Subject: DPA: UN rights chief setsMarch 18 deadline for Indonesia's tribunal

Deutsche Presse-Agentur

January 23, 2002, Wednesday 11:20 Central European Time

U.N. rights chief sets deadline for Indonesia's tribunal


The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has set a deadline of March 18 for Indonesia to begin trials of suspects accused of gross human rights violations in East Timor in 1999, the commission's chairman said Wednesday.

"I hope that I can report to the United Nations on March 18 that the tribunal has been established, and is meeting international parameters," said UNHCHR chairman Leandro Despouy.

Despouy told a press conference there had been some positive developments in setting up the long-delayed tribunal, such as President Megawati Sukarnoputri's decision last week to name 30 judges to sit on the tribunal and the appeals court.

In talks with Megawati on Monday, he warned that the international community was closely watching for further developments in the tribunal process.

Despouy, however, dodged questions on what the UNHCHR would do if the trials were delayed till after March 18, or if procedures were not up to international standards.

At least 19 senior Indonesian military, police and provincial officials have been accused of gross human rights violations before and after the U.N.-organised independence ballot in East Timor in August 1999.

Megawati reportedly told the visiting UNHCHR chief the human rights court would be conducted "justly".

Pro-Jakarta militias, backed by the Indonesian military, went on a rampage in the aftermath of East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence in 1999, killing hundreds of people and destroying most of the buildings in the territory.

The groups also herded hundreds of thousands of East Timorese, many of them at gunpoint, across the border into the Indonesian-ruled West Timor.

Some of the suspects are accused of slaughtering civilians who had taken shelter in churches under the protection of Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo and pro-independence figure Manuel Carrascalao in the towns of Liquica, Suai and Dili, East Timor. dpa pj rk

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