Subject: AP: U.S. and European Union ready to consider new measures on 199 bloodshed

U.S. and European Union ready to consider new measures to hold those responsible for 1999 bloodshed in East Timor accountable

August 24, 2004 6:18pm Associated Press WorldStream


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UNITED NATIONS_The United States and the European Union expressed readiness Tuesday to consider new measures to ensure that those responsible for the 1999 bloodshed in East Timor that killed at least 1,500 people are held accountable.

The Europeans and Americans criticized this month's ruling of an appeals court in Indonesia that overturned the conviction of four Indonesian security officers implicated in the East Timor violence. They also noted that 279 people indicted for serious crimes by East Timor's Serious Crimes Unit are apparently outside the country, and therefore can't be prosecuted.

"It is critical for the development of democratic institutions in both Indonesia and East Timor that there be some level of accountability for the 1999 atrocities," U.S. deputy ambassador Stuart Holliday told an open meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the current situation in the half-island Asian nation.

He proposed an independent International Truth Commission composed of international experts to improve accountability.

Ambassador Dirk Jan Van Den Berg of the Netherlands, which holds the EU presidency, backed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call for all countries to cooperate "to ensure that those responsible for serious crimes do not enjoy impunity."

Rampaging Indonesian troops and their militia proxies in East Timor have been blamed for the wave of attacks and killings before and after a U.N.-backed vote that led to the country's independence. The killing, looting and burning ended only when international peacekeepers arrived.

With the latest appeals court decision, the Indonesian tribunal has now acquitted 16 police and military officers implicated in the violence. Only two people _ both ethnic East Timorese civilians _ have been found guilty.

"The EU now considers the process towards justice and impunity to have gone awry," Van Den Berg said, citing the problems both in East Timor and Indonesia.

Hedi Annabi, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, told the council that Annan "has stressed repeatedly the need to ensure that those responsible for serious crimes are brought to justice, and that there should be no impunity for the perpetrators."

The secretary-general has asked the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the process of bringing those indicted to justice, both in Indonesia and East Timor, he said. It should be completed in late September or early October.

"We shall then be in a better position to consider, on the basis of the report and in consultation with the Security Council, the action that could be taken to ensure that the serious crimes process moves forward and that impunity does not prevail," Annabi said.

After the Indonesian court's ruling this month, international human rights groups demanded the establishment of a U.N. tribunal for East Timor similar to those established to prosecute key figures in the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the bloodshed in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

But at Tuesday's council meeting, neither the Europeans nor the Americans mentioned a tribunal, which is costly and would likely antagonize Indonesia _ an important country in the U.S. war on terrorism.

East Timor's U.N. Ambassador Jose Luis Guterres and Indonesia's U.N. Ambassador Rezlan Ishar Jenie both focused on their nations' improving relations, the demarcation of 90 percent of their border and the expectation of a final boundary agreement in the coming months.

Guterres told the council that relations between the two countries "will continue to strengthen in the future as there is much goodwill and spirit of cooperation and friendship between both governments and peoples."

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