Struck down by Foto fever

RIC SPENCER, The West AustralianMarch 26, 2010, 9:30 am
Struck down by Foto fever

    FotoFreo 2010 has been launched and what a monster it is. With more than 20 core shows and near on 100 fringe festival exhibitions, there is almost too much to get to but often the best approach when confronted by a dumping wave is to dive straight into it.

    Showing at the Moores Building Contemporary Art Gallery, Growing Pains: Timor Leste is as confronting and forthright a show as I've seen. This is documentary photography at its most pronounced, showing not only what is in front of the lens but managing to capture much more beyond the frame.

    Curated by Julian Tennant, Growing Pains brings together 11 photographers who have had an enduring and, as it seems from the images, life-changing relationship with Timor Leste (East Timor). Growing Pains takes on a literal, emotional chronological journey through East Timor as it was before, during and after independence. This is done through a variety of photographic themes: autobiographic, subcultural voyeurism and embedding the photographer within an event or specific political groups.

    Martine Perret's look at transgender people in Dili highlights the subjective nature of identity as individuals are caught within the greater thrust for national identity. These colourful images bring the focus of political turmoil down to day-to-day choice, highlighting the spirit of humanity and its propensity to stay engaged with personal living through even the most difficult times.

    Likewise, Agnes Dherbys shows us the continuation of life - with her documentation of birth in East Timor. Using birth both literally and metaphorically, Dherbys' images, showing next to images of sociological turmoil, displacement and individual acts of violence, illustrates the inhospitable environment into which these lives came and yet the beauty, and poetic necessity, of such moments.

    Three artists who have undertaken three different yet overlapping photographic social histories share the upstairs space at the Moores. Jean Chung's Tears in the Congo, Viviane Dalles' A Journey of Exile and Claire Martin's Slab City each confront the notion of displacement and internalised exile.

    Chung's work is too much to describe briefly. The frightful nature of what I saw through Chung's lens advocates beautifully the power and necessity of the camera's role in being a witness.

    Dalles' work evocatively, yet somewhat passively, follows the plight of the Lhotshampas, a Nepalese minority, as they are expelled from Bhutan while Martin's portrayal of internally displaced Americans brings home the whole idea that some people are born into exile. This is wonderful photography - simultaneously personal and removed.

    At the Fremantle Arts Centre three shows bring to life various roles of the camera. Perhaps the best place to start at the Fremantle arts centre, indeed maybe for Fotofreo as a whole, is Magda Stanova's In the Shadow of Photography.

    A cerebral exercise in deconstructing photography, Stanova's work takes us behind the camera and into the socio-history of its modern use. In the Shadow of Photography stretches the boundaries of the photographic exhibition and the theoretical book, combining them as a treatise on our all-consuming affair with this technology we call the camera.

    Also upstairs, Joy Horwood Cooke takes us on a journey through apartheid South Africa, in a series commissioned by the government of the time with the aim of taking it on a goodwill tour.

    This is work to read through postcolonial eyes and, in its many domestic references, is intriguing as documentation of a single white female travelling through a hierarchical society.

    Downstairs is Robert McFarlane's Received Moments, a 40-year survey of Australian political and cultural life which, as an ode to reflexive photography and being open to the moment, I very much enjoyed.

    The Fremantle Arts Centre's main galleries are dominated by Another Story - a foray into contemporary Chinese photography through the work of eight artists.

    Ji Zhou's critique of Chinese and French architecture is sardonic while, on the opposing wall, Ma Laing's wonderlands open up like little curiosity booths. Qin Wen's poetic account of the demise of local neighbourhood in the megalopolis of Chongqing is a standout series of works. A slow shutter speed allows the streets to retreat into ruin as life carries on and a woman in traditional red costume is left, in the photograph, as a nostalgic lament to the passing of time . . . this is the camera right at home.

