Subject: UN rights chief calls for intl probe into East Timor massacres
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 11:08:37 -0400

UN rights chief calls for international probe into East Timor massacres

GENEVA, Sept 23 (AFP) - UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson called Thursday for an international inquiry into the massacre of thousands of civilians in East Timor, saying Indonesian security forces were involved in the rampage.

"The available information shows clearly that gross human rights violations were committed in East Timor affecting its entire population and territory," Robinson said in an address to a special session of the UN Human Rights Commission here.

"Extreme violence was initiated by different militia groups, in which elements of the security forces were also involved," Robinson said.

Addressing the 53 member-states of the Commission, Robinson cited eight violations of international human rights conventions: wanton killings, forcible expulsions, violence against women, enforced and involuntary disappearances, displacing persons, property looted and burned, breakdown of law and order and the expulsion of media, which were prevented from continuing their work and have also been targets of violence.

Journalist Sander Thoenes, 30, a correspondent for London's Financial Times, was murdered Tuesday in Dili, apparently shot by men wearing Indonesian military uniforms.

The session of the UN Commission on Human Rights was convened at the request of former colonial power Portugal, to decide whether to establish the inquiry to help bring those responsible for the violence to justice.

Robinson underscored the need to win cooperation from the Indonesian government "to ensure effective protection of human rights to all the people of East Timor."

Nobel Peace Prize winner and East-Timorese pro-independence leader Jose Ramos Horta attended the opening session, which marks only the fourth time in a decade that the Commission held a special meeting on the situation in East Timor.

The Commission was to review Robinson's report, compiled after her September 10-13 visits to Jakarta and Australia, before moving to a resolution on Friday.

The panel could also issue recommendations, send a mission, name a special envoy and mandate a group of experts.

Portugal asked Robinson to hold the emergency session on East Timor soon after the militias unleashed terror in the former Portuguese colony, which Indonesia invaded in 1975 and unilaterally annexed in 1976.

In its formal request to Robinson, Portugal said the persecution of the East Timorese "could only be defined as ethnic cleansing."

Violence engulfed East Timor after an August 30 vote in which an overwhelming majority of residents backed independence from Jakarta.

After the United Nations announced the results of the UN-held ballot on September 4, pro-Jakarta militias went on a rampage -- murdering, pillaging, deporting residents and driving out aid organizations.

The militias are believed to have massacred thousands of Timorese civilians -- with the support of Indonesian troops, by many accounts.

A week ago, the United Nations authorized the deployment of an international task force in the territory, known as Interfet. Peacekeepers continued to arrive in the territory Thursday.

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