Subject: Australia will help East Timor find justice after violence, minister says

Also VOA: UN Recommends Investigation of Former East Timor PM

Australia will help East Timor find justice after violence, minister says

The Associated Press

Published: October 18, 2006

CANBERRA, Australia Australia said Wednesday it will offer judges, police and lawyers if East Timor decides to prosecute top government officials blamed in a U.N. report for violence that killed 33 people in the tiny nation's capital this year.

The U.N. Special Commission of Inquiry for East Timor recommended Thursday that former East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri face a criminal investigation for allegedly handing government weapons to civilians as the capital descended into chaos in April and May.

The commission found Alkatiri's interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, and his defense minister, Roque Rodrigues, provided weapons to civilians "and created a situation of significant potential danger."

East Timor has not yet said how it will respond to the commission's report. It has taken initial steps to prosecute those considered responsible. The interior minister and defense minister have been indicted and Alkatiri named as a suspect ­ but they are still a long way from a trial.

The three-member commission, established by the U.N. Security Council in June, also recommended that foreign judges and investigators oversee any criminal trials as Dili's judicial system is virtually non-existant.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia will provide judges and police and support prosecutors to help the East Timorese authorities bring those responsible for the violence to justice.

"It is the Australian government's view that this is a credible report," Downer told Parliament.

"We will continue to do what we can to help this new nation through this difficult period and I know the leadership of East Timor will respond to the U.N. Special Commission of Inquiry's report responsibly and I hope that the public will treat it with an appropriate degree of calm," he added.

The violence was triggered when Alkatiri dismissed 600 soldiers in March. The move split the armed forces, and violence on the streets later spilled over into gang warfare.

Calm largely returned with the arrival of international peacekeepers led by Australia in May and the installation of a new government. Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta replaced Alkatiri, who stood aside in June. 


VOA News

UN Recommends Investigation of Former East Timor PM

By Nancy-Amelia Collins


17 October 2006

A U.N. report looking into the violence that gripped East Timor last April and May largely lays the blame for the unrest on the country's former prime minister and his government.

The U.N. report says former East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkitiri failed to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of civilians and he should be the subject of a criminal investigation.

Alkitiri has been accused of authorizing the distribution of weapons to a civilian hit squad to kill his opponents, a charge he vehemently denies.

One of three commissioners compiling the report, Ralph Zacklin, says he thinks Alkitiri knew more about the illegal weapons distribution than he was willing to tell.

"We think that he probably knew more than he was telling us about what he knew about the irregular distribution of weapons," Zacklin says. "And in any event, the fact that there were weapons being distributed to civilians in an irregular fashion by the police and by the army is something that clearly as Prime Minister, he should have known about."

Alkitiri stepped down as prime minister in June after repeated calls for his resignation, saying he was resigning for the good of the nation.

The U.N. report also states Alkitiris interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, his minister of defense, Roque Rodrigues, and the chief of the defense force, Taur Matan Ruak, unlawfully armed civilians and should be held accountable for the illegal transfer of weapons.

East Timor plunged into chaos in April and May after Alkitiri fired 600 soldiers, a move that split the armed forces and led to pitched street battles in the capital, Dili, that left more than 30 people dead and 150,000 fleeing their homes to makeshift refugee centers.

The violence only subsided after international peacekeepers were brought to the country to restore order.

The report also criticized President Xanana Gusmao for visiting Major Alfredo Reinado, a member of the military police who had defected with some other men at the height of the violence.

Zacklin, one of the authors of the report, says while Mr. Gusmao should have used more restraint, they were satisfied he used the meeting to try to stop Reinado from instigating further violence.

"There is evidence that president Gusmao had met with Major Reinado after his defection, but what we concluded is that he was doing this in order to try to contain and restrain major Reinado, not in order to give him instructions to attack anybody," Zacklin says.

East Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta, who replaced Alkitiri, urged U.N. forces to stay in the country until after the May 2007 elections.

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