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Campaigning to expose human rights violations in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh


International tribunal proposal for East Timor welcomed by TAPOL

29 June 2005

A UN Commission of Experts has advised the UN Security Council to establish an international criminal tribunal if Indonesia fails to take action towards securing accountability for serious crimes committed in East Timor within six months. The recommendation is welcomed by TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, but the organisation is cautioning the Security Council against giving Indonesia another chance to deliver justice.

“This is about achieving justice for the victims, their families and the peoples of East Timor and about ending impunity in Indonesia. We welcome the Commission's recognition that this process is an ongoing responsibility of the international community. However, giving Indonesia another chance will simply delay justice for a further six months and more. We, therefore, urge the Security Council to allow international justice to take its course without further delay.” said Paul Barber, on behalf of TAPOL.

The Commission of Experts has produced a detailed and thorough report, which is particularly harsh in its criticism of the proceedings of Jakarta's ad hoc human rights court and expresses reservations about the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) set up by the governments of Indonesia and East Timor.

It is the second time a UN-established commission has proposed an international tribunal for East Timor. The earlier recommendation was made by the International Commission of Inquiry for East Timor in January 2000. Support for an international tribunal also came from three UN special rapporteurs who reported in December 1999.

The Commission concludes that the ad hoc prosecutions in Jakarta were “manifestly inadequate”, showed “scant respect for relevant international standards”, and were “undertaken at a time when there was an evident lack of political will to prosecute”.

The prosecuting authorities come in for particular criticism. They are described as lacking commitment, expertise, experience and training and are accused of conducting “deficient investigations and of “inadequate presentation of inculpatory material at trial”.

The Commission, while commending the serious crimes process in East Timor, says that it has 'not yet achieved full accountability of those who bear the greatest responsibility, namely high-level indictees outside the jurisdiction. This is attributed to a number of factors, including a lack of resources, a lack of Indonesian cooperation and the General Prosecutor's lack of independence from the government of East Timor. The Commission points out that whereas 391 persons were indicted, charges are still pending against 339 accused who remain at large outside the jurisdiction.

The Commission is concerned that the Indonesia/East Timor Commission of Truth and Friendship does not enjoy public support in East Timor and that its terms of reference include provisions that contradict international standards on the denial of impunity for serious crimes. TAPOL believes that this body was hastily established to undermine international initiatives, including the Commission's own work.

In its recommendations, the Commission says Indonesia should accept support to strengthen its judicial and prosecutorial capacity and suggests the appointment of a team of Asian legal experts to provide specialist advice to the Office of the Attorney-General.

It goes on to recommend a review and possible re-opening of all the ad hoc cases and action by the Attorney General in the case of Gen (ret.) Wiranto, who was Indonesian armed forces commander-in-chief at the time, and seven other key Indonesian officials. Indonesia should, it says, implement all the recommendations within six months from a date to be fixed by the UN Secretary-General.

In the event of Indonesia's failure to comply, the Commission proposes that the Security Council sets up an ad hoc international criminal tribunal through its powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Alternatively, it should use the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a vehicle for investigations and prosecutions.

TAPOL doubts the value of giving Indonesia another six months to deliver justice. Experience and the findings of the Commission itself have shown that Indonesia is politically unwilling to establish the truth of what happened in East Timor and to hold the perpetrators to account for their crimes. The establishment of the CTF is just the latest manifestation of this lack of political will.

The Commission's own recommendation for the strengthening of the judiciary and prosecution indicates that Indonesia currently does not have the capacity to launch fresh proceedings against the leading suspects.

In regard to the serious crimes process, the Commission advises the Security Council to
ensure the continuity of the work until the investigations, indictments, and prosecutions of those alleged to have committed serious crimes are completed.

In considering the Commission's recommendations, TAPOL urges the Security Council to address also the issue of crimes committed before 1999. The pattern of attacks on the civilian population of East Timor started in 1975 when Indonesia invaded the country and was responsible for the deaths of up to one third of the population – around 200,000 people. This remains one of worst crimes against humanity of the 20th century. It is therefore legally necessary and morally imperative that the pre-1999 crimes are also investigated and those responsible are held accountable.

The Commission of Experts was appointed in February 2005 and tasked by UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, with assessing the ad hoc process in Jakarta and the serious crimes process involving the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) and the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in Dili. It was required to recommend further measures so that the perpetrators are held accountable, justice is secured for the victims and the people of East Timor, and reconciliation is promoted.

The members of the Commission were Justice Prafullachandra Bhagwati, a former chief justice of India, Professor Yozo Yokota of Japan, a former UN special rapporteur on Burma, and Ms Shaista Shameem, director of the Fiji human rights commission.


Contact: Paul Barber (TAPOL) +44 1420 80153 or +44 774 730 1739

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