Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to discuss the future of the UN political presence in Timor-Leste prior to the expiry of the mandate of the UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) on 20 May.
A report from the Secretary-General on justice and reconciliation in Timor is also due. It may be issued in May, but it is unclear whether any Council decisions on this will emerge in the near future.
recommending that the Secretary-General take responsibility for the UN presence as a smaller special political mission under his good-offices mandate;
taking no action regarding the mandate, and perhaps expressing in a presidential statement congratulations to UNOTIL and noting that future assistance will be provided by the Secretariat’s electoral division and the UN Development Programme (UNDP); or
maintaining the status quo by extending UNOTIL with an adjusted mandate.
Another option may be to maintain the status quo but specifically subject to a decision on referring Timor-Leste to the nascent Peacebuilding Commission.
On justice and reconciliation in Timor, some of the options are:
requesting that the report of Timor-Leste’s Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), which was presented in January to the Secretary-General by Timorese President Xanana Gusmão, now be circulated as a Council document;
delaying the decision, with a view to analysing the final report of the joint Indonesian-Timorese Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) to determine if the CTF process and recommendations are sufficient to ensure justice and reconciliation or if significant further steps are needed. Council members may also include consideration of the development of judicial systems in Indonesia and Timor, as well as the circulation of CTF’s final report as a Council document, as additional aspects of an eventual resolution;
deciding that further action should be taken against perpetrators of serious crimes, and whether this should be undertaken with UN assistance or by an independent UN mechanism, bearing in mind recent Council decisions on assistance to Lebanon and trials of offenders in similar serious circumstances; or
deciding to take no action.
The issue of winding up the UN political presence in Timor-Leste continues to cause considerable divisions inside the Council. This debate marked the successive renewals of the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) and the creation of UNOTIL.
Some Council members, especially the US, in recent months have expressed their desire to see the UN presence finalised with the expiry of UNOTIL’s current mandate. They believe that Timor-Leste is now prepared to move into a development framework after years of continuing Council-mandated assistance, and that those resources are much needed elsewhere.
Other members, particularly from Latin America, are keen on creating a follow-on mission on the grounds that gains in Timor-Leste would be at risk should the Council begin to wind up the UN political presence in the country.
The Council is also considerably divided on the issue of justice and reconciliation. Some members have no appetite for a decision at this point. There is a degree of sympathy among such members for not disturbing good relations between Dili and Jakarta, and recognition of the possible impact of the reactivation of the serious crimes process.
But other members, especially Western European ones as well as Argentina, also uphold accountability as a matter of principle and are particularly concerned about bringing to justice those most responsible for the gross human rights violations in Timor-Leste in 1999. It seems likely that those members would want to push for both a broad discussion of the matter and a closer look at the work of the CTF. In particular, some members have made it known that they reject the amnesty provisions in the CTF’s terms of reference, as well as their concern about its potential impact on Timor-Leste’s prospects for long-term stability.
The Council established UNOTIL as a follow-on UN political presence after the completion of the mandate of two Council-mandated operations in the country: the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and UNMISET.
UNOTIL is not a peacekeeping mission. Instead, it is a special political mission funded from the regular budget. It was designed to provide assistance to the Timorese government and prepare the gradual ceasing of Council-mandated activities in key areas such as support for the development of the justice sector, elections, human rights and the police.
Resolution 1599, which established UNOTIL in April 2005, emphasised the limited nature of UNOTIL’s role and requested the Secretary-General to provide insights into “planning for a transition to a sustainable development assistance framework”.
Since January, three letters from the Timorese government have urged the Council to endorse a special political mission tasked with providing assistance particularly for the 2007 elections, the justice and defence sectors, police training and human rights, as well as providing military liaison personnel to prevent election-related tensions along the border with Indonesia.
The requests arose amid concerns with domestic stability following the dismissal of hundreds of Timorese soldiers who refused to return to their barracks after marching to the Presidential Palace in February. The soldiers’ grievances are reportedly mostly linked to allegations of favouritism towards those coming from the eastern part of Timor-Leste.
In response to the Timorese government’s request, the Council asked the Secretary-General for options on post-UNOTIL assistance to Timor-Leste. The Secretary-General recommended the establishment of an integrated UN Office for 12 months with an international staff of sixty. The office’s mandate would include:
support to state institutions, including the police and the justice sector;
support to border patrol; and
assistance in strengthening human rights and reconciliation.
The Council has also requested the Secretary-General provide his views on a “practical and feasible approach” to the issue of justice and reconciliation in Timor-Leste. While the contents of his report are still unclear, it is not expected that the report will resolve the underlying differences between Council members on the issue. The Council requested that the Secretary-General especially take into account the views of the parties, Timor-Leste and Indonesia, which have reiterated their desire to close this chapter with the forthcoming CTF report and have opposed the reopening of the serious crimes process.
