Subject: Women refugees in W Timor being raped and abused, UN envoy says

Women refugees in West Timor being raped and abused, UN envoy says

DILI, East Timor, Nov 6 (AFP) - Women refugees from East Timor are being raped and abused in camps in Indonesian West Timor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women said Saturday.

"We have been receiving cases of rape, sexual slavery in the camps, we are very concerned about what is happening in West Timor," Radhika Coomaraswamy told AFP on arriving at Dili's Comoro international airport.

She said rape was being used as a political weapon against East Timor women living in refugee camps in West Timor, where more than 200,000 people are still holed up after fleeing or being forced to leave the former Portuguese colony following militia violence there in September.

Many of the refugees have not returned home because of continuing militia intimidation.

Coomaraswamy, from Sri Lanka, is part of a three-person team of the UN Rapporteur which also includes Pakistani Asma Jahangir who arrived earlier this week to investigate summary executions and Nigel Rodley of Britain, who will look into allegations of torture when he arrives on Monday.

Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said Monday that about 21 militia groups in West Timor had committed "systematic and organized human rights violations," citing forced disappearances, arbitrary detention and violence against women.

"We must raise awareness of this as a war crime and that people who do these kind of things if a tribunal is set up, they will be tried for such activities," Coomaraswamy said.

To date, the International Force for East Timor (Interfet) and civilian forensic experts have recovered 108 remains of victims who were violently killed in East Timor and this is widely considered as being the tip of the iceberg.

Mass graves are still being uncovered and returning refugees are recounting stories of barbaric torture and death from every area of the territory.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Welch, commanding officer of Australian troops at the border with West Timor, said the area witnessed rape, murder and systematic destruction suggesting Indonesian military complicity.

"It is that level of organization. Bodies were taken from here to the sea and dumped and wheighted. It was very systematic and very organized," he said on Friday.

East Timorese Nobel peace laureate, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Felipe Belo, has pointed the finger at Indonesian generals, including former defence minister and military commander General Wiranto, who he has insisted should face an international tribunal.

Coomaraswamy also expressed her frustration over the lack of access to camps in West Timor of relief agencies and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Interfet commander Major General Peter Cosgrove has said the milita control many of the camps in West Timor as well as the border areas, while the Indonesian military simply stands by.

The UNHCR and other relief groups, as well as journalists, have reported terrified refugees telling them of disappearances, especially of young East Timorese men from the camps and unconfirmed reports of killings by the militias of those wanting to return.

The rapporteurs will present their findings to the UN commission of inquiry of crimes against humanity and war crimes in East Timor.

Led by Costa Rican jurist Sonia Picardo, the commission will arrive in East Timor later this month and report its recommendation to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on whether to set up an international war crimes tribunal.

It will investigate allegations by refugees and claims that the Indonesian army organized the militias, which have waged a campaign of violence and mass destruction in the territory following the August 30 independence vote.

Sydney Jones, director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch Asia, said she was concerned that representatives from Indonesia's Human rights commission were demanding equal access to investigate evidence, which would deter many witnesses from coming forward for fear of retaliation.

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