EAST TIMOR ISSUES POLICY PAPER ON REFUGEE RETURNS

 

The Second Transitional Government and UNTAET today issued a detailed elaboration of East Timor’s justice procedures towards returning refugees suspected of committing crimes in 1999.

 

“The leadership and people of East Timor are truly committed to peace and reconciliation, but this can only be fully achieved if those suspected of having committed a serious crime are brought to justice,” the policy statement says.

 

The release of the policy paper coincides with the recent upsurge in refugee returns, and today was verbally explained by a UN Peacekeeping Force delegation to representatives of the Indonesian military at a meeting of the Tactical Coordination Working Group in East Timor’s Oecussi enclave.

 

The policies outlined in the public document are those that have been applied since the post-referendum violence of September 1999. The four-page Policy on Justice and Return Procedures in East Timor simply clarifies the existing procedures in order to counter misinformation and provide returning refugees with an understanding of the justice structures in place in East Timor.

 

The policy makes clear that the majority of refugees still in West Timor did not commit crimes, and outlines how the perpetrators of “lesser crimes” – such as isolated incidents of looting, house burning or minor assault – will be eligible to participate in the community-based Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation established earlier this year.

Returning refugees suspected of committing “serious crimes” in 1999 – such as murder, torture, sexual offences, crimes against humanity and other large-scale crimes – will be dealt with by the criminal justice system established by UNTAET in 2000.

 

It is hoped that a clear articulation of the justice and return procedures will allow the refugees to make a clear, informed choice on whether or not to return, and reassure those guilty of committing serious crimes that they will have full rights to a free and fair trial if they return.

 

 

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