    TIMOR-LESTE: Cuban connection helps healthcare woes

    Photo: Jesse Wright/IRIN
    A lone patient sits in a hospital in Dili. Asia’s newest nation is grappling to rebuild its health system
    DILI, 29 March 2010 (IRIN) - Well before 8am, the reception at Bairo Formosa health centre in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, is bursting with people. The medical staff - a Timorese dental specialist, public doctor and six Cuban medics - see up to 600 patients a day.

    Since independence in 2002, one of the biggest challenges facing Asia’s newest nation has been how to rebuild the health sector to meet the needs of one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, with women having, on average, six or seven children each.

    Jaime dos Reis, chief of the health centre at Bairo Formosa, told IRIN: “In Dili, especially at this clinic, there aren’t enough Timorese doctors. The doctors cannot handle 600 patients. They just can’t.”

    That is where Cuba, which prides itself on having a strong healthcare system, comes in.

    As part of an agreement signed in 2003, Cuba agreed to take on hundreds of Timorese medical students whose return to Timor-Leste is hoped will relieve the strain on healthcare facilities in the fledgling nation.

    The plan is to have one Timorese doctor per 1,000 of the 1.1 million population, said Diamantino de Jesus, the Ministry of Health’s national director for human resources.

    “At that time we had many problems in the health sector. That is why Fidel Castro asked how Cuba can help develop the country. The president of Cuba then offered the scholarships,” he said.

    Rural restrictions

    Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
    A young boy in Timor-Leste. Almost half all children under five are chronically malnourished
    In Timor Leste, about three-quarters of the population live in rural areas, where access to healthcare is often limited.

    About 40 percent of people live below the poverty line and diseases such as leprosy remain endemic, the UN reports.

    Illiteracy and poor sanitation are widespread, while almost half of all children under five are chronically malnourished, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

    Rui de Araujo, senior management adviser with the Ministry of Finance, says up to 75 percent of all health problems in the country - contagious diseases and illnesses related to hygiene, nutrition, access to clean water, vaccinations - could be prevented.

    “That was the basic rationale of why we started to bring in many Timorese young people to be trained in the general practice, basic medicine, to focus on community health, public health and health promotion so the country can tackle these problems,” he said.

    During Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of Timor-Leste, people became accustomed to obtaining primary healthcare from doctors. When the Indonesians left in 1999, so did many health professionals.

    The shortage of doctors means many people often go to hospital for basic healthcare.

    “The primary healthcare facilities are not providing all the answers to the community and they will take themselves into hospitals and secondary healthcare settings to solve what is supposed to be solved at the primary healthcare centres,” De Araujo said.

    Skill sharing

    At the moment there are 845 Timorese medical students, of whom 658 are in Cuba. They will finish their studies with internships back in Timor-Leste.

    Eighteen students are already nearing the end of their studies and working in community health centres in the vicinity of one of the country’s six hospitals.

    At the same time, another 250 students are studying in Timor-Leste, working under the supervision of the more than 200 Cuban health professionals in the nation. They will also study in Cuba for a year.

    Within a few years, it is expected that there will be all Timorese medical teams staffing the nation’s 187 health posts, 65 community health centres and six hospitals.

    Students were selected from each of the country’s sub-districts, so it is hoped they will be loyal enough to their roots to pass over the temptation of taking their newfound skills elsewhere to better-paid work.



    Human Rights journalist Nairn faces arrest for Indonesian terrorists Obama support story

    March 24, 7:32 PMHuman Rights ExaminerDeborah Dupre'

    Update: Yesterday, the writer published an article highlighting investigative journalist and human rights defender, Allan Nairn and his article about the US-backed Indonesian military, TNI, special forces, and Kopassus recent assassinations of targeted individuals and groups that are pro-Independnece opposing government human rights violations. Today, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! had an exclusive interview with Nairn, now facing arrest for the article, while President Obama is considering giving to

    the Indonesian terrorists new weapons training and money.

    Goodman writes that while Obama's health care bill is considered progress, he is "simultaneously, and with far less scrutiny, potentially taking a huge step backward with Indonesia," referring to Indonesia's role of the US-backed Indonesian military murders of political activists in Aceh leading up to elections.

