Subject: UN rights chief meets Timor PM

Sunday Times (Australia)

UN rights chief meets Timor PM


AS UN human rights chief Mary Robinson today visited a cemetery to honour the victims of a 1991 East Timor massacre, a Dili Bishop and Nobel laureate urged the creation of an international tribunal to try crimes committed in the bloodshed.

Accompanying Robinson, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Felipe Belo also said he left it up to parliament to issue a reaction to what many consider light judgements in the Indonesian rights tribunal trying cases of gross human rights violations by Indonesian officers, officials and civilians in East Timor in 1991.

On her third and last day of a visit to the newly independent country, Robinson laid a wreath in front of a black cross at the Santa Cruz cemetery.

She also planted trees at the cemetery, the resting place of those East Timorese killed when Indonesian troops fired on thousands of pro-independence demonstrators on 12 November 1999.

Indonesia at the time said around 50 people were killed or missing, but independent counts including eyewitnesses said up to 200 might have died.

Robinson had no comment after the ceremony and headed straight for closed-door talks with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, before meeting with the first lady, Kirsty Sword-Gusmao.

But Belo said it was now up to every East Timorese to work for an international tribunal if justice was to be served. He did not elaborate.

Earlier this month, six military and police officers were acquitted of gross human rights violations in East Timor, while East Timor's last governor, Abilio Soares, got off with what many considered a light three-year sentence.

Prosecutors had recommended Soares be imprisoned for 10.5 years for failing to keep his subordinates from committing crimes against humanity.

Robinson has said the trials were "not satisfying" by international human rights standards. She and international rights groups have said prosecution was sloppy and the evidence brought to bear, minimal.

Indonesia set up the ad hoc tribunal to deflect pressure to bring Indonesian soldiers and officers before an international court to face charges related to the violence in 1999. Then, East Timorese voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence from Indonesia in a UN-organised ballot, after 23 years under Jakarta rule.

The Jakarta court will ultimately try 18 officers, officials and civilians.

Robinson's visit to East Timor was her second since 1999, when pro-Jakarta militias -- armed and organised by the Indonesian army -- laid waste to much of the territory and murdered an estimated 1,000 independence supporters.

During her visit to East Timor, Robinson has met with Xanana Gusmao, president of the nation which became independent on May 20, and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta. She has addressed parliament and signed a joint communique on human rights.

Yesterday she travelled to the southern border town of Suai to meet survivors of the 1999 church massacre, in which the UN says more than 100 people died at the hands of the militias.

The UN high commissioner for human rights is on the last leg of a farewell visit which has also included China and Cambodia. She steps down next month after five years in her post.

She flies to Geneva later today after holding a press conference at the airport.

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