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Timor Groups Write UN Security Council on Justice with International Support

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Message John Miller
2 February 2010

Excellencies, Members of the United Nations Security Council
United Nations, New York, New York, 10017 USA

Hon. Ameerah Haq
Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations

Dear Members of the United Nations Security Council,

After 10 years in a climate of independence, we Timorese people continue to endure long suffering related to the cases of serious crimes that were committed during the Indonesian military occupation of our country. This suffering will not end until there is an effective judicial process to try the perpetrators of human rights violations that resulted in the deaths of 100,000-180,000 Timorese during the Indonesian occupation from 7 December 1975 until October 1999.

As citizens of a new country, we remain deeply hopeful that the United Nations Security Council will maintain the principle of rejecting impunity for all serious crimes and crimes against humanity. Therefore, we believe that the members of the United Nations Security Council will take concrete action to address the cases of serious crimes that happened in our country during the Indonesian military occupation. Also, we had great expectations when the United Nations, by means of the mandate of UNTAET, established the Special Panels on Serious Crimes to achieve accountability by prosecuting the perpetrators of many serious crimes.

However, the current UNMIT mandate only includes investigation processes but not prosecutions, and only covers serious crimes committed in 1999. We are worried that this limited mandate will not end the cycle of impunity in Timor-Leste. We are very concerned that if impunity prevails in Timor-Leste it will nourish impunity in other countries, and all of us who struggle for human rights will not succeed. Therefore, if the United Nations fails to end impunity for past crimes against humanity committed in Timor-Leste, there can be no accountability for ongoing crimes, such as those committed during the 2006 crisis in our country.

We, citizens belonging to civil society organizations, individuals and victims, still wait for sufficient and adequate action from Your Excellencies. We need your good will to explore new possibilities for prosecutions of unresolved serious crimes cases when you revise and extend the UNMIT mandate.

We strongly believe in democracy and rule of law that the UN and its members have robustly supported, and fear its demise if the phenomenon of impunity continues to prevail in Timor-Leste. We are very conscious that our state is still fragile. Timor-Leste alone is not strong enough to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes against humanity and serious crimes, because most of them are protected by Indonesia. Likewise, the courts in Indonesia do not have the political will to bring the suspects involved in crimes in Timor-Leste during the occupation to trial. Additionally, the governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia currently do not prioritize human rights, but give preference to friendly bilateral intergovernmental relations.

The lack of attention to human rights violations undermines the democratization process in Indonesia and respect for law in Timor-Leste. It certainly has and continues to impede the considerable efforts of the United Nations to end the cycle of impunity. Thus there must be accountability for human rights violations.

Given this situation, we think it is best that the Security Council discuss the recommendations of the Commission of Experts that visited Timor-Leste and Indonesia in April and May 2005 to evaluate the justice processes. There is no need for United Nations to waste more energy and time waiting for insincere Indonesian trials that fail to effectively prosecute perpetrators of these crimes, eventually freeing them all. The United Nations has a responsibility to secure justice for crimes against humanity and serious crimes committed in Timor-Leste that must be addressed now.
Specific recommendations to be included in the new mandate of UNMIT:
  1. Establish a mechanism during the UNMIT mission which will create an International Tribunal.
  2. Expand the mandate of the Serious Crimes Investigation Team (SCIT) to include some of the most grievous crimes committed prior to 1999, such as the 1975 invasion, 1983 Kraras Massacre, 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre, and others.
  3. Give SCIT the authority and sufficient resources to prepare and publish formal indictments for cases they have investigated. Sincerely,

    see here for complete list of signers

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John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). He is Treasurer of the War Resisters League.
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