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Indonesia accepts damning East Timor report

Latest update : 2008-07-15

Indonesia's president has expressed regret for violence surrounding East Timor's 1999 independence ballot after a joint probe blamed state institutions for "gross human rights violations".

Indonesia on Tuesday accepted a truth commission report blaming it for gross human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999, amid fresh calls for the perpetrators to face international justice.
   
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to implement the commission's recommendations and expressed "regret" to East Timor for the months of violence, including murders and rapes surrounding its independence vote.
   
"We have conveyed our very deep regret about what happened in the past, that caused casualties and material damage," he said alongside East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta on the resort island of Bali.
   
"We must learn from what happened to find out the facts over who has done what to whom, and who must be held responsible."
   
But he added: "We cannot move forward and reach our dreams if we always focus our attention on the past," a sign Indonesia wants to draw a line under the matter despite calls for an international tribunal.
   
An estimated 1,400 people were killed when local militias backed by the Indonesian military rampaged through East Timor as the then-province voted to break away from Indonesia, which invaded in 1975.
   
Until now Indonesia has always blamed the local militias, and no Indonesian commander or civilian leader has ever been successfully prosecuted.
   
No final copy of the report was released at the ceremony but a draft obtained by AFP says Indonesia bears "institutional responsibility" for a systematic campaign of abuses that amounted to crimes against humanity.
   
It says the Indonesian army, police and government encouraged and even participated in crimes including murder, forced displacement, illegal detention and rape.
   
"Viewed as a whole these attacks constituted an organised campaign of violence," it said.
   
"Individuals from the (pro-Indonesia) militia, police, local civilian administration and TNI (military) participated in various phases of this campaign of violence and political repression conducted against civilians."
   
Ramos-Horta said East Timor was not seeking an international tribunal to punish those responsible.
   
"Justice is not and cannot be only prosecutorial in the sense of sending people to jail. Justice must also be restorative," he said.
   
"We as leaders of our people must lead our nations forward."
   
The only person ever jailed over the violence, militia leader Eurico Guterres, was cleared of involvement by Indonesia's Supreme Court in April.
   
Former Indonesian armed forces chief Wiranto, indicted by UN prosecutors in 2003 for crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the violence, is making a second run at Indonesia's presidency in next year's elections.
   
The truth commission, set up in 2005, did not name names and has no prosecution powers.
   
Its work was boycotted by the United Nations, which has already blamed Indonesia and demanded that those responsible face justice.
   
Rights activists said its findings should lead to criminal investigations and prosecutions.
   
"Those who committed crimes against humanity throughout Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor must be identified and prosecuted," a coalition of East Timor human rights groups said in a joint statement.
   
"If Indonesia truly wants closure and full acceptance by the international community as a rights-respecting nation, there is no alternative but an end to impunity through individual as well as institutional accountability."
   
The commission found that pro-independence groups also committed crimes but pro-Indonesian militias were the "primary, direct perpetrators of gross human rights violations."
   
East Timor, which was a Portuguese colony before Indonesia invaded in 1975, finally gained formal independence in May 2002.
 

Date created : 2008-07-15

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