chapter  6
Entrenching Criminal Injustice
Pages 20

In September 1999 the UN convened a special session to monitor the situation in Timor-Leste. Condemning the violence, the UN stated that all those responsible for human rights violations would be brought to account (UN 1999a). Three special rapporteurs subsequently sent to the region argued that there was ‘little doubt as to the direct and indirect involvement’ of the Indonesian army and police in violence and that, unless the Indonesian government made firm, quick arrangements to prosecute state officials, the UN should ‘consider the establishment of an international criminal tribunal’ (UN 1999b: para 59-74.6). As far as they were concerned, ‘The East Timorese judicial system, which still needs to be created and tested, could not hope to cope with a project of this scale’ (ibid.: para 73). A month later, in January 2000, a UN report from the International Commission of Inquiry argued that Timorese victims ‘must not be forgotten in the rush of events to redefine relations in the region, and [that] their basic human rights to justice, compensation and the truth must be fully respected’ (UN 2000a: para 146). Given the seriousness of the crimes, as well as the ‘trusteeship’ relationship the UN had developed with Timor, the Commission reasoned that the responsibility for addressing international justice fell on the UN (ibid.). These early calls for criminal justice have been reflected, time and

again, by torture victims in Timor-Leste. Victims argued that international prosecutions, particularly of senior Indonesian officials (the so-called ‘big fish’), were vital to the emergence of the rule of law, a culture of human rights, and positive social development. For many, trials represented an opportunity to challenge the ‘arrogant strut’ of high status officials. However, the trials also connected to the idea that Timorese should have status parity with others in their access to international human rights law.