Subject: Age: Murder inquiries swamp UN force

The Age Thursday 23 August 2001

Murder inquiries swamp UN force


The UN Serious Crimes Unit, charged with investigating human rights violations in East Timor in 1999, says it is investigating 674 documented murders but has insufficient resources to do the job.

The Deputy-General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes, Jean-Louis Gilissen, said yesterday that 31 investigators were working on solving 10 priority cases.

Six of the 10 cases had been completed and handed over to the prosecutor-general's office as crimes against humanity, he said.

Mr Gilissen admitted that staff morale had been low and that several investigators had resigned from the unit over an unpopular decision to choose 10 priority cases based on 17 major incidents.

"I do not pretend it is a good choice. Of course some people disagree," he said. But he said a shortage of specialists and resources meant the serious crimes unit had to primarily focus on 10 investigations.

They include the Liquica church massacre, the killings at the Dili home of Manuel Carrascalao, and the Cailaco killings, all in April, 1999, as well as the September, 1999, Maliana police station massacre.

Also being investigated were attacks on the Dili diocese and the home of Bishop Carlos Belo, the massacre at Passabe in the Oecussi enclave, the Suai Cathedral massacre, the Los Palos murders of church workers and clergy, the mass deportation of civilians, cases of sexual assault and the murder of UN staff.

Mr Gilissen said the unit's work was being badly hampered by a lack of resources, including a chronic shortage of motor vehicles.

"I do not even have a car to go into the field and I am the deputy prosecutor-general. If I want to go into the field, I am obliged to take the place of an investigator," he said.

Mr Gilissen said the quality of the investigating staff varied considerably due to a high turnover resulting from short-term employment contracts for international investigators.

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