Subject: UNICEF chief deplores barbaric slaughter in E Timor
Date: Wed, 8 Sep 1999 06:46:22 EDT
From: Joyo@aol.com

Excerpt: 'The violence in East Timor exemplifies the total disregard for all humanitarian standards which increasingly characterise conflicts around the globe,'' UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said Tuesday.

She pointed out that in a few short months, ''we have moved from the horror of amputation in Sierra Leone to the unbelievable practice of decapitation in East Timor.''

UNICEF Seeks Protection for Children in East Timor

By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 8 (IPS) - The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), deploring the continuing violence in East Timor, has condemned the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in the territory and unprovoked attacks against women and children.

'The violence in East Timor exemplifies the total disregard for all humanitarian standards which increasingly characterise conflicts around the globe,'' UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said Tuesday.

She pointed out that in a few short months, ''we have moved from the horror of amputation in Sierra Leone to the unbelievable practice of decapitation in East Timor.''

''UNICEF condemns in the strongest terms such an assault on the norms of decency and respect for human rights,'' she said.

Bellamy said it had become clear that the nature of conflict at the end of the 20th century was far worse than it was at the beginning. ''It is a hundred years' slide into barbarity,'' she declared.

The violence in East Timor began immediately following last week's elections when 78.5 percent of voters opted for an independent state over integration with Indonesia which has administered the territory since invading it in 1975.

Bellamy said the indiscriminate targeting of civilian populations, in particular children and women, was ''an outrageous response to the peoples' free choice for independence.''

She said that UNICEF was extremely concerned about the lack of ''safe havens'' for thousands of children and women who have been forced to flee internationally-protected places, including churches, schools, hospitals and humanitarian premises.

The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, whose workers were also under attack, has declared there were no ''safe places'' in East Timor.

Sadaka Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that relief agencies in East Timor were not only under attack but their offices were also being looted of humanitarian supplies.

UNICEF said it was ''especially alarmed'' about the lack of access to food, water, sanitation facilities and any kind of protection for civilians who have fled to the mountains or have been forced into other parts of the territory, as well as countless others seeking shelter in the besieged UN compound.

With the United Nations also under attack, most relief agencies were expected to pull out of East Timor if the security situation did not improve within the next 48 hours.

Bellamy said that the current situation will be particularly aggravated by the fact that most UN humanitarian personnel, including UNICEF staff, have been forced to evacuate from the territory.

''Until the current violence is curtailed and security conditions restored, safe and unimpeded access to these endangered populations will be extremely difficult and their lives will be seriously at risk,'' she added.

Bellamy also warned that those responsible for the violence against civilians in East Timor as well as against humanitarian personnel and premises will one day face justice under international law.

The targeting of UN and humanitarian personnel, she said, is a direct breach of international law.

''The necessity of fighting impunity for such serious crimes highlights the need for mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) to become fully operational,'' she added.

UN Spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters Tuesday that there had been several inquiries about the need to bring to justice those who were responsible for attacking and killing civilians.

Since the ICC was still in its formative stages, such crimes could be brought before ad hoc war crimes tribunals such as the ones currently investigating atrocities in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, he said.

Bellamy appealed to the Indonesian authorities to adopt ''urgent measures'' to effectively protect and care for children and women and to ensure full respect for humanitarian law and for provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of which Indonesia is a signatory.

''Humanitarian and UN personnel, including local staff, still present in the territory must be similarly protected,'' she strssed. (END/IPS/td/mk/99)

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