Subject: AAP: Aust signs pact on action against attackers of UN staff

Fed: Aust signs pact on action against attackers of UN staff

CANBERRA, Jan 3 AAP - East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres could be prosecuted over the killing of three United Nations workers if he ever came to Australia, under a new convention signed today.

Guterres has gone on trial in Jakarta for inciting violence against other UN staff investigating the killings in Atambua in West Timor.

He has not been charged in relation to the deaths.

Australia today signed a UN convention to protect the international body's workers.

It joins a network of 49 countries committed to prosecuting and punishing those who attack UN workers and to assisting legal action taken by other countries to stamp out this crime.

Attorney-General Daryl Williams said Australia became a party to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel on the day the Criminal Code Amendment (United Nations and Associated Personnel) Act 2000 came into effect.

"The brutal murder of three UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) personnel in West Timor last year tragically highlights the special vulnerability of United Nations personnel and those who assist them in implementing United Nations programs," he said in a statement.

"We in our turn must do everything in our power to ensure the safety from malicious attack of United Nations staff.

"Australia's large and ongoing contribution to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) has brought the importance of the UN's work - and the dangers faced by UN workers - close to home for all Australians."

The act adds new offences to the Commonwealth's Criminal Code, including murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, unlawful detention, sexual assault and conduct causing serious harm or harm to UN workers, including military, police and civilian personnel plus humanitarian workers deployed under a UN agreement.

"The new offences will apply to persons attacking Australian UN workers anywhere in the world, thereby strengthening our capacity to extradite offenders who try to take refuge in the territory of a State party to the convention," Mr Williams said.

"The legislation also enables Australian authorities to prosecute a person accused of attacking a non-Australian UN worker if the person later enters Australia."

It does not apply to attacks against armed forces engaged in combat operations as part of a UN-authorised operation and to which the laws of armed conflict apply.

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