Herald Sun - Karen Michelmore
July 12, 2008 12:00am
INDONESIA says it will completely accept a long-awaited report that blames it for murders, rapes and torture in East Timor in 1999.
The landmark East Timor Indonesia Commission of Truth and Friendship Report - to be formally handed to the two countries' presidents in Bali next week - says Indonesia bears responsibility for the violations, which included mass murder, rape and torture.
Up to 1500 people were killed in the violence surrounding the vote.
The bloodshed eventually prompted the intervention of an Australian-led military force.
Indonesian government funds were diverted to pro-autonomy militia groups, which committed organised and co-ordinated attacks, and some Indonesian army personnel sometimes played a leading role in the violence, it finds.
In what was seen as an effort to appease Indonesian sensitivities, the truth commission, set up by both Indonesia and East Timor to help repair relations, has recommended the presidents of both countries acknowledge responsibility and apologise for the bloodshed.
Indonesia has previously refused to acknowledge its role in the violence, but Indonesian foreign affairs spokesman Teuku Faiza Syah indicated yesterday that could change.
"The spirit of the CTF is reconciliation, the spirit of co-operation and looking forward to the future," he said.
"As a Government we will accept the report," he said.
But the report says pro-independence groups in East Timor also committed gross human rights violations - namely illegal detentions - and must also say sorry.
Human rights groups yesterday praised the report, despite the criticism of Timor.
But they say any international prosecution is still a long way off.
The International Crisis Group's South-East Asia project director, John Virgoe, described the report as "brave" and said that it delivered much more than people had expected.
The UN boycotted the commission and human rights groups had feared it would whitewash over the events of the past in order to help foster friendship between the two nations.
Mr Virgoe said the report actually achieved the opposite of its intended role.
"It was clearly set up to put the events of 1999 behind the diplomatic relationship, but actually it hasn't . . . it has reminded everybody of the truth of what happened in 1999," he said.
He described as "nonsense" the report's finding that pro-independence groups in East Timor also committed gross human rights violations.
"That (has obviously) just been put in as sort of an attempt to balance (it)," he said. "The violence carried out by the pro-independence militias was just not on the same scale as was done by the pro-Indonesia militias."
Mr Virgoe did not think the report would lead to prosecutions in the short term.
"Its mandate didn't even allow it to single out individuals and recommend prosecution," he said.
"They've gone as far as they could, and a lot further than people would have expected.
"That doesn't mean it's just a report. It keeps the issue alive and reawakens the issue in Indonesia."
Mr Virgoe said that the report would shock most Indonesians, who had been told a different version of events in East Timor.
"(Indonesians) have been lied to for 35 years now about East Timor by the Government, and by the army in particular.
"This commission report . . . will therefore come as a shock."