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Amnesty International Calls for East Timor Tribunal

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Amnesty International has called upon the United Nations Security Council to set up an international criminal tribunal to investigate abuses in East Timor both under Indonesian rule and in the vote for independence. In a new report marking ten years since the independence vote in East Timor, (also known as Timor-Leste), Amnesty International has called on the UN to establish a tribunal with jurisdiction over all grave human rights violations surrounding the 1999 independence referendum and in the previous 24 years of Indonesian occupation.

“In 1999, anti-independence militias, supported by the Indonesian military, killed more than a thousand Timorese in front of the world, but there has not been proper accountability for these atrocities,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director, in a statement. Amnesty said abuses perpetrated in the lead-up to the polls included rape, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and unlawful killings.

Tiny East Timor, a former Portuguese colony which achieved full independence from Indonesia in 2002, has opted for a conciliatory rather than a confrontational approach towards its much larger neighbour since independence. An ad hoc Human Rights Court set up by Indonesia and the UN Special Panels in East Timor tried 18 people for crimes committed during the 1999 violence but all were acquitted, Amnesty reported. A 2005 joint Indonesia-East Timor Truth and Friendship Commission did not have the power to prosecute. “Disappointed Timorese victims provided testimonies time and time again to various mechanisms, but they have still not seen significant signs of accountability,” said Donna Guest.

East Timor’s president, Jose Ramos-Horta, has stressed the need to forge better relations with Indonesia, calling on his people to forgive the perpetrators of abuses, and pardoning militia members convicted of crimes. He has said he does not want a UN investigation.

See the Amnesty International website  - http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/no-justice-timor-leste-ten-years-after-independence-vote-20090827

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