    "This is happening while the White House is engaged in fierce behind-the-scenes negotiations with Congress on whether to restore aid to the Indonesian military, including one of its most notorious elements, the special-forces command known as Kopassus. Military aid to Indonesia was suspended in 1999 after its military, the TNI, unleashed a campaign of terror on the people of East Timor. In 2005, the Bush administration partially restored military aid, but conspicuously denied aid and training to the Kopassus, thanks largely to the efforts of grass-roots activists and the intervention of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

    Nairn, reporting from Indonesia, broke the story this past week on “Democracy Now!" and on his blog,

    Goodman writes today on Truthdig with conrtibuting researcher, Denis Moynihan, that Nairn "reported that the TNI 'assassinated a series of civilian activists during 2009 ... as part of a secret government program, authorized from Jakarta, coordinated in part by an active-duty, U.S.-trained Kopassus special-forces general who has just acknowledged on the record that his TNI men had a role in the killings.'

    "Aceh is a resource-rich province at the western tip of Indonesia. After the devastation Aceh suffered in the tsunami of 2004, the government reached a political settlement with the Free Aceh Movement. The elections in 2009 were a result of that. Nairn details two of the eight assassinations of members of the pro-independence Partai Aceh, citing numerous sources, most of whom, fearing for their safety, remain unname," explains Goodman.

    "Allan and I are no strangers to the Indonesian military. In 1991, we survived a massacre in East Timor. East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, with the full support of President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. In the next quarter-century, the Indonesian military killed more than 200,000 Timorese, a third of the population. Allan and I went there to report on the situation and ended up covering a march to a cemetery in Timor’s capital city, Dili. As the mass of unarmed civilians was hemmed in by the cemetery walls, Indonesian soldiers marched in formation, their U.S.-supplied M-16s at the ready, and without warning, without provocation, opened fire on the crowd. Allan and I were beaten to the ground. Swinging their M-16s like baseball bats, the soldiers fractured Allan’s skull. We survived, but more than 270 Timorese were killed that day. We managed to escape, and to report on the massacre. While I was denied entry in 1999, Allan sneaked in to Timor and reported on the TNI atrocities there, as they burned much of East Timor to the ground. They arrested Allan, but he continued reporting from prison, giving new meaning to “cell phone.”

    Since Allan's report this week on the US-backed TNI assassinations, Goodman writes that the "Indonesian press has been buzzing with the allegations. Air Vice Marshal Sagom Tamboen, a spokesman for the TNI, told the Jakarta Globe that the military is considering legal action against Nairn. Nairn told me, 'I welcome this threat from TNI, a force which has murdered many hundreds of thousands, and challenge them to arrest me so that we can face off in open court.'"

    Human Rights Watch have written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Goodman reports, "outlining serious concerns about possible re-engagement with Kopassus. ETAN, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, launched a petition campaign to block the funding."

    Goodman says that while Americans are "now chattering and twittering about the health care bill’s passage, they should be focusing on one of the most serious threats to human rights he is on the verge of committing Americans to, his "plans for Indonesia, and the possibility that he may restore funding and training for one of the world’s most notorious, human-rights-abusing military forces, the Indonesian Kopassus."

    President Obama could change his mind about supporting the Indonesia terrorist atrocities if a sufficient number of Americans take Jim Hightower's advice and "go against the flow" by taking a stand and saying "No!" to the President. According to his interview with Goddman, Nairn believes in this possibility.

    This is one outrage in which Republicans, Democrats, Greens and others could agree and together prevent from escalating.

    Learn more by doing: Write Letters to Editoron President Obama's Visit to Indonesia. Visit the East Timor and Indonesia website at Listen to Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now!” daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is author of“Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

    Photo: East Timor & Indonesia Action Network

    Deborah Dupré, B.S., M.S., DipConEd, has been a human and civil rights advocate for over 25 years in the U.S., Vanuatu and Australia. Feel free to support her work, including a book in progress about targeted individuals, at , by subscribing to Dupré's reports, and by posting the link to this site (rather than entire article) unless republishing permission is granted. Dupré welcomes emails: Her most recent book, Operation H1N1: Vaccine Liberty or Death, is available at


    UNMIT’s Serious Crimes Investigation Team continues investigations into cases of serious human rights violations committed in 1999. As of 17 March, out of 396 outstanding cases, investigations have been concluded in 124 and are ongoing in 26 others.

