Subject: Human rights abuses emerge in East Timor vacuum: Amnesty

Agence France Presse May 30, 2001

Human rights abuses emerge in East Timor vacuum: Amnesty

LONDON, Human rights abuses emerged in East Timor last year amid delays in rebuilding the territory after the bloody destruction carried out by Indonesian forces, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

"A lack of resources, facilities and trained police and judicial officials contributed to the appearance of new human rights problems" in East Timor, the London-based rights body said in its annual report.

"In particular, the partial law and order vacuum led to the emergence of vigilante groups which were in some cases associated with political parties," Amnesty said.

"There were cases of unauthorised detentions, beatings and intimidation of individuals suspected of belonging to pro- Indonesia militias.

"Relatives of militia members were also harassed and intimidated and, in at least one case, tortured."

East Timor has been governed by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) since the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly in 1999 for independence from Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

After the ballot, pro-Indonesian militiamen went on a rampage of murder and destruction in which at least 2,000 people were killed, towns and infrastructure razed and more than 250,000 people, about a quarter of the population, forced across the border into Indonesian-ruled West Timor.

About 174,000 refugees returned last year, with some 100,000 still in West Timor, Amnesty said.

"Returning refugees and members of minority groups such as Muslim or ethnic Chinese were at particular risk (of harassment)," it said.

"Human rights defenders who publicly criticized the activities of vigilante groups were threatened and harassed," it added.

UNTAET had introduced a legal and institutional framework for prosecuting serious crime. However, the lack of capacity in the judicial system gave rise to the risk of infringement of the right to a fair trial.

"In some cases detainees did not have access to public defenders for weeks after their arrest," the report said.

A Special Crime Unit had been established to investigate the hundreds of extrajudicial executions and massive human rights violations in 1999 by pro-Indonesian militia and the Indonesian security forces, Amnesty said.

"However, lack of support and resources contributed to the slow pace of investigations," and only five cases were investigated by the unit.

By the end of the year, no-one had been brought to justice for crimes committed during 1999.

"Some of those charged had been detained for over a year without trial, raising concerns about prolonged periods of pre-trial detention," Amnesty said.

"The legacy of the massive human rights violations and widespread destruction of infrastructure and property by the Indonesia security forces and pro- Indonesia's militia in September 1999 continued to impact heavily on East Timor," it added.

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