Without justice, there will be no peace
26 May 2006
Letter to the Editor, The Age
The Australian Government is to be congratulated for its timely
and wholehearted response to the crisis in East Timor. However,
if Australia wants to be part of the solution rather than the problem,
we need to look at the underlying issues.
The most obvious cause of the crisis is the East Timor Government's
failure to respond quickly and seriously to the grievances of soldiers
from the west of the country. But this is also a reminder of the
fact that this is a nation born out of trauma, and fear and mistrust
Many in East Timor — including political parties other than
Fretilin, the church and civil society — have called repeatedly
in recent years for justice for the war crimes and crimes against
humanity carried out during the period of Indonesian occupation.
This grievance was a factor in the protests in Dili last year. Yet,
after a serious crimes process in East Timor and a sham ad hoc Human
Rights Court in Jakarta, all of the non-Timorese perpetrators remain
at large, protected by Indonesia.
The East Timor Government cannot afford to upset its big, powerful
neighbour, so this matter can be resolved only with the help of
other nations and the UN, whether this takes the form of an international
war crimes tribunal or some other judicial mechanism.
Australia should ensure that the international community does not
turn its back on the people of East Timor, not only for their sakes
but to uphold the rule of law and respect for human rights around
the world. It might take longer and be more difficult than military
intervention, but there can be no lasting peace without justice.
Supporters of the Australian Coalition for Transitional Justice
in East Timor: Dr Mark Byrne, Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre;
Tom Clarke, Timor Sea Justice Campaign; Jenny Drysdale, Australian
National University; James Dunn, former UNTAET adviser on serious
crimes; Dr Clinton Fernandes, University of New South Wales; Associate
Professor Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University; Dr Michael McKinley,
Australian National University; Shirley Shackleton; Rob Wesley-Smith,
Australians for a Free East Timor
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