Steps under way to create truth commission in East Timor, UN mission reports

Steps under way to create truth commission in East Timor, UN mission reports

The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) reported today that a selection panel had formally begun the search for some 40 national and regional commissioners to help foster the reconciliation process in the territory.

A spokesperson for the panel said the group would be spending the next month consulting with communities throughout East Timor on who should be nominated to sit on the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation. "We want to promote the democratic process and give the people of East Timor the right to choose who is suitable to be a Commission member," Cecílio Caminha Freitas said at a press conference held in the capital, Dili.

The panel, which is soliciting nominations for 5 to 7 national commission posts and 25 to 30 district commission posts, is scheduled to visit each of East Timor's 13 districts before the 31 October nomination deadline.

UNTAET's Project Coordinator for the Commission, Pat Walsh, today reiterated that the panel was holding one position vacant for a pro-autonomy representative. "Our invitation remains open and we very much hope [a pro-autonomy supporter] will join the panel and assist in the process of reconciliation," the Coordinator said. Pro-autonomy groups have so far declined to fill a position, deferring a decision until they have had more time to confer with their supporters.

The Commission will ultimately establish a truth-seeking function inquiring into the pattern of human rights violations committed within the context of the political conflicts in East Timor between 1974 and 1999, and create a community reconciliation body to facilitate agreements between local communities and the perpetrators of non-serious crimes and non-criminal acts committed over the same period.

In another development, UNTAET reported today that the Special Panel for Serious Crimes in Dili had convicted former militia member Augusto Asameta Tavares to 16 years imprisonment for the murder of a pro-independence supporter in Mailiana district following the Popular Consultation of 1999. The accused, who was sentenced on Friday, is the eleventh person convicted by the Panel.