The immediate issue before the Council will be the future of the UN presence in Timor-Leste in view of the requests from the Timorese leadership for a new special political office. In the event that Council members are prepared to agree to an ongoing special political mission, a set of related issues would emerge, particularly:
the financing of such an office, particularly as it would create additional commitments in the regular budget;
whether the mandate would be determined by the Council and expressly limited chronologically to the forthcoming Timorese elections, with no further renewals, or determined by a decision of the Secretary-General; and
the size of such a mission.
The issue of the future of justice and reconciliation in Timor-Leste will remain significant for Council members. In this regard, the key issue for the Council is to find a way in which it can take into account Timorese and Indonesian concerns while also upholding its own decisions on the need for accountability.
The serious crimes process was created by UNTAET in 2000. It included the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU), which was jointly a unit of the UN operation and part of the Timorese state. The SCU was tasked with prosecuting solely those perpetrators of crimes committed in connection with the 1999 referendum.
In 2004, the Council determined that the SCU would finish its activities by May 2005. However:
numerous indictments were left outstanding, and other cases were not even investigated or indicted;
Timor-Leste does not have enough capacity to try returning offenders; and
the cases of rank-and-file offenders were addressed by either the SCU or CAVR (when those amounted to ordinary crimes), while those most responsible escaped justice.
The Secretary-General decided to appoint a Commission of Experts (CoE) to prepare a report on the future of the serious crimes process in early 2005. Discussions on the appointment of the CoE began in late 2004, when it became clear that these issues would still remain unresolved after May 2005.
Meanwhile, Indonesia and Timor-Leste decided to create the Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF), operative since August 2005, to:
produce a report on the violence, but only that surrounding the referendum. There is no deadline, and it may take one to two years; and
present recommendations such as amnesty and ways to promote reconciliation.
But the CoE report, forwarded to the Council in June 2005, recommended that the serious crimes process be retained and that Indonesia step up its judicial capacity. If the parties failed to adopt these measures, the CoE recommended that an international tribunal be established or that the situation be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) under an extraordinary arrangement with the UN. The report was also critical of the CTF, stating that parts of its terms of reference contradict international standards on denial of impunity.
Both parties were very critical of the CoE report. Dili in particular opposes the reactivation of the process, which it sees as dangerous to its relations with Indonesia.
While the Council did not formally discuss the report, several Council members considered the recommendations unrealistic either politically or financially. Some members consider an international tribunal too expensive.
CAVR handed over its final report to President Gusmão in October 2005. It makes several controversial recommendations, including the continuation of the serious crimes process under the UN and the payment to victims of reparations, including by permanent members of the Council.
President Gusmão presented the CAVR report to the Secretary-General in January 2006. The presentation focused on the lessons learned contained in the report, but no reference was made to any action against Indonesia. The report was not formally discussed by the Council, nor was it circulated as a Council document.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|20 January 2006||
President Gusmão presented the CAVR report to the Secretary-General.
|28 October 2005||CAVR handed over its final report to President Gusmão.|
|28 September 2005||The CoE report was forwarded to the Council, who then requested recommendations from the Secretary-General.|
|5 August 2005||
The CTF officially met for the first time.
The CoE conducted its fact-finding mission, the SCU concluded its activities and UNOTIL was established.
Timor-Leste and Indonesia decided to establish the CTF.
|November 2004||The SCU ceased all investigations.|
UNTAET withdrew and Timor achieved independence. UNMISET was established.
CAVR was established.
|June 2000||UNTAET established the serious crimes process.|
The Indonesian parliament recognised the referendum. UNTAET was established.
Anti-independence violence was stepped up. The Council authorised the deployment of an international force.
The referendum took place, showing 78 percent support for independence.
|May 1999||Indonesia and Portugal agreed on modalities for a referendum under UN auspices. Anti-independence violence erupted.|
Indonesia decided to carry out the referendum.
|1975-1999||The Indonesian occupation was marked by a bloody repression against civilians and armed resistance.|
|December 1975||Indonesia occupied Timor-Leste.|
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General|
|Sukehiro Hasegawa (Japan)|
|Size and Composition of UNOTIL|
up to 45 civilian advisers, up to sixty police advisers and 15 military advisers, and up to ten human rights officers
|Cost (requested budget)|
|Commission of Experts|
|Prafullachandra Bhagwati (India); Yozo Yokota (Japan); Shaista Shameem (Fiji)|
|Statistics of the Serious Crimes Process|
The Indonesian Mission to the UN’s website (http://www.indonesiamission-ny.org/issuebaru/IndToday/n031005_tor.htm) contains the terms of reference of the CTF
SCU’s website (http://www.scu-dili.org) contains a list of indictments filed and their status
Megan Hirst and Howard Varney, “Justice Abandoned? An Assessment of the Serious Crimes Process in East Timor”, International Center for Transitional Justice Occasional Paper Series (June 2005)
Human Rights Watch, Tortured Beginnings: Police Violence and the Beginnings of Impunity in East Timor (19 April 2006)