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Building Future Friendship Without Past Violence

Sumber: THE JAKARTAPOST.COM | Tgl terbit: Sabtu, 19 Juli 2008

On July 15, Indonesia and Timor Leste officially accepted a report produced by the joint Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF). The report concludes crimes against humanity took place, with militia groups, the military, the police and the civilian government bearing institutional responsibility.

Human rights violations -- such as killing, rape and sexual violence, torture and forced disappearances -- were committed in East Timor (now Timor Leste), both during and after the 1999 referendum on independence. The report constitutes an official acknowledgment of this on the part of the Indonesian state.

In response to the report, however, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Timor Leste President Jose Ramos Horta only expressed their deep regret over what took place in East Timor. Apparently, Yudhoyono's administration does not want to seem too defensive.

A joint statement from human rights organizations has requested the report be made public as soon as possible, signaling what they hope is only the beginning of efforts to assign responsibility for the violence committed in 1999 and before.

Although I am not completely satisfied with it, the official acknowledgment that crimes against humanity did occur in East Timor should be considered a positive -- and certainly, quite surprising -- development in the history of the CTF.

However, there are several problems with the commission and its report. With respect to the CTF's very founding, both countries agreed to ignore universal human rights principles -- for example, see the clause that offers amnesty without due process of law and exonerates the CTF from future responsibility.

Doing so jeopardizes both countries' commitment to promote peace at the international level, such as Indonesia's efforts at conflict resolution in Myanmar's ongoing democratization process. Also flawed is the MoU that contradicts the pledges and commitments made by Indonesia as a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

The CTF's report bolsters previous reports and investigations of crimes committed in East Timor, such as Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights, Mary Robinson's UN Commission of Inquiry, a commission of experts set up by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, as well as East Timor's Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Timor Leste (CAVR).

Crimes against humanity are not subject to amnesty or a statute of limitations, and are retroactive. Therefore, the CTF's report can be used for the future prosecution of those found most responsible.

Institutional accountability implicates parties responsible for maintaining national security, such as territorial security institutions, the armed forces and the police. A careful review of the CTF report shows the commission holds these very institutions responsible for crimes against humanity -- institutions that have been implicated in past violence. To quote the CTF's conclusion, "there was institutional responsibility for these violations". Point 5 of the report's conclusion says the decision to hold institutions responsible was based on evidence of organized violence.

Separating past from present institutional responsibility will be necessary if we are to avoid political meddling in the future reconciliation process -- this is especially true because the CTF report blames the Indonesian armed forces (read: TNI), the police and Indonesia as a whole.

Initially, the CTF was mandated to clear the names of perpetrators, through amnesty and rehabilitation; however, in the end, the commission failed to live up to its mandate. Neither is the final CTF report firm about granting amnesty or rehabilitation to either individuals or groups (see point 1 of the CTF report recommendations, focused on accountability and institutional reform).

The report's first recommendation is significant as it seeks to strengthen the effort to reform state institutions through advancement of a culture of responsibility, thereby preventing future human rights violations. This will not be enough, however, because the CTF report fails to mention a single person as directly responsible for these serious crimes.

From a conservative point of view, the report may draw criticism because the patterns of violence and group characteristics it focused on are considered ambiguous. On the other hand, many are concerned the report simply mimics or repeats what prior reports have said about the events surrounding the 1999 referendum -- but the public seems to demand something be done in the name of justice and accountability, which means reparation for victims and individual accountability, decided in a court of law.

Of course, priority should be given to public dissemination of the report: As past experience has taught us, non-judicial inquiry reports can be ignored or buried, without implementation of their conclusions and recommendations, even if the teams conducting such investigations won support from the government.

Over the past 10 years, Indonesia has ratified several international legal instruments, as part of its move to implement the National Human Rights Plan of Action for 1998 through 2003 and for 2004 through 2009. In 2006, Indonesia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Indonesia also gave support to the newly adopted Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, in addition to ratifying the Rome Statute.

Aside from being a general member of the United Nations, Indonesia is widely recognized as a member of the UN Human Rights Council and a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. At the national level, Indonesia has set up the Constitutional Court, the Human Rights Court, the Human Rights National Commission, the National Commission on Violence against Women, the Anti-Corruption Commission and other auxiliary state institutions.

These institutions are supposed to safeguard Indonesian democracy. However, what meaning will any of them have, if we continue on this excruciatingly slow path toward justice and accountability for crimes against humanity?



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