    Photo by Martine Perret/UNMIT

    Source: UNMIT Photo of the Day Gallery

    IOM has assisted in resolving 30 cases of human trafficking over the last three years. These are mainly women trafficked to Timor for sexual exploitation and men trafficked aboard fishing vessels who escape to shore in Timor. For victim assistance, IOM provides medical and shelter care, liaises with governments and IOM offices in the beneficiaries’ country of origin to facilitate the return process, and, when necessary, helps beneficiaries to settle in Timor-Leste.

    Photo Martine Perret/UNMIT

    Source: UNMIT Photo of the Day Gallery

    CDF thanks the troops for their commitment to East Timor

    The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, has thanked soldiers and their families for their commitment to restoring stability in East Timor.

    Concluding a two-day visit to Dili, Air Chief Marshal Houston highlighted the evolving role of Australia’s military presence in ensuring a lasting peace.

    “There has been ongoing improvement in the security situation that has enabled the ADF to expand its defence cooperation efforts in East Timor,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said in Dili.

    “Australia’s capacity-building programs cover a range of activities that include professional military advice and government training.

    “The day I arrived in East Timor, an International Stabilisation Force (ISF) team returned from a remote village in the Ainaro district where they worked with the East Timorese Defence Force and Health Department to deliver a medical capacity-building program.

    “This team of Australian and East Timorese medical staff treated 269 patients with a range of conditions. They also delivered important healthcare, nutrition and hygiene education to the village residents that will have a lasting positive effect in the area.”

    The visit provided Air Chief Marshal Houston with the opportunity to meet with defence force personnel stationed at ISF Forward Operating Bases. He said he was impressed with the job that all deployed personnel are doing in East Timor.

    “There are many sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen serving overseas who continue to make sacrifices in the service of our nation,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said to Australian Defence Force members in Dili.

    “I thank you all for your commitment to the job you are doing in East Timor and I ask you to pass this message on to your families at home.”

    Approximately 400 Australian personnel and 140 New Zealand personnel are deployed to East Timor as part of the ISF that is working in support of the Government of East Timor and the United Nations to maintain peace and stability.

    Air Chief Marshal Houston now continues his regional tour with visits to Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands where he will meet with senior political and defence leaders, as well as Australian Defence Force personnel.


    East Timor photos charm

    THE beauty of East Timor is on show as a new exhibition of photographs opens in Darwin tonight.

    Former and present Darwinites Kate Sieper and Vicki Kerrigan are exhibiting pictures they took during a visit last year to encourage tourists to visit our impoverished neighbour, and to raise funds for a charity there.

    Some of the most beautiful shots show the area around the fishing village of Tutuala, in the far east of East Timor.

    Kerrigan, an ABC radio host, said she and Sieper, who works in the Prime Minister's office, caught a fisherman's boat for $US5 to Jaco Island, across the clear green waters, and found themselves quite alone.

    "You are quite literally on a deserted island with some of the best snorkelling I have done in my life," she said.

    "You don't even need polaroid sunnies (to see the sea glow green) - that's just what it looks like."

    If tourists are seeking an off-the-track holiday, Kerrigan said this is as good a place than any.

    "There's nobody there. There's just fishermen, virtually no tourists. It is untouched.

    "It's such a poor country that even when we went to this eco-resort there was no water to drink.

    "We were drinking Timorese coffee for three days.

    "It just makes it part of the experience, and you have to be prepared for that when you travel in a country that has suffered as a result of occupation and war."

    The exhibition will raise money for the charity Love Life and health, which does education, sanitation and agriculture work in East Timor.

