Subject: ffitz - IO: ICRC urges govt to disarm East Timor civilian militia
Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 09:03:05 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Indonesian Observer

18th February 1999 Nation ICRC urges govt to disarm East Timor civilian militia

JAKARTA (IO) – The Indonesian government and the Armed Forces (ABRI) has been urged by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to disarm the ABRI-trained civilian militia in East Timor (RATIH) who are allegedly armed with loaded weapons.

"The situation could broaden the conflict with further bloodshed and could jeopardize negotiation efforts," said ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga, in Jakarta yesterday.

"I talked to Mr. Alatas and discussed a lot about the civilian militia in East Timor. Due to our duty to mobilize humanitarianism, I think it would be very dangerous if we let this situation continue. It will only sacrifice the innocent people there," Sommaruga said.

According to Sommaruga, Foreign Affairs Minister Alatas explained at the meeting that RATIH were used to back up ABRI which has the government’s authorization to maintain security in East Timor.

The government until now still denies that RATIH personnel are armed with loaded weapons. Alatas assured that reports about casualties caused by them are still under investigation.

"From the report which was sent to us, we know many sad stories because of the existence of this paramilitary group. The paramilitary are hard to control because they don’t have such a neat command chain," Sommaruga said.

The NGO official who failed to travel to Dili because of a delayed flight, later called on all sides who hold power in East Timor to calm down and make every effort to support the peaceful situation.

Sommaruga is scheduled to meet ABRI Chief General Wiranto, Minister of Justice Muladi and President Habibie in Jakarta, next Friday.

Ainaro tragedy

A group of 20 East Timorese, members of the East Timorese Students Association (IMPETTU), filed a complaint with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) yesterday. They were complaining about the civilian militia’s actions since they were established in 1991.

They urged Komnas HAM to investigate the fact that RATIH really were armed with guns loaded with live ammunition. "The latest incident was in Ainaro regency. They shot two pro referendum youths to death and wounded five others," asserted the group’s spokesman, Hermenegildo Guiterrez.

The incident first began in early December last year when RATIH, backed up by ABRI personnel, raided a pro referendum youth building. On December 21 the pro referendum youths exacted revenge via a counter-attack.

The following day, the pro referendum youths were invited by the region’s high ranking military officer and Chairman of House of Representatives (DPRD I) Ainaro regency. The pro referendum group were then pressured into becoming members of RATIH but they refused.

The next morning, a crowd of pro referendum youth arrived at RATIH headquarters, intending to defuse the previous day’s events. Upon arrival, however, RATIH opened fire.

"I was there and saw with my own eyes. RATIH with automatic guns shot my friends. While they did that, I saw many uniformed soldiers were there too," said IMPETTU member, Almeria, a student and eyewitness to the atrocity.

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