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East Timor president rejects rights group's calls for international criminal tribunal

[JURIST] East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta [official profile; BBC profile] has rejected a call from Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] to establish an independent international criminal tribunal [JURIST report] to investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses stemming from the country's 1999 referendum for independence [BBC backgrounder] from Indonesia, ABC News reported [text] Friday. AI released a report [text, PDF] Thursday claiming that officials responsible for human rights abuses between 1975 and 1999 have yet to be prosecuted before an impartial tribunal. AI urged the UN Security Council [official website] to end impunity by establishing an international criminal tribunal and urged the Indonesian and East Timorese governments to commit to achieving justice for victims. Ramos-Horta rejected the report, saying that Indonesia should be allowed to initiate prosecutions on its own timeline.

Both Indonesian and East Timorese leaders have previously rejected calls for international prosecution, arguing that it could hinder the reconciliation process between the two nations. In July 2008, Indonesia formally accepted [JURIST report] a joint Indonesian-East-Timorese Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) [official website] finding that Indonesia was responsible for human rights violations following a the 1999 independence referendum. This was the first time that Indonesia had accepted any responsibility for the attacks in East Timor, which it previously blamed on local militias. In 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the CTF for violating international humanitarian standards [JURIST report] because it allowed amnesty for some perpetrators of crimes against humanity. The Indonesian foreign minister responded [JURIST report] that the government of East Timor had voluntarily agreed to the CTF to resolve past disputes without injuring long-term relations with Indonesia. The CTF, established [terms of reference] in 2005 by the East Timorese and Indonesian governments, does not have independent authority to prosecute suspects.

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