    Viva! Happy snaps of Timor Leste opens at CCAE Gallery, Harriet Place, Darwin, March 19.

    In Dili, the seaside capital of East Timor, the ripple effect of money generated from the country's vast oil and gas resources can easily be seen in the numerous construction sites that dot the city. But so far, the country's resource wealth hasn't benefited most ordinary East Timorese citizens.That isn't what followers of the tiny Southeast Asian country were hoping for.

    Developing East Timor

    Will Baxter for The Wall Street Journal

    Workers load bags of Vietnamese rice into waiting trucks at a government-run storage warehouse in Dili.

    Asia's youngest democracy – it gained independence from Indonesia in 2002 – East Timor has in recent years struggled to maintain stability and boost living standards for its 1.1 million people. About half the population lives below the poverty line, and many still lack access to quality health services.

    Almost all the country's government budget comes from a $5 billion petroleum fund, established with income generated from Bayu Undan, a project operated by ConocoPhillips in the Timor Sea. But many of the government-funded construction projects undertaken over the past year were cosmetic, including superficial upgrades like new government buildings. Development experts contend that far more cash – and more jobs – will be needed to ensure East Timor stays on the right path.

    There is hope matters will improve once an even larger oil and gas field, Greater Sunrise, is fully developed. With an estimated 240 million barrels of light oil and 5.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, it has the potential to dramatically transform the country's economy, which aside from energy relies mainly on agriculture, employing 90% of the population.

    But the project -- led by a consortium of companies headed by Australia's Woodside Petroleum Ltd -- continues to be delayed, most recently by a dispute regarding where the natural gas should be piped for processing. Oil and gas analysts say it could be years before the project is fully up and running. It's also possible some of its profits will be squandered on unecessary projects, analysts say, though East Timorese officials have promised to prevent that.

    Whatever happens, the revenue generated from East Timor's oil and gas -- and how that money is invested -- will to a large extent determine whether the country blossoms into a sustainable economy or remains Southeast Asia's poorest nation.

    —Will Baxtersource: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL / WORLD

    Dr Clinton Fernandes UNSW@ADFA

    The struggle for Justice is not a contest between Indonesians and East Timorese. It is a contest between those people in both countries who want justice and those who would allow impunity to continue.

    The principal obstacle to justice for East Timor isn’t legal but political. The law is on the side of justice. The main task for people around the world who support justice is to participate in converting the legal consensus into a political consensus. The East Timorese government has the legal right to call for justice but it believes it has to be “realistic” because it can’t afford to antagonise the Indonesian government. It believes it cannot carry a heavy diplomatic burden on its own. The task ahead is therefore to create the conditions in which a future East Timorese government can insist upon its right. This article outlines how these realistic conditions may be created.

    First, it is important to call things by their correct names. It’s important to say the words “International Tribunal”. There is an hierarchy of phrases:

    • Reconciliation (a term best avoided until perpetrators have been punished)
    • Honouring the Memory (an ambiguous phrase that is often used to get around meaningful justice)
    • Justice (a good term, although there is a better one)
    • International Tribunal (Correct!)

    Second, it is important to go beyond slogans and develop the tools of intellectual self-defence in order to answer the objections that will be raised. The most important objection that will be raised is that an international tribunal is unrealistic. There is a precedent to this kind of rhetoric. During the campaign for independence, the East Timorese and their supporters were constantly told that the Indonesian occupation was “irreversible”. As the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation has noted ‘the word “irreversible” recurred like a mantra in official statements for many years’ (CAVR 2005: 7.1; 67). Yet, ‘in the face of extraordinary challenges including significant disunity, resource constraints, isolation and overwhelming odds’, the campaign for independence ‘focused on internationally agreed principles, eschewed ideology and violence, was open to the contribution of all East Timorese, and made maximum use of the international system, media and civil society networks’ (CAVR 2005: 7.1; 123).

