Subject: ST: 600 listed as dead, but actual toll higher

Straits Times March 4, 2000

600 listed as dead, but actual toll higher

DILI -- More than 600 people are known to have been killed in East Timor last year , but the actual toll is likely to be higher, the United Nations said yesterday.

No cases have yet gone to trial under East Timor's fledgling judicial system.

A total of 627 victims, killed between January and October last year, were the only cases of which the UN civilian police in East Timor were aware, said Mr Rafik Hodzic of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (Untaet).

"It is likely to rise," he added.

Local human-rights experts do not expect the final death toll to be known until all East Timorese refugees in Indonesian West Timor returned home.

UN police are holding 69 people serious charges, such as murder, rape and arson, said Mr Manoel de Almeida e Silva, of Untaet.

The jail was designed for only 55 inmates, but was now being expanded to hold 75, he said.

"What I can tell you is that the jail is overcrowded."

The killings occurred when militia, backed by the Indonesian armed forces, conducted a campaign of murder and intimidation in the lead-up to a referendum on East Timor's future, on Aug 30. -- AFP

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