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  • » 03/10/2005, 00.00


    Joint Truth and Friendship Commission set up

    The Commission's mandate is to find the 'truth' about the 1999 violence but it cannot prosecute. The United Nations and the Catholic Church remain opposed. Human rights activists say that justice won't be done for the victims.

    Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Despite the contrary view of the United Nations, the governments of Indonesia and East Timor have agreed to set up a 'Truth and Friendship Commission' charged with shedding light on the events that surrounded Indonesia's pullout from the former Portuguese colony.

    Thus Jakarta and Dili seem to be putting an end to any real hope that those responsible in the Indonesian military and its East Timorese militias for the 1,500 deaths and 250,000 refugees caused by the pullout will ever be brought to justice.

    Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his East Timor counterpart Xanana Gusmão signed the agreement yesterday, March 9, in Jakarta's Merdeka Palace, Indonesia's presidential palace.

    Speaking to Indonesian daily Kompass, President Xanana Gusmão said it was time the two countries turn the page and focus on bilateral relations.

    "Since 1999," he noted, "the political atmosphere has much changed and the Dili-Jakarta relationship has been getting much better".

    East Timor's President did not deny that the two countries still had legal and territorial obstacles to overcome, but the Commission, in his view, would pursue a common goal, namely finding the truth.

    The Commission will sit in Bali. It will start its work in August of this year and complete over a two-year period.

    For Indonesian President Susilo the Commission is the best way to settle differences between the two countries.

    This is clearly in contradiction with the United Nations' position. The world body has for months said that it was not in favour of the type of commission created by the Susilo-Xanana Gusmão agreement.

    Instead, it favoured an independent commission of experts—rejected by Jakarta—to investigate the tragic events and those responsible for them as envisaged by a Security Council resolution in 1999.

    The New York-based International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) has come out against the agreement, saying that it will not provide justice to the victims.

    The Commission's mandate does not include prosecuting those guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It does however have the power to grant amnesty.

    The Catholic Church has also criticised the 'Truth and Friendship Commission'.  In February, Mgr Alberto Ricardo da Silva, Bishop of Dili, attacked the Commission, saying it lacked the support of the people.

    According to the Bishop, past crimes must be tried "whatever Kofi Annan may say and whatever East Timorese leaders may want". (MH)

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    See also

    21/12/2005 east timor - indonesia
    East Timor: 183,000 killed under Indonesian rule

    An investigation identifies by name the victims of the human rights abuses, as well as those who carried them out. The abuses described by the report include collective executions, torture and the forced removal of people from their homes.

    21/01/2006 EAST TIMOR
    Reconciliation with Jakarta without justice is meaningless, says bishop of Baucau
    Gusmao hands over report on crimes in East Timor to the United Nations. Findings point the finger at Indonesia for the 180,000 dead. Jakarta dismisses conclusions and rejects charges. East Timorese president says he only wants restorative justice. Mgr Basilio do Nascimento says it is time for the president to explain at home what he means, meeting people.

    08/04/2005 EAST TIMOR - INDONESIA
    Susilo's historic visit to East Timor
    For the first time since East Timor's independence, an Indonesian President will visit the cemetery of Santa Cruz, where unarmed Timorese civilians were massacred by Indonesian troops. Susilo will also sign a border agreement with East Timor.

    13/02/2006 INDONESIA - EAST TIMOR
    Indonesia, East Timor to hold meeting about occupation crimes

    Next Friday in Bali, the two presidents will discuss the East Timorese report which charges Indonesia with over 180,000 deaths between 1975 and 1999. The document was presented to the UN last month by the president of East Timor.

    07/05/2007 EAST TIMOR – INDONESIA
    No human rights violations in East Timor, says General Wiranto
    Speaking before the Truth and Friendship Commission, former Indonesian army chief claims that he and his men are innocent. Violence in East Timor at the time of independence was caused by local militias. Bishop Belo’s testimony contradicts the general. After the referendum Jakarta’s soldiers destroyed the bishop’s residence in Dili and committed violent acts against the civilian population.

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