Subject: Investigators finish East Timor atrocities probe

The Australian 12 January 2000

Investigators finish East Timor atrocities probe

From AP

UNITED Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has begun reviewing a report by UN human rights investigators on atrocities committed in East Timor and plans to make recommendations for further action, a spokesman said.

Already, three UN experts have recommended the Security Council establish an international war crimes tribunal for East Timor unless Indonesia acts quickly to investigate the involvement of its military in last year's violence.

The experts warned last month that unless there is justice, East Timorese who survived a wave of looting, burning and killing by pro-Indonesian militias after an overwhelming vote for independence on August 30 might resort to summary justice.

The separate human rights investigation was authorised by the Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights in September. The organisation called on the secretary-general to establish an international commission of inquiry to gather information on possible human rights violations in East Timor.

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said today that UN officials were reviewing the commission's report, which was to be released later to UN member states, and that the UN chief would make further recommendations.

The report was received at UN headquarters on the same day UN investigators opened two mass graves in East Timor thought to contain the remains of 18 East Timorese who were tortured and executed by Indonesian-sponsored militiamen.

The militias terrorised East Timor after the independence referendum, killing an untold number and sending tens of thousands of people to neighbouring West Timor. Militia members have continued to intimidate the refugees, using scare tactics to prevent them from returning to East Timor, UN officials say.

Eckhard, however, said today that the militias' power in West Timor's refugee camps appeared to be weakening, with large numbers of refugees leaving camps and registering with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to return home.

Only weeks ago, UNHCR was reporting that only a trickle of refugees were willing to go back.

But over the weekend, 462 people returned from camps in West Timor's provincial capital of Kupang by ship, and a similar number was expected to arrive in Dili tomorrow, Eckhard said.

Today, some 600 refugees massed at Kupang's transit centre to board the next ship to Dili, he said.

Eckhard said refugees were saying UNHCR's information campaign about the calm situation in East Timor had encouraged them to return home.


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