|Subject: IPS: AI - Warnings of Election Violence
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 08:45:46 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
RIGHTS-EAST TIMOR: Warnings of Election Violence By Farhan Haq
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 (IPS) - The current level of violence by paramilitary groups in East Timor was part of a ''well-organised campaign'' to prevent Timorese from voting for independence, according to a report released Monday by Amnesty International.
The report, 'East Timor: Seize the Moment,' accused the Indonesian government and armed forces of involvement in efforts to harass, threaten and even kill those Timorese who support independence in the run-up to the UN-supervised vote on Aug.8.
Such violations, if they persist, ''can have a severe impact on the (electoral) process and on the ability of individuals to exercise their basic rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,'' Amnesty warned.
An Amnesty team, which visited East Timor from May 8-27, cited evidence that at least 34 Timorese had been murdered by security or paramilitary forces since Indonesia agreed to the self- determination vote in a UN-brokered agreement with Portugal on May 5.
Another 280 Timorese have been illegally detained, dozens were tortured, and at least two people had ''disappeared,'' the report said. ''These violations are part of a more general, well- organised campaign to threaten and intimidate the East Timorese population into supporting autonomy.''
The report declared there was ''compelling evidence of direct involvement by government authorities, the Indonesian National Army...and the Indonesian police'' in that effort.
''If you're East Timorese, you would have to be pretty courageous, if not mad, to go to the registration office'' to vote in August, said Florence Martin, Amnesty's UN representative, a member of the team sent to East Timor.
In light of the continuing violence and harrassment, some UN officials believe the vote must be delayed by several weeks, perhaps until Aug. 29. But even at a later date, the United Nations faces ''an impossible mission'' in establishing conditions for a free and fair vote, Martin said.
For one thing, she said, many militias clearly were intimidating voters to opt for autonomy under Indonesian rule, rather than independence, during the August ballot.
(Indonesia has occupied East Timor since 1975, and this year offered a plan that would give the island state self-government outside of military, foreign or monetary matters.)
Martin said that, during her time in East Timor, she saw banners near UN offices that suggested that the United Nations favoured the autonomy option - although Secretary-General Kofi
Annan has made clear that the world body is neutral on the vote's outcome.
Similarly, Martin alleged that Timorese civil servants were under pressure - under threat of losing their jobs - to sign letters of support for the autonomy option.
The Amnesty report cited one militia leader, Eurico Guterres - who was named last week to head a civil defense unit in Dili, East Timor's capital - as threatening civil servants at an April rally.
''Today, we are going to each government office; we will rid them of civil servants who are against Indonesia,'' the report quoted Guterres as saying.
The worst problem, however, remained the random killings.
''The overwhelming majority of victims of the violations have been independence activists and supporters or people who have been labelled pro-independence because of their family ties, their work or because of their refusal publicly to support autonomy and continued integration with Indonesia,'' the report said.
Nevertheless, the United Nations was pushing ahead with plans for the ballot on Aug. 8. Some 270 UN police were to be deployed in East Timor by the end of June but, under the terms of the Indonesia-Portugal agreement, Jakarta had sole authority to maintain security for the vote.