The call for a war crimes tribunal to probe human rights violations against the people of East Timor by Indonesia has been made by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, and this call deserves the support of all peoples, governments and nations which want to see human rights occupy a mainstream position in national and international policies in keeping with the various international human rights declarations.
The position taken by Indonesia at the United Nations Security Council yesterday rejecting the immediate deployment of an international peacekeeping force in East Timor, while the Indonesian military authorities have allowed unchecked the massacre of East Timorese - with death estimates ranging from 600 to 7,000 since the August 30 independence vote - and the destruction of Dili, the East Timor capital, calls for urgent international action to prevent East Timor from becoming the tragedy of the century.
The assurance given by the Indonesian Ambassdor to the United Nations, Makarim Wibisono to the Security Council yesterday that Indonesia would "honour the result" of a ballot organised by the United Nations on August 30 in which East Timorese voted 78.5 percent in favour of independence, was most cynical and totally meaningless when there is a reign of terror resulting in a second ethnic cleansing and genocide in 24 years and forcing one third of the East Timorese population to become refugees.
The United Nations, the Western nations and the international community have betrayed the people of East Timor, who had displayed extraordinary courage and heroism in making their way to the ballot boxes, braving brutal intimidation and terror, to vote overwhelmingly for independence.
The carnage and rampage by the Indonesian paramilitary agents were predictable and preventable but the United Nations Security Council had done nothing so far to protect lives and property, except for sending a five-man delegation to Indonesia and Dili.
East Timor’s spiritual leader Bishop Carlos Belo has urged Indonesia to hand over "war criminals" responsible for killings in East Timor to international courts, especially those who have committed crimes against humanity.
Malaysia and the other ASEAN nations should endorse and take up the call for an international war crimes tribunal to bring to justice all those who have perpetrated crimes against humanity, namely ethnic cleansing and genocide, as in the case of Bosnia and Kosovo.
Malaysia will lose the moral authority to speak up in international forums against ethnic cleansing and genocide if we keep quiet and our actions are interpreted as condoning crimes against humanity committed in East Timor by Indonesia’s paramilitary agents in the past fortnight.