16 July 2008

East Timor and Indonesian Responsibility

The Truth and Friendship Commission has spoken, actually produced a report, that states in unequivocal terms that Indonesia played a significant role in the violence that ensued in Timor Leste after the Direct Ballot of 1999. In fact the report says that Indonesia is responsible for the committing of gross human rights abuses including murder and torture.

This is strange because not one high ranking person who was charged with a crime relating to this in Indonesia was convicted or had their conviction affirmed on appeal. All defendants successfully negotiated the Indonesian Human Rights Court system. I wonder why some might think this whole process was nothing more than lip service and a whitewash from start to finish.

The next part of this story has that funny in a perverse way feel to it. The release of the report has sparked Indonesia into acknowledging responsibility for carrying out gross violations of human rights but not offering an apology. I am wondering why one would even except responsibility at all? Let's face it, no one has been convicted in an Indonesian court for any crimes that were alleged to have been committed in 1999. Or is this a case of trying to ward off an international tribunal by saying, "yes, we as a State committed some crimes but we are not sure who the perpetrators are".

The claim is going to be the people we thought were the perpetrators have since been found innocent by the open and transparent court system in operation in Indonesia and cannot be tried again for the crimes for which they have already been acquitted.

I believe that without justice it is impossible to move forward fully. Indonesia seems to think that the release of the report ends this tragic saga, it should not! The report is not justice for the victims or their families. This is a mere narrative of what the commission uncovered. If Indonesia refuses to prosecute perpetrators of these crimes then an International Tribunal must be set up to deal with those that have committed crimes.

There must be justice for all!


Brett said...

I don't know that I agree. I think that there is a lot to be said for this type of acknowledgement - an apology of sorts.

Personally, I am surprised that the Indonesian Govt even did this, given the strangle-hold (sp?) that certain undesirable elements still have. I think its a testament to the good guys sitting there in Senayan that this acknowledgement was made.

There's also a lot to be said for just moving on. There will never be any trials, in the same way that there have never been any trials for the assault on Maori in New Zealand, the Stolen Generation in Australia, etc.

Just an acknowledgement, and a commitment to moving forward can achieve amazing things. I would not under-estimate the power of the Indonesian Government's acknowledgement and would be keen to hear what Timorese think about it.

Silverlines said...

I had a discussion yesterday regarding this particular report of the CTF with some friends. Interesting enough, despite the sentence given to Eurico Guterres some years back on the actual violation of human rights during 1999 (based on Indonesian Criminal Law), the statement of the CTF has no international legal power towards Indonesia. And it is (simply) because Indonesia has not ratified the International Criminal Court - Rome Statute, thus noone cannot be brought to International Tribune (my own humble conclusion).
Pretty much unfair.

Now, this is what I found very funny. Why bother having all this investigation whatsoever by the CTF , if in the end one of the parties could getaway with it. Why not making sure all the corresponding legal instruments are signed and ratified so any findings can be followed up and applied.

Frustrating-nine-years for the victims, I am sure. And maybe even more.

Interesting what the world will say about it. Will the report end up as just a report?

My two rupiah only.

Rob Baiton said...


The beauty of opinion, you do not have to agree. I am not going to say that there is absolutely nothing good in some degree of acknowledgement being made.

I truly do not believe that the events can be consigned to the pages of history without justice for the victims, but even then justice does not always provide the ability to move on.

I would also be keen to hear what the ordinary Timorese think about this report, the Indonesian acknowledgement, and how best to move forward.

I know what Ramos Horta's opinion is on this. I also know what Xanana's opinion is on the matter. However, the ordinary Timorese that I have talked to have generally wanted more accountability.

The idea that the report comes out of a Truth and Friendship Commission that was really nothing more than a surveyor of the events without any legal powers for recommendation was indicative of teh Indonesian government having a sense of what the final report might say before the Commission was even formed.

I am hopeful that you are right and that everyone can move on from here. Perhaps, Timor Leste and her citizens have far more pressing matters to worry about like poverty, education, the spreading of oil wealth into all manner of public services.


