Today the seven National Commissioners of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor were sworn in before the UN appointed Transitional Administrator, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello.  The Commissioners, individuals well-known in East Timorese society and with a diversity of experience, backgrounds and political views, pledged to conduct their work in a independent and impartial manner.  Promising to “promote reconciliation, national unity and peace” in their work, the Commissioners were presented with symbols of reconciliation by seven children from families that have suffered as a result of the violence in East Timor. 

The ceremony marked the official inauguration of the Commission, which will work for two years to document human rights violations committed between April 1974 and October 1999 in East Timor, and to facilitate community reconciliation.  Following their appointment, the National Commissioners will take up the task of selecting 25-30 Regional Commissioners and establishing a network regional offices throughout the country.  

In his speech today, the Transitional Administrator stated that the Commission “will provide the East Timorese people with an official ear to listen to their grievances and acknowledge their past suffering.  It will bring together those who have been in conflict in the past and give them an opportunity for genuine and long-lasting reconciliation.”  Most importantly, he added, “the success of this Commission will depend on the participation and engagement of the people”. 

Speeches were given by the Chief Minister, Dr. Mari Alkatiri, Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, Dr. Jose Ramos Horta, and by Xanana Gusmao.   Messages were also conveyed from Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop and Chairperson of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and from Mrs. Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  “It is with great promise and tremendous hope that the Commission now sets out to achieve the twin necessities of accountability through truth-telling, and healing through reconciliation”, she said.

Following the ceremony, the National Commissioners will be given orientation and training by expert consultants from the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) who have extensive experience from establishing and operating commissions dealing with truth and reconciliation in South Africa and Guatemala. 

The National Commissioners are:

Jacinto das Neves Raimundo Alves                     Maria Olandina Isabel Caeiro Alves

Father Jovito Rego de Jesus Araujo                Isabel Amaral Guterres

Aniceto Longuinhos Guterres Lopes                  Jose Estevao Soares

Reverend Agustinho de Vasconselos

For further information, or to arrange interviews, please contact Lamartinho de Oliveira (Mobile: 0408 731 103) or Jane Alexander (Mobile: 0407 976 935) at the Interim Office of the Commission in Balide, Dili.

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