20/01/2006
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OF TIMOR-LESTE


Timor-Leste believed in restorative rather than punitive justice, that country’s President Xanana Gusmão, said at a Headquarters press conference this morning.


The President was responding to a correspondent who had asked whether the Timorese Government would pursue investigations in order to bring to justice perpetrators of the human rights violations committed during Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of the then East Timor.


He said that the terms of reference of the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CATF), established by Timor-Leste and Indonesia, allowed that body access to the tribunal in Jakarta, documents of the Serious Crimes Unit in Dili and to the report of the Timorese Truth Commission (known as CAVR, its Portuguese acronym).  President Gusmão was expected to present that report to Secretary-General Kofi Annan later today.


Asked whether Timor-Leste would seek reparations or apologies from the Indonesian Government or the Timorese resistance, he said that the CAVR recommendations could be approached on two levels, the first relating to the international community, and the other to the Timorese themselves.  Internationally, Timor-Leste could ask for apologies or compensation from the permanent members of the Security Council, from countries that had sold weapons to Indonesia during the conflict or from those that had supported Indonesia in United Nations resolutions.  That was a legitimate aspiration on the part of the victims or the Commission.


For the Timorese, it was important to prevent the recurrence of the occupation and to respect the rule of law, he said.  Timor-Leste did not feel comfortable about going to the Security Council to demand compensation, particularly in light of the more than $1 billion that the United Nations and the international community had spent on aid to Timor-Leste, which still intended to request the establishment of a special political office after the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste’s (UNOTIL) mandate expired in May 2006.


He cautioned, however, that, if no attention was paid to the vulnerable people, former combatants, widows and orphans, all the sacrifice that the Timorese had accepted during 24 years of struggle would have no value.


A correspondent asked the President to comment on a statement reportedly issued by the Indonesian Government that questioned the need for, and the figures contained in, the report of the Truth Commission on atrocities allegedly committed by occupying Indonesian forces.


President Gusmão replied that the independent Commission’s report did not only detail violations against victims of the Indonesian invasion, but also those committed by Timorese against fellow Timorese.  Yet, the Government had not accused the Commission of exaggerating, but rather had respected the result.  The main aim of the report was to prevent a recurrence of those 24 years of war.  It was also a means to heal the wounds and to help the international community keep such a situation from happening elsewhere.


In response to a question about the role of the United Nations in Timor-Leste after the expiration of UNOTIL’s mandate, Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta, who accompanied the President, said the expiration would mark the end of six years of major United Nations engagement in Timor-Leste.  It had started with the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), which had organized the country’s 1999 referendum, followed by the Security Council-authorized INTERFET (International Force for East Timor) and, immediately after the restoration of security, the Council had authorized the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).  The end of that mandate in May 2002 had seen the creation of the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), the predecessor to UNOTIL.


He said that those mandates showed a logical sequence.  INTERFET had ended the conflict and averted a major humanitarian crisis following the violence of 1999, UNTAET had helped to build the State, followed by UNMISET and eventually UNOTIL.  President Gusmão would be requesting the establishment of a modest special political office to succeed UNOTIL and provide continuing assistance.


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For information media • not an official record