Subject: AGE: Timor Police Take Control

The Age (Melbourne)

October 20, 2003 Monday

Timor Police Take Control

BYLINE: Jill Jolliffe

Batugade -- East Timorese self-sufficiency came a step closer at the weekend as United Nations peacekeepers handed control of the Indonesian border area to local police.

The UN flag was lowered for the last time as members of the East Timor Border Patrol Unit paraded with Australian peacekeepers, who have controlled the northern border zone since 1999. The peacekeepers are scheduled for pull-out in May 2004.

The UN force commander, Lieutenant-General Khairuddin bin Mat Yusof, reassured the Timorese officers that they would have continued back-up.

Timor's Deputy Interior Minister, Alcino Barros, reinforced the message, saying that "the peacekeepers will step back, and the Timorese national police will step forward".

UN forces in East Timor will be halved by November, leaving about 1750 blue berets in the country.

Independent observers are concerned that local police, including the border force, are ill-prepared. Despite intensive training by the UN since 2000, complaints of arrests without warrant and beatings in custody are regularly dealt with by the UN Human Rights Office in Dili.

This year police in Maliana were accused of beating an Indonesian captured for crimes allegedly committed with militia forces in 1999.

An internal UN inquiry recommended that Aquino Borges, one of the accused, should face charges. The recommendation was ignored by national and UN police, and the officer is now at the centre of a new investigation over the fatal shooting last month of a wanted militiaman, Francisco Viegas Bili Atu.


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