High Commissioner for Human Rights says report of East Timor inquiry important step against impunity

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson today called the report of the Commission of Inquiry on East Timor an important step in establishing accountability for the serious and widespread violations of human rights committed in that territory since the announcement of a ballot on self-determination in January of last year.

"The report of the Commission of Inquiry sends a message to the people of East Timor that the international community has not forgotten their suffering", Mrs. Robinson said, underlining the importance of a continued investigation as recommended by the Commission. "It is my hope that efforts to hold those responsible for the atrocities in East Timor accountable will go on so that there is no impunity".

The High Commissioner said those efforts should include the search for an "effective and credible process which respects the rights of the people of East Timor to know the truth and achieve justice within the context of working for genuine reconciliation". "The recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry on this issue could provide the necessary international dimension to that process", she continued.

Mrs. Robinson said it was significant that as the report was being released in New York Indonesia's own inquiry panel was making its findings public. "I note the work carried out by the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission team and look forward to examining their conclusions. The announced intention of the Indonesian authorities to prosecute the authors of human rights violations in East Timor is heartening".

The High Commissioner thanked the members of the Commission of Inquiry, five international legal and human rights experts, for carrying out very important work under difficult cirmcumstances. The Commission, established following a special session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights last September, went to Darwin, Australia, East Timor and Jakarta between 23 November and 8 December of 1999. Its members were Sonia Picado of Costa Rica, Judith Sefi Attah of Nigeria, A.M. Ahmadi of India, Mari Kapi of Papua New Guinea, and Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger of Germany.

In the resolution establishing the inquiry panel, the Commission on Human Rights also requested its Special Rapporteurs on torture, on extrajudicial executions and on violence against women to carry out a fact-finding mission to the region. Today the High Commisioner also welcomed that the report of the Special Rapporteurs will be considered at the next session of the Commission on Human Rights, which starts on 20 March.