Subject: SMH/E.Timor: War crimes lawyer to study 1975 invasion

Sydney Morning Herald August 26, 2000

War crimes lawyer to study 1975 invasion

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

A senior United Nations prosecutor investigating Indonesian war crimes in East Timor will compile a report on atrocities committed after the bloody 1975 invasion in which up to 200,000 Timorese were killed.

Mr Mohamed Ottman, the UN Chief Prosecutor in East Timor, a Tanzanian lawyer and former chief prosecutor at the Rwandan International Criminal Tribunal will lead the team examining whether there was a systematic campaign of violence.

The former Australian consul in Dili and expert on East Timor, Mr James Dunn, will help compile the report, which will be essential in proving crimes against humanity stemming from political violence leading up to and after last year's referendum.

"In order to prove crimes against humanity, you need to to prove a pattern of systematic and widespread attacks against a civilian population," said the UN's human rights chief in Dili, Mr Patrick Burgess.

He said that under international law, militia killings such as the Suai cathedral massacre on September 6 last year in which up to 200 people died, did not alone prove a case for crimes against humanity, but a criminal case of mass murder.

A systematic pattern of violence directed against East Timorese civilians by Indonesian troops stemming back to 1975 would help prove the more serious charge of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

It is understood that once a case is established for crimes against humanity, international warrants are likely to be issued against a number of senior Indonesian military commanders.

This process is expected to be completed before East Timor gains full independence next year, but the biggest challenge facing UN prosecutors will be to bring the alleged perpetrators from Indonesia to East Timor.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor established a Serious Crimes Unit to hear six categories of crimes including war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, rape and murder.

Mr Ottman who arrived in East Timor earlier this month.

Mr Dunn said crimes committed by Indonesian forces in East Timor from 1975 to 1998 ranked alongside the worst excesses of Nazi Germany.

They included a series of massacres at Dili wharf in December 1975 in which several hundred East Timorese men and women were shot and their bodies dumped into the sea. The victims included Australian journalist Roger East and the wife of former Fretilin leader Nicolai Lobato.

Soldiers from airborne Battalion 502, the same battalion now deployed opposite Australian peacekeepers at Balibo, were allegedly responsible.

Other mass killings to be investigated include the slaughter of Liquica's ethnic Chinese community and the murder of up to 1,200 people in Bobonaro in 1976.

Mr Dunn said he was aware of hundreds of individual cases of rape and torture committed by Indonesian soldiers, including eyewitnesses to a case in which a 15-year-old girl was raped and then thrown into a crocodile pit in Dili.

Other atrocities included the infamous 1991 Dili Massacre at Santa Cruz cemetery in which Indonesian troops opened fire on unarmed protesters killing as many as 271 people.

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