Timor-Leste: UN to boycott truth panel unless it bars amnesty for gross abuses

26 July 2007 – United Nations officials will boycott a commission set up jointly by Indonesia and Timor-Leste to foster reconciliation after the latter’s bloody struggle for independence, unless it is precluded from recommending amnesty for crimes against humanity and other gross violations of human rights.

UN policy “is that the Organization cannot endorse or condone amnesties for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or gross violations of human rights, nor should it do anything that might foster them,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson said today. “It is the firm intention of the Secretary-General to uphold this position of principle.”

Spokesperson Marie Okabe noted that the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), established by the two countries in 2005, had on several occasions invited former staff members of the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), including former Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ian Martin, to testify at its proceedings.

But the CTF’s terms of reference into the bloodshed that followed Timor-Leste’s vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999, and in which nine local UN personnel were killed, do not preclude it from recommending amnesty “in respect of acts that constitute a crime against humanity, a gross violation of human rights or a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” she added.

“Unless the terms of reference are revised to comply with international standards, officials of the United Nations will, therefore, not testify at its proceedings or take any other steps that would support the work of the CTF and thereby further the possible grant of amnesties in respect of such acts,” she said.

Today’s statement follows a report to the Security Council last August from then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan in which he said that it “would be deeply regrettable, however, if the reconciliation process foreclosed the possibility of achieving accountability.” Ms. Okabe said that report “clearly outlined” the UN’s position.

“Though it will not take part in the process, the United Nations is informed about the ongoing proceedings of the CTF and wishes, therefore, to also take this opportunity to say that it stands unequivocally by the exemplary work of UNAMET during the popular consultation in 1999 and throughout the course of its mandate,” she noted.

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