Subject: Atrocity Trials 'Urgent, Vital' - UN Rights Commissioner

Also: Suai massacre militia 'will be punished'



The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, left East Timor today after a three-day visit, saying that the international community has a responsibility to ensure that the perpetrators of last year’s violence in the country do not escape justice. Speaking at a press conference in Dili before leaving for Jakarta, Mary Robinson stressed that the violence occurred while East Timor was under United Nations guardianship around the time of the popular consultation.

The Human Rights Commissioner said that this meant that the United Nations must ensure that Indonesia’s judicial process is credible.

“The most important thing is to bring perpetrators to justice. That can either be done by the courts in Indonesia or by the courts here in East Timor. Or, if necessary, it can be done by an international tribunal. I don't rule out the need ­ if it comes to that ­ for an international tribunal,” Mary Robinson said during her visit. Today, she also delivered a keynote speech at a human rights workshop, stressing that the process of nation building must be based upon basic human rights principles.

In the same meeting, SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello said: “We hope that, in partnership with the East Timorese people, we can build a society founded on human rights principles where everyone is equally protected by the law, where women can participate fully in public life, where state officials are accountable for their actions and where individuals are free to engage in peaceful and lawful political activities without fear.”

Robinson also raised the issue of minorities in East Timor. “I am concerned about the position of minorities. I am concerned about the Muslim community. They after all have made a commitment to the new East Timor. They will enrich through the very diversity of being a minority within this community. I hope the political leaders will speak out on the importance of minorities.”

In addition, the commissioner went to the district of Suai, in the south, and addressed a public meeting at the National Museum in Dili.

Sydney Morning Herald August 7, 2000

Suai massacre militia 'will be punished'

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Suai, East Timor

The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mrs Mary Robinson, said yesterday that she would deliver the names of those responsible for the massacre of 200 East Timorese in Suai cathedral on September 6, 1999, to the Jakarta Government with a demand for prompt action.

If there was not a credible process of bringing the worst perpetrators to justice, she said an international tribunal may have to be established in East Timor.

Her comments, after a meeting with massacre survivors at Suai cathedral yesterday, followed a warning from the UN commander for border security that Indonesian forces are hesitating to crack down on pro-Jakarta militia for fear it will precipitate widespread social unrest in West Timor.

Mrs Robinson appeared shaken when 50 East Timorese women, dressed in black, broke down in tears as she scattered pink bougainvillea petals over a circular pile of headstones laid on the spot where militia butchered their victims.

Her visit to Suai was a sobering reminder of the legacy of the day when pro-Jakarta Laksaur militia killed up to 200 unarmed independence supporters sheltering in the cathedral grounds.

The victims also included the priest, Father Hilario, and two other church officials. Massacre survivors from a group calling itself "Left Over from the Dead" also begged Mrs Robinson to ask Indonesian authorities to return for burial the bodies of family members murdered and then taken across the nearby border to West Timor.

Cradling a baby born after its mother was raped by pro-Jakarta militia, Mrs Robinson said: "She should never suffer.

"I believe it is urgent to have the perpetrators brought to justice. They know who is responsible for the massacre ... It is one month away before the first anniversary, and it's time we had arrests and prosecution of the perpetrators and I will be taking that message with me to Jakarta tomorrow."

Brigadier Duncan Lewis, the Australian in charge of 2,000 UN peacekeepers based along the border, said the force was prepared for a mass return of refugees. "The Indonesian military authorities are not willing to take decisive action against the militia because they fear it will lead to civil disturbances," he said.

"My concern now is what is happening on the other side of the border. We have more than 100,000 people, many of whom support pro-integration and have the potential to create fairly widespread destabilisation. We might soon have refugees coming the other way."

Brigadier Lewis said the militias continued to operate with impunity in West Timor.

He cited the dismissal of illegal weapons charges against former Aitarak leader, Eurico Guterres, despite having fired two shots at an Indonesian police vehicle.

"It is time to move directly against the militia leadership - the extremists," he said.

Brigadier Lewis accused militia rabble-rousers of threatening and intimidating East Timorese refugees wanting to meet relatives at the Motaain border last Saturday. He said Indonesian police and army failed to remove several militia road blocks behind the border.

Four Australian Black Hawk helicopters arrived yesterday to help the search for militia infiltrating East Timor.

Suspect captured

Australian peacekeepers captured a suspected militia member near Batugade, on the northern part of the border with West Timor, after a gunfight yesterday in which the militiaman was wounded.

He was being flown by helicopter to Suai last night for medical treatment.

Two militia were killed in a gun battle with Australian soldiers near Maliana last week, and

New Zealand peacekeeper Private Leonard Manning, 24, was shot dead two weeks ago near Suai.

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