendship." In 1999 militias created,
trained, and directed by the Indonesian military carried out a terror
campaign that left more than 1,400 dead, hundreds of thousands
forcibly displaced, and much of the territory's infrastructure
destroyed. According to available information, the report has found
that Indonesian security forces often directly participated in the violence.
Flaws in the Commission documented by our own groups and others
include: a mandate that put a priority on rehabilitating the names of
accused perpetrators over justice or compensation for victims;
prohibitions on assigning individual responsibility or on
recommending prosecutions or creation of judicial bodies; inadequate
witness protection; and a narrow focus on events in 1999.
As a result, despite the intent of the two nations to find
"definitive closure," and a report that contributes to a better
understanding of the violence, the Commission cannot be the last word
on responsibility for past human rights violations in Timor-Leste.
The body is by design inadequate for the task of identifying the
truth or obtaining closure in any meaningful sense of the word.
However, despite its limitations, commissioners from both countries
made an effort to sift through the information and produce meaningful
conclusions. Notably, the Commission did not exercise its power to
recommend amnesties for any individuals. The Commission has found
that the Indonesian military, as an institution, was responsible for
crimes against humanity. This finding leads our organizations to two
An institution that was responsible for crimes against humanity
remains a powerful and largely unreformed force within Indonesia.
Despite a few important steps following the fall of President
Soeharto, such as the separation of the police from the military and
the loss of automatic seats in parliament, the military has made
little progress in accepting civilian control, divesting of its
massive empire of legal and illegal businesses, or holding its
members accountable for human rights violations.
A further judicial mechanism is needed to assign individual
responsibility for those crimes. Individual responsibility is a
fundamental principle of international criminal law and an essential
aspect of reconciliation. Some of those implicated in the violence
maintain positions of influence in Indonesia, either within the
military or as retired civilians active in politics.
It is also important to note that just as the Commission must not be
the last word, neither was it the first. A 2000 report by an
investigative team from Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission
identified serious violations and recommended investigation of
numerous civilian and military officials. Timor-Leste's Commission of
Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) produced a comprehensive
2,000 page report with recommendations on accountability and
reparations that have been largely unimplemented. The U.N.-backed
Serious Crimes Unit in Dili indicted numerous individuals for
prosecution, most of whom remain at large in Indonesia. A U.N.
Commission of Experts found that Indonesia's efforts at
accountability, the Jakarta ad hoc tribunals, were "manifestly
inadequate." The only defendant serving time for a conviction in
those trials, militia leader Eurico Gutteres was recently acquitted
on appeal. The CTF report notes serious shortcomings of the Jakarta trials.
Both the U.N. Commission of Experts and the CAVR urged that an
international tribunal be formed if Indonesia did not promptly act to
hold the perpetrators accountable. It is possible that the findings
of the Commission of Truth and Friendship will spur further
prosecutions in Indonesia, ideally in conjunction with the
international community to ensure both credibility and resources.
However, Indonesia's record in this area is clear, and it is highly
unlikely that the Indonesian government will act without clear
signals from the international community that an international
tribunal remains a credible option.
Those who committed crimes against humanity throughout Indonesia's
invasion and occupation of Timor-Leste must be identified and
prosecuted, for the sake of justice for past victims in Timor-Leste
and for a future in which human rights are respected in Indonesia.
The international community and the government of Timor-Leste must
play a role in ensuring both prosecutions and reparations to
victims. As recommended by the Commission, Indonesia must
comprehensively reform its armed forces.
If Indonesia truly wants closure and full acceptance by the
international community as a rights-respecting nation, there is no
alternative but an end to impunity through individual as well as
Association HAK (Timor-Leste)
Australian Coalition for Transitional Justice in East Timor
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (U.S.)
Human Rights First
International Center for Transitional Justice
The Commission for the Disappeared and the Victims of Violence
Maria Afonso de Jesus, victims' families representative (Timor-Leste)
Timor-Leste University Students' Front
see also ETAN Renews Call for Meaningful Justice for Victims of
Indonesian Occupation; International Tribunal Needed in Wake of
Commission of Truth and Friendship Report
John M. Miller Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: (718)596-7668 Mobile: (917)690-4391
Skype: john.m.miller Web: http://www.etan.org
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