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IFET demands UN Secretary General to support an International Tribunal for East Timor

IFET IFET, July 5, 2000

The following is the full text of a letter sent to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan today by the International Federation for East Timor and more than 80 other organizations in support of an international tribunal for East Timor.


International Federation for East Timor, July 5, 2000 His Excellency Kofi Annan Secretary General of the United Nations By fax to 1-212-963-2155 Dear Excellency: We are writing to urge you to recommend to the Security Council that it takes immediate steps to establish an international tribunal for East Timor as recommended by the International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor. We believe this is the only way you can fulfill your responsibility to ensure timely justice for East Timorese victims of gross violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law. We are making this request in the light of the Security Council’s statement in its letter to you of February 18 that the perpetrators should be brought to justice ‘as soon as possible’ and the Council’s decision to encourage Indonesia ‘to institute a swift, comprehensive, effective and transparent legal process, in conformity with international standards of justice and due process of law’. We have followed closely Indonesia’s efforts to bring those responsible to justice through its own judicial system. We have also taken into account the views of leading Indonesian human rights and legal aid NGOs and lawyers, some of whom have signed this letter. Many of them have indicated they have no faith in the emerging justice system in their country. Whilst acknowledging the efforts and sincerity of some of those involved in the process, we have concluded that progress has not been satisfactory and that international standards of justice will not prevail in Indonesia for some considerable time. The December 1999 report of the three special rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights recommended that the Indonesian process should be completed in ‘a matter of months’. At the beginning of February, Attorney General, Marzuki Darusman, said it would take three months to decide whether to file charges. That has not happened and an international tribunal is, therefore, the only viable option.

Suai Memorial

Remembering the Victims of the Church Massacre, Suai 1999

Photo: Anna Voss

The main obstacles to the speedy completion of the Indonesian process are the lack of political will in certain quarters to ensure the process succeeds, the serious flaws in the human rights courts bill now before the Indonesian Parliament, and the poor calibre of judicial personnel. The lack of political will behind the process was evident in Indonesia’s stance at the UN Commission on Human Rights in April. It objected strongly to the reference in an initial draft of the Chairman’s Statement on East Timor to its obligation to set up a ‘Special Human Rights Court that meets international standards’. We are now concerned that problems may arise from the obstructive tactics of certain factions of the military/police legislators and their allies within Parliament and the bureaucracy. There have been disturbing signs recently that hardline elements of the military are beginning to re-assert themselves and backing down from their commitment to stay out of politics. This could delay the enactment of the human rights courts bill by many more months. The military/police and Golkar factions in Parliament have already raised basic objections that could destroy the thrust of the bill.’ The bill will require substantial revision if it is to meet international standards. We are concerned that it is not consistent with international law in its definitions of ‘gross violations of human rights’. They fall far short of accepted definitions of crimes against humanity and war crimes. This could lead to crimes being passed off as ordinary human rights abuses with lower-ranking military officers being targeted so that higher ranking officers and political leaders can avoid accountability as they have so often done in the past. The bill allows for excessive political interference in the judicial process with the executive and/or the legislature being involved in the appointment of the investigators, prosecutors and judges. These matters should be the function of a neutral judicial body. We are extremely concerned by the repeated statements of President Wahid that he will pardon leading generals if they are found guilty. His intervention in this way is unacceptable. Justice will not be done and be seen to be done unless appropriate punishments are fairly administered by the courts. We are also acutely conscious of the fact that whatever improvements are made to the draft law to bring it up to international standards, justice will not be done unless professional, independent and impartial legal personnel are available to carry out the investigations, prosecutions and trials. It is widely acknowledged that very few current judges can be regarded as independent and untainted by ingrained judicial corruption. Reformist elements in the Government are committed to overhauling the system, but it is clear that this will take time. Minister of Law and Legislation, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, has admitted there is a shortage of ‘capable and clean judges’ and is currently replacing over half of those based in Jakarta. He has set out a five-year plan to revamp the legal system, but that time-scale is optimistic given the immense size of the task facing him. Apart from the judges, there are very few prosecutors and investigators who elicit confidence in their ability to act professionally and impartially. We are extremely concerned about the composition of the team set up to investigate the East Timor crimes because of the inclusion of military and police personnel. The investigation cannot be effective and impartial if it involves individuals representing organs of state implicated in the crimes. It is clear that East Timorese from every level of society want an international tribunal. It is difficult for them to trust an Indonesian system that oppressed them for twenty-four years. It is perverse to expect traumatised victims and witnesses to testify in an Indonesian court. Moreover, it is wholly unfair to use the East Timor trials as test cases for a reformed Indonesian judicial system. The crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide committed in East Timor are a matter of international concern and should be treated as such legally. Speedy justice is essential for peace, reconciliation and stability in East Timor – and for democracy and stability in Indonesia – and we respectfully ask you to act swiftly on our demand for an international tribunal. We are urging our respective governments and the European Union to support this demand. Sincerely, /s/ Charles A. Scheiner U.N. Representative International Federation for East Timor

