Subject: E Timorese judges, prosecutors start training in Australia

East Timorese judges, prosecutors start training in Australia

DILI, East Timor, Dec 8 (AFP) - East Timorese judges and prosecutors expected to handle high-profile militia murder trials have begun training in Australia, a United Nations official said Wednesday.

The first group of 20 lawyers are receiving a week's training in Darwin, said Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, senior legal advisor of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

From that group, two prosecutors, two investigating judges, one panel of three criminal judges and another panel of three civil judges, will be appointed in about three weeks, Strohmeyer, a German judge, told journalists.

"There were no East Timorese judges or prosecutors either during the Indonesian rule or the Portuguese time. So this will truly be the first time that East Timorese will be seen in this very imnportant function of governrment," he said

It will be months before trials begin for suspects held in the militia violence backed by Indonesian armed forces, which terrorized East Timor in September and forced the deployment of multinational troops.

But Strohmeyer said the newly-appointed investigative judges and prosecutors will immediately begin reviewing the files of militia suspects who were arrested by international peacekeepers.

"The prosecutors will then have to build a case and present this case to the panel of three judges," Strohmeyer said.

"These cases are very serious cases. They have implications, possible implications for the reconciliation process, for the fabric of the society. Thus, don't expect verdict to be handed down within a few days or weeks," he said.

UNTAET has indentified a total of about 50 East Timorese lawyers, most of whom were trained in Indonesia, as candidates for the judicial jobs.

All are youger than 40, Strohmeyer said.

"These people need to be provided with training as quickly as possible," he said.

After the first group of 20, which is training now, the rest of the lawyers will go to Darwin in January and February.

Their initial one week course will be followed by two or three months of follow-up training, once they start work.

Most importantly, Strohmeyer said, the new jugdes and prosecutors will be guided by foreign mentors who can help them manage their court sessions and advise them on dealing with cases.

Judges and prosecutors will be appointed by UNTAET head Sergio Vieira de Mello on the advise of the judicial commision made up of three East Timorese and two international lawyers.

"This is the model that we will follow for the civil service conmmission and other similar institutions to build a sense of ownership of East Timorese of this selection processes," Strohmeyer said.

The first 10 judges will have jurisdiction across East Timor until courts are established outside the capital Dili over the next few months, he said.

Within eight weeks, another 10 judges will be chosen.

Their ranks will include the first panel of three judges who will hear appeals, he said.

"For the transitional period at least we'll have a rather lean structure."

East Timor will, for the moment, largely rely on Indonesian law but Strohmeyer said it would change over time as UNTAET passes more regulations.

"We have already started work on a new criminal procedure code," he said.

East Timor's young legal system will also establish a pool of defense lawyers, reestablish a prison system and rebuild files that were burned and destroyed during the violence, Strohmeyer said.

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