Subject: AGE: Charges over Timor violence

The Age

Charges over Timor violence

Tom Hyland

October 8, 2006

A UNITED NATIONS inquiry into the violence in East Timor this year is set to name up to 100 people, including senior political and security force figures, in scathing findings that recommend some should face criminal charges.

The imminent release of the report has raised fears of more violence in the capital, Dili, prompting an appeal for calm by President Xanana Gusmao, who predicted its findings would be a "heavy burden" for the entire nation.

A three-member panel of UN experts completed the report yesterday. It is expected to be tabled in East Timor's Parliament as early as this week.

The Sunday Age believes the inquiry blames senior political and security force figures for the violence that erupted in April, leading to the dispatch of Australian and other peacekeepers. In a challenge to East Timor's leaders and the strength of its judicial system, the report is believed to name 100 key figures, and recommend many be held accountable.

Those named are from all sides of East Timorese politics, undermining theories that the violence was orchestrated by a hidden hand ­ either former prime minister Mari Alkatiri, who resigned under pressure in June, or by President Gusmao as part of an Australian-backed coup against Mr Alkatiri.

"It's going to seriously disappoint the conspiracy theorists," a well-informed source said. "Any notion that somehow there was a puppeteer sitting in the President's palace or the Prime Minister's office pulling all the strings is sort of out to lunch." The report is said to highlight failures by major institutions and key people in those institutions, particularly in the police and military.

The violence, which claimed up to 40 lives, exposed deep divisions within the army and between the army and the police. It erupted in April when "loyal" troops fired on a protest staged in support of 600 soldiers who had deserted in March, alleging discrimination. In May, the police force in Dili disintegrated when troops shot and killed nine unarmed police.

Amid allegations that rival political factions were forming hit squads, rioting and arson erupted in Dili, forcing 150,000 people from their homes.

The inquiry, set up by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in June at the request of East Timor's Government, is believed to expose a total collapse of government control, with no one in charge of key institutions by the time the shooting started.

Its mandate was to establish the facts surrounding the violence, clarify who was responsible and recommend measures to ensure those responsible for crimes are held accountable.

Its recommendations will create the biggest challenge for East Timor's leaders and its inexperienced judiciary.

Mr Gusmao's call for calm was made in a joint appeal with Mr Ramos Horta and the president of the Parliament.

Underlining fears of a violent backlash to the inquiry, they called on the public to accept the report with "dignity, strength and courage". "The commission's report and its recommendations may turn out to be a heavy burden for many people," they said.

2006: A year in crisis

March: East Timor Government sacks 600 soldiers when they desert, alleging discrimination.

April 28: Troops open fire and kill five when a rally for the sacked soldiers turns into a riot.

May 11: Australia puts troop ships on stand-by.

May 25: First Australian troops arrive after East Timor requests foreign assistance.

May 26: UN confirms nine unarmed police shot dead by East Timorese troops.

May 31: President Gusmao takes control of armed forces, declares state of emergency.

June 21: Former interior minister Rogerio Lobato placed under house arrest over allegations that he armed a militia group.

June 8: Foreign Minister asks the UN to set up an inquiry into the violence.

June 26: Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri resigns.

June 29: Kofi Annan forms independent commission of inquiry.

July 8: Jose Ramos Horta named as new Prime Minister.

Oct 7: Inquiry completes report.

http://www.theage.com.au/


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