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Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2007, 06:42 GMT
E Timor truth commission begins
By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Jakarta

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao, left, with Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, at the opening of the truth commission in Bali in August 2005
The truth commission offices opened in Bali in August 2005
A commission set up by Indonesia and East Timor to promote reconciliation has begun its first hearing on Bali.

The Commission of Truth and Friendship was set up to investigate the violence which surrounded East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999.

Its 10 members include legal and human rights experts, academics and religious leaders from both countries.

Indonesia's former foreign minister, Ali Alatas, is the first person to appear in front of the panel.

He will be joined over the next couple of days by six other witnesses including several victims of the violence and a former member of a militia group.

EAST TIMOR
Map of East Timor
1975: Indonesia invades after colonial power Portugal withdraws
Indonesia's often brutal rule opposed by Fretilin fighters
1999: More than 1,000 people killed over independence referendum
2002: East Timor becomes independent nation

The hearing is the first of five planned over the next few months to investigate the actions of the Indonesian military as they withdrew from the territory, as well as local militia groups.

But many observers say the commission lacks the power to deliver justice or bring about true reconciliation.

Its findings will be separate from any judicial process, though it can recommend amnesties for those who appear before it.

Human rights groups say the hearings will simply perpetuate a culture of impunity for the serious crimes committed during East Timor's struggle for independence.

The violence left more than 1,300 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.




SEE ALSO
E Timor truth commission formed
01 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Jakarta, Timor to discuss 'abuse'
13 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia and E Timor heal wounds
09 Apr 05 |  Asia-Pacific
East Timor's unfinished business
05 Nov 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: East Timor
17 Oct 06 |  Country profiles



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