Campaigners condemn UN for abandoning atrocity victims in East Timor

 The Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) and TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, have condemned the UN Commission on Human Rights for failing to ensure that the perpetrators of gross violations of human rights in East Timor are brought to justice and for agreeing to drop the issue from its agenda next year. In a chairperson's statement issued in Geneva, the commission merely expresses disappointment at the way in which trials of suspects in Indonesia's ad hoc human rights court are being carried out. Spokesperson for CIIR Catherine Scott said: "Its underlying message is that if improvements are made, the process will be acceptable." The statement ignores the fact that the Jakarta trials have failed to provide a true account of the violations that occurred in 1999, the two organisations said. There is no mention of the many notorious flaws in the process, the limited jurisdiction of the court, or that only a handful of the hundreds of serious crimes, including crimes against humanity, have been investigated. Spokesperson for TAPOL Paul Barber added: "Most observers would agree that Indonesia is not willing and able to conduct a credible process that meets international standards of justice and fairness. It has forfeited its chance to provide justice for East Timor." The commission, at a special session in September 1999, condemned 'the widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law' in East Timor and called for those responsible to be brought to justice. It is now dropping the issue from its agenda at a time when there is no immediate prospect of meaningful accountability. Next year, the commission will only consider the question of technical cooperation with East Timor in the field of human rights. It is likely that this will preclude any further consideration by the commission of Indonesia's responsibility for the 1999 atrocities. CIIR and TAPOL are concerned that the commission may have softened its statement because the East Timorese government is keen to promote good relations with Indonesia. CIIR and TAPOL support this desire for good relations, but do not believe it has to be pursued at the expense of justice. Scott said: "This should not be just about the views of the East Timorese government or any other government. It should also be about those of the East Timorese people, the victims and their families, which are not necessarily reflected by their government. It should be about the need to uphold human rights and the supremacy of international law." CIIR and TAPOL pointed out that the crimes were also committed against the UN and its staff who were administering the 1999 popular consultation in East Timor. CIIR and TAPOL called on the international community - and in particular the UN Security Council, which will consider the issue shortly - to look at other options for justice. The organisations repeated the request made last year by the then leader of the Catholic Church in East Timor, Bishop Carlos Belo, to set up an international tribunal for East Timor, as recommended in January 2000 by an International Commission of Inquiry set up by the UN Secretary General on the advice of the Commission on Human Rights. CIIR and TAPOL called for international pressure on Indonesia to hand over immediately military officers indicted in East Timor to the East Timorese authorities. To date, Indonesia has refused to transfer suspects to East Timor. CIIR and TAPOL requested that the international community and the East Timorese government continue to support and fully resource the serious crimes process in East Timor now and after the end of the UN Mission to East Timor in May 2004. For more information visit the CIIR website at: and TAPOL on :

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