Subject: UN Commission on Timor Atrocities Recommends Continued Inquiry

RIGHTS-EAST TIMOR: UN Commission Recommends Continued Inquiry

By Gustavo Capdevila

GENEVA, Dec 14 (IPS) - The United Nations commission sent to investigate reported human rights abuses in East Timor reached the conclusion that the process should continue, and that those charged with the alleged atrocities should be brought to justice.

The five-member commission sent the initial results of its inquiry Tuesday to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.

A press release distributed by the United Nations Tuesday stated that during its two-week stay in East Timor, the commission collected testimony from witnesses who provided evidence of the systematic use of intimidation and terror, which resulted in a large number of killings and injuries.

The testimony gathered also gave evidence of attacks on women, including rape. And the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) reported abuses committed against its staff.

''The commmission saw for itself the extent of destruction of property and interviewed many returnees who were displaced. They spoke of the terror that had forced them to flee,'' stated the press release.

Other witnesses told of the destruction of evidence, including the removal of corpses from the sites of massacres.

The commission was set up by the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the request of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in response to an original request by the UN Human Rights Commission.

In a resolution adopted on Sep 27, the Human Rights Commission denounced serious rights abuses in East Timor, especially in the wake of the Aug 30 referendum in which an overwhelming majority of Timorese voted for total independence of the territory, which was occupied by Indonesia in 1975.

The Human Rights Commission stated in its resolution that there was collusion between the pro-Indonesia militias and members of the Indonesian armed forces and police in the repression committed against the people of East Timor, and particularly against independence activists.

The investigatory commission also heard testimony pointing to the participation by the militias and Indonesian army troops in the intimidation and terror, according to the document released by the United Nations Tuesday.

''The members of the commission feel that the individual's right to know the truth and to have an effective remedy for violations of human rights must be given priority. The commission further emphasizes the need to act against impunity,'' stated the press release, which also stressed the need to act against impunity.

The five commission members unanimously declared that ''the investigatory process into the allegations of atrocities should be continued with a view to bringing those responsible to justice.''

The commission members, Chairwoman Sonia Picado Sotela of Costa Rica, Judith Sefi Attah of Nigeria, Justice A.M. Ahmadi of India, Sir Mari Kapi of Papua New Guinea, and Sabine Leutheusser- Schnarrenberger of Germany were in East Timor from Nov 25 to Dec 8, when they returned to Geneva to draft the report to be submitted to Annan. (END/IPS/tra-so/pc/ag/sw/99)

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