Subject: IPS: Concern Over Status of E. Timor Militias
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 14:37:20 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

RIGHTS-EAST TIMOR: Concern Over Status of Militias

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 15 (IPS) - Human rights groups are concerned at the Indonesia's decision to appoint the head of a pro-Jakarta militia to head the civil defense unit in Dili, the capital of East Timor.

One coalition, the International Federation for East Timor (IFET), wrote UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to stress that Eurico Guterres - the leader of the Aitarak (Thorn) militia, was not an appropriate choice for maintaining security in East Timor.

''It is inconceivable that these known murderers should be given any role in safeguarding security,'' IFET declared, in referring to Guterres's paramilitaries.

The appointment had been praised by Indonesia's police chief in East Timor, Col. Timbul Silaen but the move to bring a paramilitary leader - whose group has been linked to the harassment and killing of hundreds of pro-independence Timorese - has sparked concern among UN officials in the run-up to the Aug. 8 vote on self-determination for the territory.

UN officials have been scrambling to ensure that the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) can provide stability to East Timor so that an estimated 800,000 people can vote on whether to accept autonomy within Indonesia or opt for independence.

The UN Security Council voted last Friday to approve the deployment of some 270 police advisers in East Timor within the next few weeks. UN officials later told IPS that all the police should be deployed by the end of June.

Yet the United Nations must rely on Indonesia, which invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it one year later, to provide secure conditions for the vote. The appointment of Guterres has added new worries.

One UN official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Indonesia could try to appoint the paramilitary leaders to head civil defense units, but that such a move likely would not be accepted internationally.

Annan, in a report issued last month, warned that ''the militias, believed by many observers to be operating with the acquiescence of the (Indonesian) army, have not only have attacked pro-independence groups, but are beginning to threaten moderate pro-integration supporters as well.''

''The Aitarak militia are in the forefront of the pro- integration campaign, which is their very reason for existence,'' IFET wrote Tuesday. ''They not only propagate their views in words, but also by killing pro-indepedence leaders and activists.''

Guterres has acknowledged his role in the militias, as well as his opposition to independence supporters who, according to groups like IFET, comprise the vast majority of Timorese.

In a recent interview with the British Broadcasting Coporation (BBC), the militia leader admitted that his Aitarak group received arms from the Indonesian military.

In recent weeks, the militias have rounded up some 30,000 Timorese displaced by recent fighting in camps where pro- independence views are discouraged, argued Sidney Jones, executive director of Human Rights Watch-Asia.

Even as UNAMET staff arrived in East Timor, UN officials warned that the civil defense units must not play a major role in providing security for the Aug. 8 vote.

Ian Martin, head of the UNAMET office, said the United Nations believes that ''it is the police and only the police who shall play the security role, so we expect to progressively see that is the case.''

Martin said that, as UN officials were arriving, a sense of security was growing among Timorese, particularly in Dili. But he added, ''I don't think anything like a sufficient sense of confidence has been created.'' (END/IPS/fah/mk/99)

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