Subject: UN Official: Police Must Be Trusted With Timor Refugees
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 09:29:52 -0400

Associated Press September 20, 1999

UN Official: Police Must Be Trusted With Timor Refugees

JAKARTA (AP)--The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said Monday that Indonesian police must be trusted to ensure the safety of East Timorese refugees.

Ogata also said she had won a promise from President B.J. Habibie to allow continued air drops of humanitarian aid to thousands of refugees who fled into East Timor's mountains until land transportation can begin.

The Indonesian government delayed the beginning of the air rescue, refusing to allow flights in its air space until it was satisfied the supplies were restricted to food and essentials. The first flights took place Friday.

Hundreds of thousands of East Timorese fled their homes following violence sparked by the announcement that East Timor had voted for independence in an Aug. 30 referendum.

Although the army and police were accused of collusion with pro-Indonesian militias, Ogata expressed no reservations about leaving the refugees in West Timor under the control of the Indonesian authorities.

"Indonesian police can be trusted to do everything to make their stay over there safe and secure," she said after a two-hour meeting with the president.

An international peace force began moving into East Timor on Monday, and will assume command of the half-island from the Indonesians later this week.

Ogata said it wasn't yet time to work out a schedule for the return of the refugees, but added that they should be given a choice to return to their troubled homeland or stay in Indonesian West Timor.

On Sunday, Ogata visited camps in West Timor where pro-independence supporters were herded by the militias in an attempt to evict the secessionists from East Timor and nullify the referendum.

On her tour, Ogata unwittingly greeted the commander of the notorious Aitarik militia, Eurico Guterres, who was among her escorts at the camp in Atambua. Asked later, she said she did not recognize Guterres.

Aid organizations complained last week they were barred from the camps and journalists were told their lives are at risk if they attempt to enter them.

Reports have said East Timorese independence supporters have been separated from pro-Jakarta supporters and were being terrorized by militiamen. Food, water and shelter were inadequate.


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