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Commission of Truth and Friendship: A stage play for liars and denial of the truth

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CTF Second Hearing undermines the justice for victims by refusing the cross examination of evidence from independent and reliable sources. Close-door sessions offered to the perpetrators without victims’ participation. The composition of the witnesses is also dominated by majority of perpetrators and actors of violence.
An evaluation of the Second Hearing of the Commission of Truth and Friendship

It is becoming clear from the second hearing of the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), held at the Crowne Hotel Jakarta on 26 – 30 March 2007, that the Commission’s proceedings will lead to a systematic denial of the truth and undermine its mandate of truth-seeking and building friendship. Testimonies heard during these hearings have deliberately distorted the established facts on the atrocities in Timor Leste in 1999. Statements of these witnesses were apparently designed to perpetuate injustice to the victims and mislead the national and international community about the truth regarding the tragedy. We fear that the Commission process will be a venue to legitimise the lies of those responsible for this atrocity and become a platform to ensure their impunity.

Impunity can result from the process because of the following observations from the second hearing of the Commission:

First, Testimonies were out of the Commission’s context/mandate.

Testimonies provided, especially those by military officers from TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Indonesian Armed Forces), government officials and pro-Indonesia militia, seem to follow a uniform script: that incidents leading up to the referendum in 1999 characterise it as a horizontal conflict within groups in what was then Timor Timur (also known as East Timor), and that the UNAMET (United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor) is solely responsible for instigating violence without knowledge or instruction from the central government in Jakarta. Testimonies presented also ventured unnecessarily, perhaps deliberately, into the political context before the 1999 incident, whereby the Commission’s mandate is limited to looking at the period of the referendum and focuses only on whether serious crimes were committed.

Second, Commissioners were biased against proven facts.

In general, Indonesian commissioners, contrary to the mandate of the Commission, did not attempt to further investigate human rights violations raised in the hearings. Commissioners were inclined to make generalisations from the testimonies given and gave opinions on witnesses’ testimonies. This tendency contradicts their mandate to uncover the truth from these testimonies. When asking questions, commissioners did not refer to the facts and findings of Indonesia’s KKP-HAM (Inquiry Committee on Human Rights Abuses) and Timor Leste’s CAVR (Commission for Truth, Reception, and Reconciliation). Commissioners revealed their biases when they openly doubted UNAMET’s role and made personal conclusions about the testimonies.

Third, Methods of providing testimonies and cross-examination were not reliable and maybe unsafe for victims.

In general, the methods used in the second hearing cannot be relied upon to verify facts. This statement is based on two observations: i) There are no guidelines on presenting testimonies, making it impossible to determine whether these are based on facts or merely opinions. ii) Testimonies about facts are not supported with clarification processes. Testimonies seem to have been taken at face value, which shows that the Commission’s methods failed to cross-check with existing facts and documents currently available. It has also failed to clarify testimonies based on the ‘role and position’ of witnesses.

Specific mention should be given to B.J. Habibie’s testimony which was conducted behind closed-doors, which may negate the principle of fairness and transparency of the Commission. Closed-door sessions should then also be allowed for testimonies of the victims, in order to avoid intimidation by security forces, but not to perpetrators and actors responsible for violence such as the pro-Jakarta militia and some government officials.

Furthermore, it should be mentioned that there is no guarantee or offer of protection for victims after they have attended the hearings.

Fourth, Imbalanced composition of witnesses.

In the second hearing, the composition of witnesses has been largely dominated by perpetrators and actors of violence, thus far resulting in an imbalance of representation between victims and perpetrators. The Commission’s proceedings are expected to reflect a balanced view of the incident that occurred. This observation is further aggravated because testimonies from perpetrators tended to avoid questions on their role and position during the period of the incident.

Based on our observations, we express our regret that the second hearing has failed to contribute to truth-seeking and has instead only served as a stage play to ensure impunity of perpetrators. In the process, the Commission has undermined the well-established facts and findings from the KPP-HAM and CAVR and is seemingly constructing a distorted picture of the incidents of 1999.

Therefore, we, the undersigned,

  • Demand the Commission to reject testimonies provided by the perpetrators and actors of violence because these are not relevant to the mandate in the terms of reference (ToR) agreed.
  • Demand the Commission’s proceedings follow internationally-established norms of truth-seeking. One way of so doing is to applying special protection for victims attending hearings in order to avoid intimidation.
  • Demand the Commission formulate guidelines on making testimonies which will ensure the fulfilment of its mandate and verification of available facts.
  • Demand the Commissioners stop giving biased opinions and making counter-claims during testimonies without basis from established facts.
  • Demand the presidents of Indonesia and Timor Leste amend provisions on providing amnesty in the terms of reference that violate international human rights law.
  • Remind everyone that seeking the truth is an absolute necessity in upholding democracy, and impunity for human rights violations can further destroy nation-building.

Jakarta 31 March 2007.

ELSAM – Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy
FORUM-ASIA – Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development
HRWG – Human Rights Working Group
KontraS – The Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence
PEC – People Empowerment Consortium
SOLIDAMOR – Solidarity for Peaceful Solutions for Timor Leste
YLBHI – Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation

NOTE: Translated from the original text in Bahasa Indonesia by FORUM-ASIA.

For further information please contact:
Tadzrul Tahir Hamzah at [email protected] or +66 (02) 391 8801 ext 203 for English
Haris Azhar at [email protected], Choirul Anam at [email protected] and Taufik Basari at [email protected] or visit and for Bahasa Indonesia.