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Jesuit Refugee Service warns on Timorese rough justice

Illegal peoples' courts were likely to dish out rough justice in post-independence East Timor, unless the legal system is built into a more effective instrument of justice, according to a Jesuit aid worker.

Fr Edi Mulyono, of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), said the much-vaunted repatriation of refugees from West Timor has not yet properly fulfilled its key aim of reconciliation. He said in some areas of East Timor, returning refugees who opposed independence now outnumbered those who stayed behind after the 1999 referendum.

Fr Mulyono said reconciliation would be hard to achieve in the long term unless some form of justice was seen to be done, although he hoped those convicted would get reduced sentences as a goodwill gesture.

It is also vital that the new Truth and Reconciliation Commission gets down to work, by August at the very latest.
Many of the refugees have ties to the militia or the Indonesian military.

Fear is evident and widespread on both sides of the border in the run-up to independence, Fr Mulyono said. This was the main factor holding up people from returning.

JRS has been involved with aid work in West Timor's refugee camps. It was instrumental in setting up some of the local-level meetings which led to repatriation of several people in recent months. Former guerilla chief Xanana Gusmao, now East Timor's president-elect, has been personally involved in those meetings.

Mr Gusmao has repeatedly stressed the need for forgiveness if East Timor is to avoid repeating the violence of its past. He has called for amnesties, but after some form of justice.

JRS Australia
JRS International

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10 May 2002