Member groups of the International Federation for East Timor (listed on the letterhead):

Australia-East Timor Association Australians for a Free East Timor Brisbane East Timor Office (Australia) Campaign for an Independent East Timor (South Australia) East Timor International Support Center (Australia) East Timor Relief Association (Australia) Friends of East Timor, Western Australia Hobart East Timor Committee (Australia) Lismore Friends of East Timor (Australia) Canadian Action for Indonesia and East Timor East Timor Alert Network (Canada) National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT, East Timor) Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (Fiji) East Timor Group of Committee of 100 (Finland) Agir Pour Timor (France) Association Solidarité Timor-Oriental (France) Gesellschaft fur Bedrohte Völker (Germany) Watch Indonesia! (Germany) East Timor Roundtable (Hong Kong) Indian Society for Human Rights Forum Solidaritas Untuk Rakyat Timor Lorosae (FORTILOS, Indonesia) East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign Latin American and Mediterranean Coalition for East Timor (Italy) Free East Timor – Japan Coalition East Timor Information Network (Malaysia) International Platform of Jurists for East Timor (Netherlands) Norwegian Cooperation Council for East Timor and Indonesia Asia-Pacific Coalition on East Timor (Philippines) A Paz E Possivel em Timor Leste (Port.) Commissao para os Direitos do Povo Maubere (Portugal) Movimento Christao para a Paz (Port.) Paz E Justica para Timor Leste (Portugal) East Timor Scotland Support Group Instituto de Estudios Politicos para America Latina y Africa (Spain) Osttimor Kommitten (Sweden) TAPOL (U.K.) British Coalition for East Timor East Timor Action Network (USA) International Secretariat, Parliamentarians for East Timor

The following organizations and individuals have also endorsed this letter:

Indonesia

Solidamor (Solidarity Forum for Peace in East Timor) PBHI (Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association) PIJAR (Information Centre and Reform Action Network)

United Kingdom

East Timor Solidarity Catholic Institute for International Relations Pax Christi UK Ann Clwyd, Labour Member of UK Parliament Liz Lynne, Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament Linda Fabiani, Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament Dafydd Wigley, Plaid Cymru Member of the UK Parliament and of the National Assembly for Wales Donald Reid, Director – Scottish Civic Forum Rev Vaughan Jones, Director, Praxis Iain Scobbie, Lecturer in Public and International Law, University of Glasgow Keir McKelvine, Transport and General Workers Union Alan Rae, Edinburgh Trades Council Rosemary Burnett, Amnesty International Scotland Fr. Diglen, Parliamentary Officer Catholic Church in Scotland Joan Weir, Scottish Social Action Nicola Witcombe, Student Action for Refugees UK Cecilia Boccorh, Scottish Churches Agency for Racial Justice Graham Kerr, Scottish Churches Parliamentary Officer James Mackenzie Danny McGowan

