team wraps up inquiry into East Timor atrocities
Also: UN Investigators In Timor Get OK To Visit Jakarta
UN team wraps up inquiry into East Timor atrocities
DILI, East Timor, Dec 3 (AFP) - A five member UN mission Friday wound up nine days of investigation into allegations of atrocities in East Timor but it declined to say whether an international tribunal to try those responsible would be necessary.
"We have tried our very best to see, hear and understand what has happened in East Timor," said Costa Rican jurist Sonia Picado, who led the team, shortly before leaving for Darwin in northern Australia.
Picado said the commission had listened to more than 160 witnesses and met with NGOs, as well as various East Timorese leaders, and those of the UN mission here during their nine days in East Timor.
Militias, supported by Indonesian security forces, waged a campaign of murder, arson and forced deportation after the East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia on August 30.
The task of the UN commission of inquiry is to substantiate claims of atrocities made by refugees to special UN rapporteurs who visited the territory last month.
Many have maintained the Indonesian army orchestrated the militia rampage, including an official independent Indonesian inquiry which has said the military had plotted the systematic destruction of the territory.
During their stay, the team travelled to Los Palos, Maliana, Suai and Liquisa, places "where we had information of gross human rights violations."
She said that what had happened to East Timor in the week following the announcement of the ballot was "a human tragedy."
"At this point, I do not think anybody can say in a responsible way how many people died or how many are missing in East Timor."
She said every day new evidence were turning up as "people are just returning," refering to the hundreds of thousands who had fled or been forced to flee the violence to neighbouring West Timor.
But Picado declined to specifically say whether an international war crime tribunal would be necessary to judge those responsible for the violence they have investigated.
"That would be a decision of the UN Secretary General (Kofi Annan)," she said.
But she added vaguely that "certainly we feel there should be a follow up...the more we look into things, the more we feel the things in East Timor needs a follow up."
The team is expected to submit its recommendation to Annan by December 31 on whether the United Nations should set up an international war crimes tribunal.
They will then report to the UN General Assembly, which has the authority to set up a tribunal.
"We will accept whatever is the recommendation of the international commission of investigation. If they recommend the establishment of a war crime tribunal, then it is a welcome recommendation," said Nobel laureate and independence campaigner Jose Ramos Horta separately.
But he also said justice could be served if Indonesia took the proper actions, such as bringing guilty soldiers to court itself.
"If Indonesia does that, then it would be an honor for Indonesia. Indonesia wouldnt have to be subjected to the humiliation of its officers being brought to a war crime tribunal," Ramos Horta said.
Picado said the team would leave Darwin for Jakarta on Sunday for discussions with the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights that has set its own commission of inquiry for East Timor, and with the authorities until Wednesday.
She said the team had been granted visas for Indonesia late on Thursday.
And she expressed hopes the team would be allowed to visit West Timor to see the refugees there.
"It is very important for us to go to West Timor," she said.
Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975, has opposed the creation of a UN inquiry, setting up its own independent panel.
The other commissioners are -- A.M. Ahmadi, former Indian chief justice, Mari Kappa, Papua New Guinea deputy chief justice, Judith Sefi Attah, a former Nigerian cabinet minister for women's affairs, and Sabine Leutheubser-Schnarrenberger, a former German justice minister.
Picado previously served on the inter-American court of human rights, where she dealt with cases from Argentina as well as abuses in Brazil and Peru.
Associated Press December 3, 1999
UN Investigators In Timor Get OK To Visit Jakarta
DILI, East Timor (AP)--Indonesia has caved in to demands to allow international investigators to visit Jakarta and continue their probe of human rights violations in Timor, U.N. officials said Friday.
But Sonia Picado, head of the investigating commission, said it wasn't clear if the visas would allow them to also visit Indonesian-controlled West Timor, where many refugees are believed to have been killed in camps controlled by pro-Indonesia militias.
The U.N. team is investigating allegations of atrocities following East Timor's vote for independence.
The province was engulfed in violence and anarchy after its people voted overwhelmingly to separate from Indonesia. The Indonesian army and its militia proxies went on a looting and killing spree, burning down villages and driving tens of thousands of people from their homes.
Picado said members of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on East Timor would receive their visas when they arrive in Jakarta Sunday.
"At this point (Indonesian authorities) said the concrete plans for our travel would have to be made in Jakarta," she said.
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