Earlier this month it was reported that judicial processes in Timor Leste to bring justice to the victims of human rights abuses in 1999 were blocked. After a 24 year occupation by Indonesia, marked by political unrest, armed resistance, forced displacement, torture, and arbitrary detention, Timor-Leste gained its independence in a 1999 referendum. The human rights abuses of the years prior, however, only intensified coming up to the vote and pro-independence groups and individuals were targeted. Recently the parliament has delayed the passing of two laws intended to implement recommendations of Timor-Leste’s two truth commissions, the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) and the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF).
In a publication released this week by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP), Impunity in Timor Leste: Can the Serious Crimes Investigation Team Make a Difference?, the ICTJ highlights this lack of political will to bring justice and accountability to victims. The report presents a study of the current measures taken by the UN Serious Crimes Investigation Team (SCIT), formed in 2006. Section 5 of the report presents efforts to raise awareness of SCIT’s work among the victims, mostly in rural areas. The SCIT is assisted in this capacity in part by the Public Information Office of the UN Integrated Mission for Timor-Leste.
The partnership has allowed advocacy work in the sphere of victim outreach through the release and distribution of newsletters regarding the work of the SCIT in the region. As a result, victims’ support networks in villages and collaborations with local NGOs are on the rise. Despite the failing of the parliamentary government to establish in force the mechanisms required to carry out justice, the role of outreach and other civil society groups cannot be undermined.
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