United States

Mary Anne Mercer and Beth Rivin, Co-chairs Northwest International Health Action Coalition, Seattle Washington Blase Bonpane, Ph.D, Office of the Americas, Los Angeles, California Gordon S. Clark, Executive Director, Peace Action, Washington, DC Lesley Carson, Director, Forefront, New York, NY John M. Miller, Director, Foreign Bases Project, New York, NY Dr. Ramin Ahmadi MD MPH, Griffin Center for Health and Human Rights, Derby, CT Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, Chair International Forum on Aceh, New York Hari Scordo, Executive Director, Veterans For Peace, Washington D.C. Joseph K. Grieboski, President, Institute on Religion and Public Policy Inc. Kurt Biddle, IndonesiaAlert! Robert Doolittle, Chairman, Boston Catholic Task Force for East Timor Maria Lya Ramos, Coordinator, Washington Peace Center Bill Ramsey, Human Rights Action Service, St Louis Frank Ruddy, retired US Ambassador and former Deputy Chairman of the Referendum for Western Sahara (MINURSO) Mike Amitay, Director Washington Kurdish Institute Melinda Miles, Co-Director, Quixote Center Peter J. Davies, US Representative, Saferworld Rev. Joseph P. La Mar, M.M. Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Maryknoll, NY Sonam Wangdu, Chairman, U.S. Tibet Committee Joseph K. Grieboski, President, Institute on Religion and Public Policy, Inc. Reverend Dennis M. Davidson, President, Unitarian Universalist Peace Fellowship. John Oei, Founder, Indonesian Chinese American Network (ICANet)

Canada

Seh Ching Wen, Canadians Concerned About Ethnic Violence in Indonesia, Toronto Drew Penland, West Papua Action Network, Victoria Svend J. Robinson, Member of Parliament, Burnaby-Douglas, British Columbia, New Democratic Party of Canada Kathryn Robertson, Canada Asia Working Group, Toronto Rights and Democracy (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development) National Action Committee on the Status of Women Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking Branch) Canadian Federation of Students Canadian Labour Congress Canadian Peace Alliance Council of Canadians National Action Committee on the Status of Women

Other

Christians in Solidarity with East Timor, Australia James Dunn, Convenor, Human Rights Council of Australia Jonneke Naber, Justitia et Pax, Netherlands Sysay Chanthavixay, Laotian Democratic Movement Prof. Julian Bauer, ECOTERRA Intl. (Survival & Freedom for People and Nature), Nairobi, Kenya Japanese Catholic Council for Justice and Peace Sai Wansai, Sec. Gen., Shan Democratic Union KWIA, Support Group for Indigenous Peoples, Belgium Gus Miclat, Director, Initiatives for International Dialogue, the Philippines VVV Oost-Timor, Amsterdam Federation Internationale des ligues des Droits de l’Homme (International Federation of Human Rights leagues) Association Democratie Indonesie Libertés (ADIL), France Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, Executive Director, Inhured International/Himright, Nepal Dr. Angelika Koester-Lossack, Green Member of Parliament, Germany International Association of Jurists for the Western Sahara Felipe Michelini, Member of the Uruguayan Parliament, Montevideo ISODE -Institute for Solidarity and Development of Uruguay. Action des Chretiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT-France). Signe Aanby, International Officer, National Union of Students in Norway (NSU) Jose Maria Clemente Bonilla, Co-ordinator, Liga Espanola Pro-Derechos Humanos (Spanish League for Human Rights) Students at Red Cross Nordic United World College, Norway:

    Turid Tersmeden (Sweden), Marketa Malkova (Czech Republic), Susanna Nilson (Sweden), Marin Ros (Iceland), Awras Majeed (New Zealand), Eszter Peterfai (Hungary), Joanna Ohman (Finland), Elisa Wynne-Hughes Canada), Noa Epstein (Israel)

Mr Budi Tjajhono, President of Pax Romana IMCS (International Catholic Movement of Catholic Students) The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara

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