Subject: UNHCR yet to return to W.Timor despite progress

Also: UNHCR raps Indonesia for failure to punish killers of staff

UNHCR yet to return to W.Timor despite progress

JAKARTA, Sept 17 (Reuters) - The United Nations' refugee agency said on Monday it would not return to Indonesia's West Timor soon despite encouraging signs over the return of East Timorese refugees to their homeland.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which pulled out of West Timor last year after three of its workers were butchered by pro-Jakarta militiamen, said it would not return until Jakarta signed a security agreement.

"We can't resume a regular presence without that MOU (Memorandum of Understanding)... and (there's) also a need for some protection monitoring," Soren Jessen-Petersen, assistant for the UNHCR, told reporters in Jakarta after visiting West Timor.

"It is realistic to foresee that the MOU will not be signed or concluded in the immediate future," Jessen-Petersen said.

During his trip to West Timor, Soren also visited the border town of Atambua where the three UNHCR workers were killed.

He said 2,500 East Timorese refugees had returned to U.N.-administered East Timor in the first week of September after the peaceful August 30 ballot for the territory's first democratically elected assembly.

"That is the highest number of returnees to East Timor since June 2000, and this is very encouraging news," Jessen-Petersen said, adding there were still 80,000 East Timorese refugees in West Timor.

More than 200,000 refugees have returned to East Timor and Soren said another 40,000 were expected to return to their homeland by the end of this year.

Pro-Jakarta militias, helped by Indonesian troops, herded more than 300,000 East Timorese across the border into West Timor after East Timor voted in 1999 to end Indonesia's military occupation.

UNHCR raps Indonesia for failure to punish killers of staff

JAKARTA, Sept 17 (AFP) - A senior UN refugee official rapped Indonesian authorities Monday for failing to properly punish the "cold-blooded" killers of three of its staff.

But Soren Jessen-Petersen, Assistant United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said Jakarta, in a "fundamental policy change," now clearly wants the return of an estimated 80,000 East Timorese refugees from Indonesian West Timor.

Jessen-Petersen, speaking at the end of an eight-day visit to Jakarta and West and East Timor, said he was "very disturbed and distressed" that the high court had confirmed "ridiculously low sentences" on two men convicted in connection with the murders.

In September 2000 a mob of frenzied East Timorese militiamen stoned, stabbed and beat to death the three unarmed UNHCR workers -- an American, a Croatian and an Ethiopian -- in the border town of Atambua in Indonesian West Timor. Their bodies were set on fire.

A Jakarta court in May found six men not guilty of their murder and instead convicted them of inciting mob violence. It sentenced them to jail terms of between 10 and 20 months.

Jessen-Petersen told a press conference he raised the case of "cold-blooded murder" with the attorney-general's office.

"I was very disturbed by what I heard. The concerted impression we got was there was very little he could do (about the confirmation of sentence).

"We don't agree with that. We believe it is the responsibility of the Indonesian authorities to take this all the way, to see that justice is done," Jessen-Petersen said.

"The impression we got from that meeting is that is not happening... among many, many very encouraging meetings with the Indonesian authorities, there was (that) one disturbing meeting."

sm/nj AFP


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