Subject: Catholic leader urges removal from W. Timor of pro-Indonesia militia

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan) September 16, 2000

Catholic leader urges removal from W. Timor of pro-Indonesia militia


Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, the spiritual leader of East Timor's Catholics, the largest religious group in the country, asked the Indonesian government on Friday to oust pro-Jakarta militias from West Timor so that the more than 100,000 remaining refugees can safely return to East Timor. To this end, he pointed out the necessity for the international community to put pressure on Indonesia.

"The Indonesian government officially promised twice this year to make efforts for the refugees' safe repatriation. But, there is no sign of (its) political will to do so. Militias backed by the Indonesian military have made it impossible for international aid groups to even support refugees in West Timor. The Indonesian government should take responsibility to remove militia," Belo said.

According to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 170,000 East Timorese have returned to East Timor since September 1999, and an estimated 125,000 remain in refugee camps in West Timor.

Belo is in Tokyo to speak at an international symposium on refugees and migrants on Friday and Saturday organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan.

Belo has acted as a mediator between East Timor and the international community, performing actions such as writing to the U.N. Secretary General asking the organization to support the people of East Timor's efforts to realize self-determination. In 1996, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Jose Ramos Horta. Since the referendum in August last year, when the destruction and violence by the militia and the Indonesian military escalated, he opened his home as a sanctuary for people fleeing the violence.

The National Council for Timorese Resistance, an umbrella group of political parties, and the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor, set the target of holding the first elections and realizing independence by the end of next year. "In my view, it is too early. We should wait for a few years," Belo said. He pointed out East Timor has much to accomplish in the process of building a nation, and still needs, for example, a Constitution, a central bank and social infrastructure such as schools, offices and clinics. "Who on earth could keep the security in areas around the border without the U.N. peacekeeping force?" he added.

Concerning the propriety of the creation of an international tribunal for the atrocities in East Timor, Belo said, "As long as the Indonesian government has no intention of punishing criminals itself under Indonesian law, the international tribunal is necessary to judge those who have committed crimes against humanity. And Indonesian domestic law is not enough to judge these people, including Indonesian soldiers."

Belo refrained from saying exactly who should be tried by the tribunal. However, he pointed out that the atrocities to be judged by the tribunal should be those committed from January to October last year.

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