Subject: U.N. Should Assess W. Timor Refugee Camp Security: Panel

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Associated Press November 21, 2000

U.N. Should Assess West Timor Refugee Camp Security:Panel

UNITED NATIONS (AP)--U.N. security experts should visit Indonesian-ruled West Timor to determine whether it is safe for U.N. staff to return following the September slaughter of three U.N. aid workers, a U.N. Security Council delegation recommended.

Namibia's U.N. Ambassador Martin Andjaba, who led a fact-finding mission to East Timor and Indonesia last week, said Monday that the Indonesian government is willing to start discussions with U.N. officials in Jakarta on the possibility of sending U.N. experts to refugee camps in West Timor to assess the security situation together with the Indonesian military and police.

"It will be on the basis of their assessment that a decision would then be taken as to whether the humanitarian agencies should go back to West Timor or not," he told a news conference before briefing the Security Council on the mission.

The Sept. 6 killings of the three aid workers - a Croat, an Ethiopian and an American -by a militia mob led to the evacuation of all humanitarian officials from West Timor.

The Security Council and other international organizations have repeatedly called on Indonesia to disarm and disband the militias, who have intimidated aid workers and in some cases prevented refugees from returning to East Timor.

Almost 80% of East Timorese voted to break away from Indonesia in a U.N.-supervised ballot in August 1999. After the vote, pro-Jakarta militias backed by Indonesia's army went on a rampage, killing hundreds of people and forcing hundreds of thousands of others to seek shelter in neighboring West Timor.

Andjaba said the Indonesian government told the delegation that military and police battalions in West Timor had been reinforced to ensure security, and insisted the militias had been disarmed and disbanded.

But he said some delegation members spoke to refugees who"were not necessarily free to express their opinion, simply because the militias are still in the camps and were very active in intimidating the refugees."

Andjaba said the Security Council delegation stressed that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other agencies can only return to West Timor if their security and safety is guaranteed, "and that is the duty of the Indonesian authorities."

If the Security Council and the Indonesian government approve, U.N. experts would go to West Timor to assess the security situation and would make a recommendation, which would also include whether U.N. security guards need to be stationed there full-time, he said.

When the UNHCR goes back, it will register refugees to determine how many there are, and how many want to settle in Indonesia and how many want to return to East Timor, which is now under U.N. administration in its transition to independence, Andjaba said. The Indonesian government maintains there are 130,000 refugees but East Timorese leaders say there are between 60,000 and 70,000, he said.

Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman announced Thursday that the trials of 21 soldiers, police and militia members indicted in last year's violence in East Timor will start in January.

Andjaba said the delegation believes the Indonesian government should be given a chance to prosecute those indicted, and see whether or not they need international assistance.

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