East Timor: Activists and victims call for justice

Human rights activists from East Timor and Indonesia have slammed the latest round of the Indonesia-East Timor Truth and Friendship Commission (CTF), which began hearings in Dili on September 24. The CTF was established with the support of the Indonesian and East Timorese governments in 2005, with the aim of establishing the truth of the events of 1999 in East Timor, when a reign of terror by Indonesian military-backed militias occurred before and after a vote in favour of independence in the UN-supervised referendum. To achieve this, amnesty is offered to perpetrators of human rights abuses in exchange for their testimonies.

Around 70 protesters demonstrated on September 25 outside the Hotel Timor where the CTF was meeting, demanding an accountable and transparent process of justice for the human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian military and pro-integration militia gangs. "The CTF only defends the criminals and stands in the way of justice", a September 25 Reuters report quoted protester Xisto da Costa as saying.

The protest was organised by a coalition of human rights and justice organisations associated with the Non-Government Forum of East Timor (FONGTIL). The coalition also initiated an "Alternative Public Hearing to respond to CTF" held on September 25 -27.

The CTF heard submissions from East Timorese political leaders including president Jose Ramos Horta and prime minister Xanana Gusmao. Former prime minister Mari Alkatiri appeared at an earlier session in Jakarta. Their submissions, along with prominent Indonesian political and military figures such as former president BJ Habibie, have been heard in private. Such closed sessions have deeply angered many East Timorese.

A statement released on September 24 by East Timorese human rights organisations and the Indonesian human rights coalition KONTRAS (Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence) titled "Discriminating between those responsible for crimes and the victims" condemned the closed hearings as a violation of "the principle of rights of the victims, above all the rights of victims to the truth, justice and for reparations".

The statement further noted that: "Hearings involving top leaders of this nation that are closed to the public is clear evidence that the CTF is an instrument for impunity and a means to set aside accountability to victims. We reject the CTF and call a halt to all activity by it that carries the title of 'seeking the truth'."