Subject: East Timor peacekeeping mission ends

United Nations Ends East Timor Peacekeeping Mission, Body Says

May 20 (Bloomberg) -- The United Nations will end its peacekeeping mission in East Timor today, marking the country's transition to a viable and peaceful state, the international body said in a statement.

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao and the UN's special representative Sukehiro Hasegawa held a ceremony in the capital, Dili, yesterday to bid farewell to the peacekeepers who have kept the country secure since 24 years of Indonesian rule ended in bloodshed and widespread destruction in 1999.

``Even as this is a sad occasion as we mark the end of an important phase of UN involvement in Timor-Leste, it is, on the other hand, an occasion to celebrate,'' Hasagawa said yesterday at the ceremony according, to the body's news service.

East Timor, a country of about 1 million people, voted for independence from Indonesia in a 1999 referendum, after which pro- Indonesia groups destroyed about 70 percent of local property and killed more than 1,400 people. The United Nations administered the territory after the vote and East Timor became independent in May 2002. Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

A team of UN advisers will remain in the country for one year until May 20, 2006, the body said.

Indonesia and East Timor in March established a truth council to address the killings and other abuses during Indonesian rule.

The council is inadequate because it hasn't the power to recommend prosecutions for human rights abuses committed during East Timor's independence process, a justice group said.

Changing Terms

The Indonesian and East Timor parliaments must change the terms of the Commission for Truth and Friendship, the International Center for Transitional Justice, said on March 10.

The agency, which helps countries trying to organize legal cases against people accused of human rights abuses during mass atrocities, has been working with the UN in East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste.

More than 250,000 people were forcibly displaced in East Timor in 1999 and the pro-Indonesian militias were accused of shooting, beating and raping thousands of victims. Two independent inquiries in 1999 said the Indonesian army and militias were implicated in human rights abuses.

``Despite these findings, all but one of the accused subsequently brought before the ad hoc human rights court in Jakarta were acquitted,'' the International Centre said.

East Timor needs international support to ensure its security and stability is maintained, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in February.

Annan recommended in a report to the Security Council that the UN mission be extended by a year until May 2006 because the authorities need assistance with border controls, developing a police force and ensuring that human rights and democratic governance are observed.

 


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