Aid agencies call for war tribunal in East Timor

 CAFOD, CIIR and the London-based TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign are joining other international groups to demand an international criminal tribunal for East Timor. A statement signed by 45 delegates at an international donor conference on East Timor, meeting today in Canberra, Australia, urges the international community to set up a tribunal without further delay. The occupying Indonesian army and their militia allies unleashed a wave of violence in East Timor up to and after the 30 August 1999 independence vote, including systematic murder, torture and rape. CAFOD's East Timor Programme Officer Catherine Sexton said, "Indonesia has prevaricated too long on this issue. Jakarta does not intend to pursue justice for the East Timorese. It is now time for the international community to act. An international tribunal must be set up. Timely justice and the ending of impunity are essential for peace and reconciliation in East Timor and for democracy and stability in Indonesia." In February 2000, the UN Security Council required Indonesia to bring to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor as soon as possible. Many of the suspects were high-ranking Indonesian army commanders. Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid's recent decree establishing an ad hoc tribunal for crimes committed in East Timor allows for prosecution of crimes committed only after the 30 August 1999 independence ballot. Many crimes committed before the vote will go unpunished in Indonesia, such as a massacre at Liquica Church on 6 April 1999 when more than 50 people were killed. Indonesia's inability and unwillingness to administer credible justice was further demonstrated by the outcome in May 2001 of proceedings against those accused of involvement in the killing of three employees of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Atambua, West Timor in September 2000. The six accused were not charged with murder or manslaughter, but with lesser offences. Consequently, their sentences ranged from only 10 to 20 months imprisonment. Sexton said: "It is evident that the Indonesian authorities are neither willing nor able to administer meaningful justice in relation to the East Timor crimes. The international community's decision to allow Indonesia time to try the perpetrators has not worked and the international community's inaction can no longer be justified." The agencies say the lack of credible justice in East and West Timor is seriously undermining attempts to repatriate those among the 100,000 or so refugees in West Timor who wish to return home. The failure to prosecute those responsible for serious crimes helps to fuel an environment in which intimidation is widespread, humanitarian assistance is severely hampered and refugees are unable to make free and informed decisions about where they wish to live. source: CAFOD for more information visit the CAFOD website through our Links pages

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