08 Feb East Timor Spurns an International Court
East Timor announced today that it has reached a tentative agreement with Indonesia to set up a Commission of Truth and Friendship to investigate human rights abuses and crimes committed during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor. While somewhat controversial among human rights groups who sought a Rwanda or Yugoslav-style ad hoc tribunal, the East Timorese foreign minister explained that:
We believe that the best form of justice for the victims is that the truth be acknowledged and that the perpetrators — whether as individuals or collectively — acknowledge their responsibility and fully cooperate with the commission.
If it sticks, this will mark another country’s decision (like South Africa) to avoid “justice” in favor of “peace” (some might say “impunity”). Whether it is, as Chris might argue, a “sustainable peace” is another question. Interestingly, in future conflicts, countries like East Timor probably won’t have the option to forego prosecutions like it is choosing to here because it would be subject to the demands for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, to which it is a party (the ICC doesn’t have jurisdiction here because the war crimes occurred prior to its establishment).