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Promises to keep: Jose Ramos-Horta, the New President of Timor Leste

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One month after assuming the Palace of the Ashes, Jose Ramos-Horta, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate says he is ready to tackle pending issues surrounding the country's judicial and security sectors. Whether he fulfills his promises to the people or fails them remains to be seen.

(Bangkok) FORUM-ASIA, writes to Jose Ramos-Horta, the new president of Timor Leste, to remind him of the pending issues of impunity on gross violations of human rights that have occurred in former East Timor. Swift and immediate resolution of this matter is urged.

According to the new amnesty law recently passed by the National Parliament, offering clemency for certain crimes/misdemeanors (Lei Sobre a Verdade e Medidas de Clemencia para Diversas Infraccoes) committed between 20 April 2006 and 30 April this year, offenders would either receive pardon or get reduced prison terms for “good behavior”. This term is not only vague in nature but also contravenes with international human rights law and poses a serious blow to the judicial system.

FORUM-ASIA reiterate that should Ramos-Horta go ahead with promulgating the new amnesty law, within 30 days from the date of its approval, it will contradict with his election campaign promise to improve the judicial and security sectors, which were badly affected by last year’s unrest. The present situation of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) is urgently in need of attention and we urge the government to take full interest in the livelihoods of the people.

On the regional front, Ramos-Horta chose Indonesia as his first country working visit and agrees with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to extend the mandate of the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF, Komisi Kebenaran dan Persahabatan) among other issues discussed such as trade, culture and border demarcation. Both presidents agreed to grant amnesty for perpetrators of crimes against humanity on the condition that they make a public confession to the Commission which was co-established in December 2004 in response to the 1999 referendum.

Anselmo Lee of FORUM-ASIA said “This does not seem to be a constructive option with regards to the promotion of reconciliation and the rule of law when impunity acutely undermines the justice system.” He continued, “The victims of violence, who have put their trust on him has long been denied access to justice much less reparation and compensation.”

Referring to Ramos-Horta’s public statement shortly after the official announcement of the Presidential elections result on 11 May 2007; “I will do my best not to fail the people who have voted for me, and not lose their trust, and lose sight of their aspirations.”

FORUM-ASIA would finally like to extend its appreciation of the country’s electoral authorities for ensuring the protection of voter’s rights and maintaining their integrity and independence throughout the election period, which many international observers pronounced as free and fair. FORUM-ASIA would like to congratulate Ramos-Horta and the people of Timor Leste for choosing democratic means to meet the international standard of human rights and hope that he will keep his promise and maintain the status as an independent leader.

A luta continua,

Anselmo Lee
Executive Director

See also:

Full text of open letter (in .pdf).

For more information, please contact:
Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, FORUM-ASIA, +66 (02) 391 8801 (ext 502), [email protected]
Tadzrul Tahir Hamzah, Southeast Asia Sub-region Programme Officer, +66 (02) 391 8801 (ext 203), [email protected]