In Brief: Amnesty warns against Timor-Leste’s "culture of impunity"


BANGKOK, 29 June 2010 (IRIN) - Amnesty International has urged the government of Timor-Leste to close a legal loophole that allows perpetrators of crimes against humanity to go unpunished.

Timor-Leste became formally independent in 2002 after a 24-year occupation by the Indonesian military in 1975-1999 that cost up to 200,000 lives, but gaps in the penal code mean pardons can be granted for war crimes, says Amnesty in a new report.

The UN’s Serious Crimes Unit indicted 391 people in 2003 for crimes against humanity committed in Timor-Leste, but most of them enjoy sanctuary in Indonesia. Calls for an international tribunal for such war crimes have been vehemently opposed by President Jose Ramos-Horta, who insists a policy of forgiveness is the best route.

“For the sake of security, long-term stability in the country as well as the building of a young judiciary, it is essential to try these crimes,” Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty’s researcher on Timor-Leste, told IRIN by phone from London. “In Indonesia, many people who are responsible for the most horrific crimes are running free. These are elements that can destroy a country.”

Source: IRIN