Subject: DPA: New legal system slowly emerging in East Timor

Deutsche Presse-Agentur March 24, 2000

New legal system slowly emerging in East Timor Dili, East Timor

More than 50 prisoners accused of participating in militia violence last year that reduced East Timor to a land of rubble and ruins are still awaiting trial under the U.N. interim government's fledgling legal system, officials said Friday.

The head of judicial affairs for the U.N. Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET), Luis Aucoin, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa: "The first trials will begin soon with international judges sitting alongside East Timorese lawyers and judges."

But he added: "We can't proceed with trials without more translators. At the moment we have only one."

The end of Indonesian rule in East Timor has been accompanied by a legal vacuum, which has resulted in "justice in the streets" being meted out to suspected militias. Some militia suspects have been beaten, but no revenge killings have been reported.

While reconciliation with many former militias and their families who have recently returned from West Timor has been widely accepted, those pinpointed by local communities as guilty of major crimes are handed over to U.N. police and detained for further investigation.

One of the militia leaders from Tim Alpha in Los Palos, who has confessed to his role in an ambush last September that killed two nuns, is being held among the 69 prisoners at UNTAET's special detention centre at the former Ministry of Tourism building.

It will take at least another six months to renovate the former Dili prison. UNTAET admits to a chronic lack of suitable places to hold prisoners in custody.

David O'Hanlon, a British police officer from Liverpool who is in charge of the detention centre, said, "All the prisoners have access to defence lawyers, and many of the those accused of militia activities have already confessed and expressed remorse."

During the first six months of the U.N. administration creating a new system of justice from scratch, the main focus has been on training Timorese as lawyers and judges. Eight judges, four prosecutors and a number of public defenders have almost completed the training.

Aucoin added that four international judges have arrived in the capital Dili to help with the heavy caseload and that because of the exceptional circumstances, all trial verdicts will be based on a consensus of local and international judges.

UNTAET has already adopted an international law on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as part of East Timor's legal code, which is based on Indonesian law insofar as it is compatible with human rights.

Timorese resistance leader and CNRT vice-president Jose Ramos-Horta has strongly advocated the need for a special tribunal to be held in East Timor to prosecute the crimes against humanity committed by the Indonesian military and militia leaders against the civilian population last year dpa tf jh

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