Subject: UN Lowers West Timor Danger Index

Associated Press April 5, 2005

U.N. Lowers Danger Index for Indonesia's West Timor Province

The United Nations has lowered the danger index for Indonesia's West Timor, allowing its agencies to resume normal activities in the province where three of its workers were killed by pro-government militiamen in 2000, an official said Tuesday.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan reduced West Timor's danger status in January from Phase IV, on a par with Iraq, to Phase III, which allows normal programs to operate but bars nonessential U.N. staff or dependents from the area, the U.N. official said.

Last June, the United Nations87 lowered the Indonesian province's designation from Phase V to Phase IV, which allows only emergency humanitarian operations.

The province, which borders East Timor, has long been home to pro-Jakarta militiamen and Indonesian soldiers who fled from East Timor after its independence in 1999.

On Sept. 6, 2000, militiamen linked to the Indonesian military attacked the office of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees in West TImor's Atambua town, killing three staffers, an American, a Croat, and an Ethiopian.

It prompted the Phase V designation, which continued for years despite complaints from local officials that it hurt the province's weak economy.

"Phase V meant there was no tourism, no development work and little investment," the U.N. official said on condition of anonymity. "A lot of the embassies also issued travel warnings."

Meanwhile in East Timor, two militiamen were convicted Tuesday of killing a pro-independence supporter in September 1999 and sentenced to seven years in jail.

So far, 76 former Indonesian soldiers and militiamen have been convicted of crimes related to violence before and after East Timor voted for independence in 1999, when 1,500 people were killed and many cities were left in ruins.

A court in Dili convicted former militiamen Domingos Amati and Francisco Matos of hacking to death pro-independence supporter Antonio Pinto Soares. He was killed on a remote beach on Sept. 5, 1999 _ days after voters overwhelmingly endorsed an independence referendum.

Dili prosecutors have indicted more than 375 Indonesian military and Timorese militia members for human rights violations in the East Timor violence. Most of the suspects are believed to be in Indonesia _ including failed Indonesian presidential candidate Gen. Wiranto, who was the country's military chief in 1999.

Indonesia is under no obligation to hand over the suspects, and has said it will not respond to earlier indictments. East Timor has not aggressively pushed to have the defendants turned over, saying good relations with its large neighbor are more important.

Courts were also set up in Indonesia to prosecute top Indonesians responsible for the violence, but rights groups have widely criticized the trials as failures. All 17 police and military officers charged have been acquitted, while an ethnic East Timorese militia leader is free pending an appeal.


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