    Conventional wisdom about the improbability of an international tribunal is reminiscent of conventional wisdom about the improbability of East Timor’s independence. During World War II, US President Roosevelt had appointed an Advisory Committee on Post-War Foreign Policy. One of its functions was to examine the future of the European colonial empires. Referring to Portuguese Timor, President Roosevelt’s senior adviser Sumner Welles said that it might eventually achieve self-government, but ‘it would certainly take a thousand years’ (Louis 1978:237).

    It is important to point out that every international tribunal has had its prospects dismissed at first and then come into existence. For example, New York University’s Professor of Law, Theodor Meron, once wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine that a Yugoslavia Tribunal ‘will not be very effective’ (Meron 1993: 122). Less than a decade later, he was president of that Tribunal. When the Tribunal was established, it did not have any high-profile defendants in custody. It had no cooperation from the governments in the region. It received little assistance from the NATO-led peace support forces who controlled the situation on the ground. Its Prosecutor was desperate for a case to prosecute. Some years later, however, the Tribunal’s caseload was so heavy that the Prosecutor was trying to refer cases to national jurisdiction rather than have them dealt with at the Tribunal!

    The Security Council resolution establishing the tribunal for Rwanda had only one opposing vote – that of the government of Rwanda, which at one point even threatened to prevent tribunal officials from entering its territory. Nevertheless, it did what it was supposed to do, prosecuting many of the leaders of the 1994 genocide. Indeed some of its jurisprudence has made its way into the High Court of Australia, the Supreme Court of Canada, and courts in the US and Switzerland.

    Third, it is important to answer objections such as those raised by Dr Jose Ramos-Horta:

    ‘If we were to have an international tribunal, I say we start with whom? We start with Indonesia or start with United States that provided weapons to the Suharto regime. Or Australia. Or all of them at once. And how, and why only Indonesians and why not East Timorese themselves, who including from the resistance side who were involved in violence? Or we should only try the so-called enemy. Or try only the weak side.’ (Ramos-Horta 2009)

    One possible response would be that His Excellency is inaccurately combining two separate issues: “legality” and “justice”. Legality is a technical question of law and history. An international tribunal for East Timor would draw on the central treaty of modern international law, which is the Charter of the United Nations. It would alsodraw on any treaty which was unquestionably binding at the time of the alleged offences. It would apply customary international law, which is found not just in treaties but in the universally recognised customs and practices of states and the general principles of justice. It would then apply general principles of law derived from national laws of legal systems of the world. It would refer to previous judicial decisions of other international tribunals. In response to His Excellency, then, those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious crimes would be the defendants in an international tribunal.

    Justice is a much deeper concept. It refers to a longer-term project, which is the replacement of one form of social logic with another. The campaign for an international tribunal is part of this longer-term project because it would work in tandem with the other things that need to be done in order to create a better region – art, music, health, development, labour rights, technology in the human interest, and so on. Many of those working in these areas would not be opposed to an international tribunal. They are natural allies whose support must be enlisted. All they would be required to do is openly declare their support for a tribunal and be prepared to respond when the justice campaign comes calling.

    Fourth, and related to the question of defendants, is the matter of jurisdiction. For the purposes of an International Tribunal for East Timor, should the temporal jurisdiction be limited to 5th May 1999 onwards (the date of the New York Agreement), or 7th October 1975, when the Indonesian military seized the village of Batugade?

    In law, the existence of an international armed conflict does not require a declaration of war or even formal recognition by the parties that a state of armed conflict exists. The test is whether there are actual hostilities on a level that goes beyond a mere internal disturbance. International humanitarian law applies from the initiation of such armed conflicts and extends beyond the cessation of hostilities until a general conclusion of peace is reached. The Indonesian military’s seizure of the village of Batugade on 7th October 1975 triggered an international armed conflict to which the 1949 Geneva Conventions applied. Indonesia and Portugal were signatories to the Geneva Conventions for the duration of the conflict. Since Portugal was a party to the Geneva Conventions, the Geneva Conventions applied to any and every part of East Timor that was occupied by Indonesia. Territory is considered occupied when it comes under the actual authority of the invading army. From approximately December 1978 until September 1999, Indonesia was in sufficient actual control of the territory to be considered an occupying power. Although resistance continued, it was not sufficient to nullify the state of occupation. Thus, the temporal jurisdiction of a Tribunal should commence on a date no later than 7th October 1999.

