Der Osttimor-Fall

Der Osttimor-Fall – Eine Standortbestimmung zum Selbstbestimmungsrecht der Völker

Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main/Berlin/Bern/New York/Paris/Wien, 1996, ISBN 3-631-30972-4


In 1975 Indonesia invaded the Portuguese colony of East Timor in the midst of an ongoing decolonization process. During this invasion and in the following years the Indonesian troops and their sympathizers committed atrocities on the local population which were widely ignored by the world opinion. While Western countries showed diplomatic restraint because of their economic and political ties with Indonesia also the bulk of the Third World countries remained silent as this case of neocolonialism did not fit well into traditional patterns of the political confrontation between North and South. On the other hand it was clear that East Timor was the decisive test case if the principle of self-determination should conserve an independet role after the completion of the decolonization process.
On 22 February 1991 Portugal filed proceedings against Australia concerning “certain activities of Australia”. Australia and Indonesia had signed in 1989 the “Treaty on the Zone of Cooperation in an Area between the Indonesian Province of East Timor and Northern Australia”. Portugal maintained that Australia had thereby “incurred international responsibility vis-à-vis both the people of East Timor and Portugal” as this treaty was directed at the exploitation of the natural ressources pertaining to the people of East Timor. The proceedings involved the discussion of many highly interesting dogmatic questions of international law (third-party responsibility, right to self-determination, jurisdiction of the ICJ, erga-omnes-principle etc).
While the judgment of the ICJ of 1995 was generally criticized in literature a more cautious approach is taken in this book. It was maintained that the ICJ has made by this judgment an important contribution to the theory of self-determination and that the World Community including Indonesia would finally have to recognize this entitlement of the people of East Timor. As the events of the last years have shown this forecast has proven correct.