Subject: UN Probe Suggests War Crimes Tribunal for E.Timor

UN probe suggests war crimes tribunal for E.Timor

By Anthony Goodman

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 21 (Reuters) - The Security Council should consider setting up an international tribunal to try those suspected of war crimes in East Timor if Indonesia fails to investigate its army's involvement in atrocities there, U.N. human rights investigators said in a report on Tuesday.

``This should preferably be done with the consent of the government, but such consent should not be a prerequisite,'' they wrote.

``Such a tribunal should then have jurisdiction over all crimes under international law committed by any party in the territory since the departure of the colonial power,'' the report said, referring to the end of Portuguese rule in 1975.

Similar U.N. tribunals have been established to try those accused of atrocities during the 1992-95 conflict in Bosnia and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, after the departure of its Portuguese colonial administrators, and later annexed the territory. Up to one-third of the population, or about 200,000 people, were reported to have died during the invasion and subsequent fighting and famine.

Widespread killings and violence by pro-Jakarta militias, backed by the Indonesian army (TNI), erupted in September this year after nearly 80 percent of voters in an Aug. 30 U.N.-organised poll favoured independence from Indonesia.

A U.N. administration and an Australian-led international force, to be replaced soon by U.N. peacekeepers, is preparing East Timor for independence in two or three years.

``Unless, in a matter of months, the steps taken by the government of Indonesia to investigate TNI involvement in the past year's atrocities bear fruit, both in the way of credible clarification of the facts and the bringing to justice of the perpetrators -- both directly and by virtue of command responsibility, however high the level of responsibility -- the Security Council should consider the establishment of an international criminal tribunal for this purpose,'' the U.N. report said.

It was drafted by a joint mission comprising three special rapporteurs, or investigators, of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in the fields of extrajudicial executions, torture and violence against women. They visited East Timor Nov. 4-10.

Among their other recommendations were that Indonesia should immediately secure unimpeded access by the U.N. refugee agency to camps in West Timor -- part of Indonesia -- where it said ``a quarter of the East Timorese population is held,'' so that those wishing to do so might return to East Timor.

Indonesia was also urged to comply with a call by the Indonesian National Commission of Human Rights to disband the militias, to ensure that the territorial integrity of East Timor is safeguarded from any further disruption.

Another recommendation was that the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) should be provided with the means to conduct autopsies, medical examinations, particularly of possible victims of rape and sexual abuse, as well as criminal and human rights investigations.

The special rapporteurs are separate from a five-member Commission of Inquiry established in September by the U.N. Human Rights Commission to probe atrocities in East Timor. That panel was unable to begin work for many weeks, mainly due to bureaucratic delays.

The rapporteurs said it might well be that the Commission of Inquiry ``is unable to provide a full documentation of state, institutional and individual responsibility for the crimes committed in the past year.''

In that case, they said, ``further investigative measures will be needed, including those that would be appropriate for preparing cases for an international criminal tribunal.''

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