Stressing that there can be no impunity for the serious human rights violations committed in Timor-Leste following its vote for independence in 1999, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended the establishment of a new United Nations programme of international assistance to help the country achieve justice and reconciliation.
In a report to the Security Council issued today, the Secretary-General strongly criticizes the fact that those who committed such violations might escape punishment altogether.
“Crimes against humanity, gross violations of human rights and grave breaches of humanitarian law were committed in East Timor in 1999,” said the Secretary-General in the report. “There can and should be no impunity regarding such acts.”
He recommends that the Council endorse the establishment of a new UN programme of international assistance for Timor-Leste. This would include a solidarity fund made up of voluntary contributions. A community restoration programme would help victims of the 1999 crimes by providing health, social and psychological services as well as support for victim rights advocacy, among other initiatives. And a justice programme would furnish an experienced investigative team to help complete probes of the 1999 crimes.
The Commission of Truth and Friendship, jointly established by Indonesia and Timor-Leste in 2005, has the option of recommending amnesty for human rights violators in exchange for their full cooperation.
“Establishing the truth and promoting reconciliation are necessary parts of the healing process for both countries and victims,” the Secretary-General says. “It would be deeply regrettable, however, if the reconciliation process foreclosed the possibility of achieving accountability.”
Noting that indictments had been issued in only about 40 per cent of the killings committed in 1999, the Secretary-General calls for renewed efforts to investigate those crimes, as well as to bring hundreds of indicted persons, including those living in Indonesia and elsewhere, to justice.
“The limited degree of accountability achieved so far for the serious human rights violations of 1999 continues to raise questions about how best the institutions in both countries can address this concern,” he says.
The popular consultation, held in August 1999 saw the participation of virtually the entire electorate, which voted overwhelmingly for a transition towards independence.
Following the announcement of the result, pro-integration militias, at times with the support of elements of the Indonesian security forces, launched a campaign of violence, looting and arson throughout the entire territory. Despite their obligations, the Indonesian authorities did not effectively respond, and many East Timorese were killed and up to half a million displaced from their homes. Some 250,000 of those left the territory, in some cases under the gun.
In today’s report, the Secretary-General also calls on the Timorese Government to improve security at key judicial institutions, several of which were looted and vandalized earlier this year following an outbreak of violence. The unrest has been attributed to differences between eastern and western regions of the country.
Members of the Secretary-General’s special commission investigating that violence arrived in Dili today for their first visit. The commissioners will remain there until 12 August.