Timor-Leste: Parliament Denies Victims Justice Again

2/17/2011

DILI/NEW YORK, Feb. 16—The commitment of Timor-Leste’s political leadership to address the legacy of serious human rights violations committed during the nation’s 25-year conflict has once again been brought into question.

On Feb. 14, the Timor-Leste National Parliament indefinitely postponed the debate of two bills implementing key recommendations made by the country’s two truth commissions: the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) and the bi-national Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF).

Victims groups have reacted with disappointment and anger at parliamentarians’ continued refusal to uphold their rights.

“This is an urgent matter. Victims continue to suffer the negative consequences of human rights violations experienced as a result of the 1974–1999 conflict. Many are elderly or disabled and cannot afford to wait much longer for the recognition and justice to which they are entitled,” said Manuela Pereira, program associate in ICTJ’s Dili office.

The draft laws propose of the creation of a national reparations program and the establishment of an “Institute for Memory” to oversee implementation of CAVR and CTF recommendations. The recommendations include important steps on victim reparations, the search for persons missing as a result of the conflict, human rights documentation and education.

“It is disappointing that our leadership, including those who were members of the Timorese resistance against the Indonesian occupation, is reluctant to recognize sacrifice and suffering of civilians during the conflict,” said Pereira. “We urge Parliament to reschedule these laws for immediate discussion.”

Background

The president of Timor-Leste presented the CAVR final report and recommendations to the parliament for consideration on Nov. 28, 2005, and the CTF report on Oct. 9, 2008.

In December 2009, after several failed attempts to debate the reports, parliament authorized its committee for justice and constitutional issues to propose concrete steps to implement CAVR and CTF recommendations. In response, the committee prepared two draft laws, originally scheduled for debate in late September 2010. These laws were initially delayed for debate until February 2011, but now have been delayed indefinitely.

Created in 2001, the CAVR was mandated to investigate the human rights violations committed in Timor-Leste during the 25-year armed conflict, help restore the dignity of victims, and promote reconciliation and reintegration of perpetrators of minor crimes back into their communities.

In its final report CAVR made more than 200 recommendations intended to prevent a repetition of human rights abuses in Timor-Leste. These included bringing perpetrators of serious crimes to justice and other measures to create strong, accountable state institutions.

The CTF, created in 2004, was a bilateral Indonesian-Timor-Leste commission established to determine “the conclusive truth” regarding the violence before and after the 1999 independence vote in Timor-Leste. Although initially criticized by many observers, the CTF in fact made final recommendations largely consistent with those of the CAVR.

About ICTJ

The International Center for Transitional Justice works to redress and prevent the most severe violations of human rights by confronting legacies of mass abuse. ICTJ seeks holistic solutions to promote accountability and create just and peaceful societies. For more information, visit www.ictj.org.

Contacts

Manuela Pereira
Program Coordinator, ICTJ Timor-Leste Office
Tel: +670 723 7267
mpereira@ictj.org

Clare Garvie
Communications Assistant, New York
Tel: +1 917 637 3847
cgarvie@ictj.org