    It is also important to note that an International Tribunal for East Timor will be concerned with individual criminal responsibility rather than institutional responsibility. As the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia stated in the Nikolic sentencing judgment:

    By holding individuals responsible for the crimes committed, it was hoped that a particular ethnic or religious group (or even political organisation) would not be held responsible for such crimes by members of other ethnic or religious groups, and that the guilt of the few would not be shifted to the innocent.’ (ICTY 2003, emphasis in the original).

    Fifth, it is important to take the legal victories that already exist and turn them into political victories. Legal victories mean a lot if you do something with them. As one scholar has pointed out, about ninety years ago, a group of campaigners took the Balfour declaration – just eighty words written by an obscure foreign minister – and turned it into a political force. Then they took what would have otherwise been just another UN General Assembly resolution (the Partition Resolution of 1947) and said, ‘No it’s not just another General Assembly resolution – it’s our birth certificate. And they ran with it.’ (Finkelstein 2008)

    In the case of justice for East Timor, it’s necessary to know the legal victories, and to make sure that everyone else knows them too. That’s what successful campaigns do. One legal victory is that Indonesia’s own National Commission on Human Rights conducted a detailed investigation in 1999. It concluded that key members of the Indonesian military must face justice (KPP-HAM 2000). We need use this investigation and its recommendations effectively by making sure that everyone else knows it too. Another is the UN’s International Commission of Inquiry, which called for an international tribunal and reported that its members ‘were confronted with testimonies surpassing their imagination’ (ICI 2000). We need to know this, and then make sure everyone else knows it too. Another is the report of the UN’s Special Rapporteurs, which called for criminal prosecutions of Indonesian officers responsible, ‘both directly and by virtue of command responsibility, however high the level of responsibility’ (UN 1999). The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor recommended ‘an International Tribunal pursuant to Chapter VII of the UN Charter’ (CAVR 2005). We need to make sure that everyone knows about these legal victories. When we publicize them, we participate in the process of developing a political victory.

    When opponents of justice say that the East Timorese government doesn’t argue for justice, justice campaigners can accurately point out that a neutral, independent East Timorese commission that relied on 8,000 narrative testimonies, a survey of East Timorese households, and a database of 319,000 graves is more reflective of what the East Timorese people really want than a diplomatically vulnerable East Timorese government, which cannot bear the burden of insisting on the implementation of this recommendation.

    Sixth, it is important to remember that during the Suharto era, most Indonesians were kept in the dark about what was happening. Reaching out to the Indonesian public is part of the process of achieving an international tribunal, as well as supporting Indonesia’s own democratic transition. This must be done in such a way that it is not seen as a contest between Indonesians and East Timorese. Rather, it must be seen as a contest between those people in both countries who want justice and those who would allow impunity to continue.

    In order to better publicise the voices of East Timorese and Indonesian groups, a range of media should be developed and disseminated. For example, 5 minute videos in Indonesian (and other languages) should be filmed. In these videos, East Timorese and Indonesian speakers should appeal to the viewers for justice based on law and morality. These videos could be placed on websites as well as screened in schools, universities, union meetings, mosques, temples, churches, synagogues, legal forums, etc. Most East Timorese campaigners for justice are already fluent in Indonesian. They will need to work on their English language skills, just as Jose Ramos-Horta did to good effect during the 24-year campaign.

    It is necessary rebuild alliances among the global solidarity movement. Brasil, for instance, may be a future candidate for permanent Membership of the UN Security Council. It is part of the Communidade dos Paises de Lingua Portuguesa (CPLP), and – if the right moves are made – may be a natural ally when the time comes to create an international tribunal. Ireland, which played a superb role in the liberation struggle, will also be helpful in the campaign. So will Portuguese civil society groups, which can exert pressure on the Portuguese government. If the past is any guide, the governments of Britain, the US, Australia and New Zealand won’t take the lead in organising a tribunal, but the task for justice campaigners will be to ensure they don’t get in the way of a tribunal when the time comes.

