Subject: U.S. sees political progress in Indonesia

U.S. sees political progress in Indonesia

WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday the political situation in Indonesia improved in 1999 but it listed a slew of human rights violations in East Timor which was engulfed in violence after it voted for independence.

After President Abdurrahman Wahid took over the government from B.J. Habibie in October 1999, the Indonesian political system was ``revamped to provide for separation of powers,'' the State Department's annual report on human rights said.

``The Habibie government committed serious human rights abuses,'' the report said. ``While there was significant progress in institutionalizing democracy during the year, serious problems remained under the Wahid government, although overall abuses decreased markedly,'' it said.


Early in 1999, parts of the security forces and militias that opposed an independent East Timor, armed and supported by the military, were responsible for ``numerous'' killings in East Timor, the report said.

A wave of violence that swept through East Timor in September after residents voted for independence in a U.N.-organised referendum on Aug. 31. Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and later annexed it.

Australian-led peacekeeping troops were sent in to calm the volatile situation and the United Nations is now administering the territory with the goal of helping it to independence.

``There were numerous reports of disappearances in East Timor and from refugee camps in West Timor following the flight of over 250,000 East Timorese civilians in September,'' the report said.

The report listed human rights violations in East Timor by security forces and military-backed militias against pro-independence supporters.

Those included executions, massacres, massive deportation, attacks on women and children, houses and buildings destroyed and attacks on property of international organisations, the Catholic Church and the only functioning medical clinic in Dili.

``More than 250 bodies were found in Dili and other areas,'' the report said.

It also cited ``serious abuses'' by pro-independence groups in East Timor, including the killing of security personnel.

In Aceh military forces and police committed killings and used ``excessive force'' to quell separatist movements, the report said.

On the other side, the separatists were believed to have murdered and abducted low-level civil servants, police, and military personnel in Aceh, the report said.

Violence against women, child abuse, child prostitution and female genital mutilation were also cited in the report.

But the United States saw improvement in the institutionalization of human rights protections, saying by year end national commissions of inquiry, the new attorney general and the military pursued investigations of military officers for abuses.

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