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Commission of Truth and Friendship – A Stage Play for Human Rights Abusers

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At the height of the second public hearing of the truth-finding and friendship-building Commission, Indonesian military officers who were involved in the atrocities that killed more than 1,500 Timorese civilians after the popular referendum in 1999 are avoiding accountability. Pressure on the government of Indonesia to prosecute all perpetrators has grown, but the goodwill required to end the culture of impunity is still mere lip service.

“The United Nations condemns all violence and acts that  support of violence in East Timor, calls for their immediate end, and demands that all those responsible for such violence be brought to justice” (Security Council Resolution, 1999)

The request to invite Indonesian high ranking military officers1 from 26 – 30 March 2007 to a second public hearing will have a strong potential of producing fabricating facts and altering findings of crimes against humanity committed in 1999. We urge all Commissioners to act independently and seriously when developing accumulated evidence of human rights abuses in both countries.

The fabrication of facts and alteration of findings are done to avoid accountability among Indonesian military officers – who were involved in the illegal occupation and who would take part in the proposed amnesty for those providing testimony, based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)2 – and are simply undermining the quest for justice.

An indication of fact fabrication and alteration of findings is analysed below:

Firstly, from the very beginning, Indonesian military officers were already rejecting the independent findings of crimes committed in 1999 as a result of a direct order from Jakarta. They continue to assert that the crimes committed were ‘merely a dynamic act’ of individual soldiers who were emotional after the result of a popular referendum was announced.

This rejection goes against many ground facts and documents from independent researchers from both countries which clearly show that Jakarta is responsible for the atrocities.

Secondly, the “black sheep” scenario refers to UNAMET3. Despite the findings that the crimes were ordered by Jakarta, a desperate position of Indonesian military officers is to turn the allegation towards UNAMET as the instigator of crimes. This failed tactic was expanded to cover up the atrocities the Indonesian military committed and waives their responsibility.

Thirdly, members of the Commission are not fully ready to oppose some statements given by defendants that are untrue and to check these against available findings in documents and international reports about the crimes against humanity in Timor Leste. It seems as if the public hearing is merely a forum to mislead the public – that the atrocity was a horizontal conflict between groups in Timor Leste, and that the Indonesian authorities were not ready to prevent the violence from spreading.

Based on these three indications, we are convinced that Indonesian military officers will potentially use in next week’s public hearings and will be prioritized by the Indonesian Commissioners. The fabrication of facts and alteration of statements by the Indonesian military and government officers as their political strategy will thus be accepted formally by the Commission or worse it will be used by Indonesian Commissioners to convince their Timor Leste counterparts that these claims are factual.

Based on all the above findings, we therefore:

Demand all Commissioners to work independently and professionally based upon universal standards and criteria of being human rights workers and truth seekers. It is important to highlight this fact because there is the tendency by Commissioners to ignore the MoU signed and prioritized by the national interest that are represented instead.

Demand that the Commission of Truth and Friendship reject any statements and testimonies that are contrary to the facts and documents, which have been well-proven in terms of integrity. This action is fundamentally important because the Commission’s mandate is seek the truth, not to document political scenarios and interests in order to cover up findings.

Continue to demand that the presidents of Timor Leste and Indonesia consider amending the provisions of the MoU that contradicts with universal laws on human rights so that the Commission’s work will gain international credibility, and that the truth-seeking will be followed up with judicial mechanisms.
“individuals committing human rights violations must be responsible and victims of human rights violation shall recieve effective remedy, including compensation” – Committee for Human Rights, UN, 1982

Jakarta & Bangkok, 23 March 2007

KontraS-Elsam-Solidamor-HRWG-PBHI-Imparsial-PEC-ICTJ Indonesia-YLBHI-FORUM ASIA

1 During Soeharto’s regime, military officers served under the ABRI (Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia) which consisted of the three military services – the army, navy, and air force, plus the police until it was separated in 2000. It is now known as TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia).

2 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) can be referred as Terms of Reference (ToR) –

3 UNAMET –United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor was established by Security Council under resolution 1246 in 11 June 1999 and ended on 25 October 1999 serving