    Seventh, it is important to remember that despite various acquittals at Indonesia’s Ad Hoc Human Rights Court, those acquitted are still able to face a credible court. Those acquitted cannot avail themselves of the protection of the non bis in idem principle, which prevents a person from being judged twice for the same criminal conduct. Although the principle is widely recognized in international human rights law, there are in fact two exceptions – ‘shielding’ and ‘due process’. The former applies where the proceedings had the purpose of shielding the defendant from genuine criminal responsibility. The latter applies where the proceedings were not conducted independently or impartially in accordance with norms of due process.

    As Professor Diane Orentlicher’s independent report to the United Nations on combating impunity makes clear:

    The fact that an individual has previously been tried in connection with a serious crime under international law shall not prevent his or her prosecution with respect to the same conduct if the purpose of the previous proceedings was to shield the person concerned from criminal responsibility, or if those proceedings otherwise were not conducted independently or impartially in accordance with the norms of due process recognized by international law and were conducted in a manner that, in the circumstances, was inconsistent with an intent to bring the person concerned to justice (Orentlicher 2004).

    Both exceptions apply to the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court. In addition, an international norm has crystallized against amnesties for serious crimes. As the Statute of the International Criminal Court makes clear, ‘the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished’. The promise of international law is that the East Timorese government need not feel it has to confront its military on its own; by requiring prosecutions, international law ensures that the government has the support of the international community (Orentlicher 1991).

    Prosecutions would enable the Indonesian people to better respect the rule of law as part of Indonesia’s democratic transition. They would send a message that no one is able the law, thereby deepening Indonesia’s own democratic culture. This is why numerous Indonesian civil society groups have opposed amnesties and called for prosecutions for what their military did in East Timor. They recognize that most of the important pro-democracy initiatives that occurred in Indonesia during the 1990s occurred precisely because of the aftermath of events in East Timor such as the Santa Cruz massacre of 1991. Self-described ‘supporters’ of Indonesia who call for amnesties may be more accurately described as supporters of Indonesia’s moral and political decay.

    Finally, it must be remembered that the campaign for an international tribunal is important precisely because it is difficult. It is important because it will face resistance. But – just like climbing a mountain – campaigners shouldn’t expect to get to the top in one climb. They will need to establish a base camp and then a series of more advanced camps before the final push. For those who support justice for East Timor, education and organization remain the watchwords. And since there is there is no statute of limitations on crimes as serious as those perpetrated against the East Timorese, we have the time to do this correctly – to get it right.

    CAVR 2005, Final Report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, Dili, 2005.

    Finkelstein Norman 2008, ‘How can we help the Palestinian cause?’, Workshop at Birckbeck College, University of London, 23 January 2008.

    ICI 2000, Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor, A/54/726, S/2000/59.

    ICTY 2003, Sentencing Judgment, Dragan Nikolic IT-94-2-S, 18 December 2003.

    KPP-HAM 2000, Report of the Indonesian Commission of Investigation into Human Rights Violations.

    Louis William Roger 1978, Imperialism at Bay: The United States and the Decolonization of the British Empire, 1941-1945, Oxford University Press, New York.

    Meron Theodor 1993, ‘The Case for War Crimes Trials in Yugoslavia’, Foreign Affairs, Volume 72, Issue 3, pp122-135.

    Orentlicher Diane 1991, Settling Accounts: The Duty to Prosecute Violations of a Prior Regime (1991) 100 Yale Law Journal 2537.

    Orentlicher Diane 2004, Independent study on best practices, including recommendations, to assist states in strengthening their domestic capacity to combat all aspects of impunity, E/CN.4/2004/88.

    Ramos-Horta Jose 2009, Legatum Lecture, MIT, Cambridge.

    UN 1999, Situation of Human Rights in East Timor, A/54/660, 10 December 1999.