It is just a report!

ICC is irrelevant in this context as what would be required on the justice front is a specially established international tribunal or hybrid court such as Sierra Leone or Cambodia.

We will see, I guess.

Silverlines said...

It is indeed just a report, with a recommendation and all. Although after CAVR and whatnot, people do have an (high) expectation towards CTF.

But then again, on the second thought, it won't be named a Commission of Truth and Friendship for no reason.

and we will just see, yes.

Rob Baiton said...


My question is this why "Truth and Friendship" and not "Truth and Reconciliation"?

Does one word make any difference?

Was the point of the CTF just to shake the tree and see what falls out? And then say, "well, there it is, now let's be friends!"?

I wonder how many people have read the CAVR in full as it runs to some 2,500 pages and makes a great doorstop.

I agree that there were high hopes for the CTF and some low expectations. The recommendations and some of the "factual" evidence that the Report contains is beyond what many were expecting. This is a good thing.

It is also part of the reason that I can see and understand some of the points that Brett made earlier.

Nevertheless, there is a difference for me between acknowledgement and accountability.

Maybe I am splitting hairs because in a past life I was a lawyer, I don't know. But, for me real justice requires a degree of accountability and not simply recognizing that some bad things happened.

My two Rupiahs worth, too!

Silverlines said...


Maybe Truth and Reconciliation was what CAVR meant for? And Indonesia (under ELSAM, to say one of them) has their KKR for many unsolved conflicts in the country.
Maybe because there is no such thing as Reconciliation in this conflict particularly?

Their objective itself, which was To establish the conclusive truth in regard to the events prior to and immediately after the popular consultation in 1999, with a view to further promoting reconciliation and friendship, and ensuring the non-recurrence of similar events has already had certain degree of conclusion expected from their mission.
I see it as, when CTF finished their job, whatever the results are, they have to be conclusive.

I think we do share the same boat of frustration when it comes to this matter. I personally disagree of full degree of acknowledgement with zero degree of accountability.

Fine, this is the report after 2.5 years of hard work, but then what?

That is also why I previously said, if there is no legal instruments applied following the report (or accountability, if one may say), which was not at all mentioned in their mandate, then yes, the report will end up as a report with recommendation.

It looks like a research to me.

I might be wrong, and I am not a lawyer myself, but it does not seem to be the end of the tunnel for most, especially the victims.

Silverlines said...

Ouch, do excuse the lengthy sentences please.

Rob Baiton said...

No problems with lenghty comments!

GJ said...

Hey Rob,

Do you think there was an element of "Yes Minister" in all of this? Set up something, give it a fancy name, take a lot of time, hope everyone forgets, have no real bite, and conclude something that blind freddie would have been proud of, the slip it under the carpet with a let's all move on that was a long time ago.

purely opinion!!

Brett said...

So much doesn't get said here. It's true of all governments, but doubly true with Indonesia's, I think. I get the feeling that there is a lot going on behind the scenes with this acknowledgement and I am not sure who is pulling the strings.

Personally, I think a formal apology + some compensation would be great, but I don't think that's ever going to happen.

As a general comment, its nice to see so much "disagreement" and contradictory views expressed in a non-combative manner. The Indonesia Matters blog (which I love) can get really aggressive. Rima can attest to this: she was repeatedly bashed for expressing a personal view. Interesting :-)

PS love your blog. Adding you to my blogroll - not that my three readers will make much difference ;-)

Brett said...

Um, by the way... What exactly is Horta listening to? I bet it's Madonna's new album!

Rob Baiton said...


I do! I do wonder if there was some agreement put in place that said, "look accept some responsibility, express some remorse, and we will cut you some slack", but that's just the cynic in me :D

I think your opinion and variations of it are held by many Timor / Indonesia watchers.


My three readers won't help you much either :D

Welcome to the RAB Experience! Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and everyone should have one...disagreement is fine provided people are prepared to argue their case / position and civility is always a nice bonus.

Indonesiamatters...I have not left any comments over there for a while although I do swing by every now and then.