Subject: Interfet pledges to keep up human rights investigations in E. Timor

Interfet pledges to keep up human rights investigations in East Timor

DILI, East Timor, Oct 29 (AFP) - The International force in East Timor (Interfet) said Friday it would push ahead with investigations into atrocities until UN investigators arrive, despite criticism that vital evidence is being lost.

Interfet spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mark Kelly, responding to a protest from Amnesty International that the UN investigation was taking too long to get off the ground, said time was not an issue.

"I think that those experts that we have sought to come have dealt with similar scenes around the world, and they are able to deal with the sites regardless of the time they may take to get there," Kelly said

He said Interfet was conducting all preliminary investigations with the assistance of non-military forensic experts and was seeking help from more forensic specialists.

He did not give details of cases being investigated, saying only that "all have been logged and filed and will be handed over in a thorough manner to those teams."

Amnesty Thursday strongly criticised the UN for being too slow in sending investigators to East Timor.

"Every day that the UN delays its international investigation, vital evidence may be lost or destroyed," Amnesty said in a statement, adding that "many of the atrocities witnessed in East Timor constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes."

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan ordered an inquiry into human rights violations in the former Indonesian-controlled territory on October 15.

A five-member panel has been appointed by UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson to lead the investigation. But it has yet to travel to East Timor and is only expected to arrive in Geneva for training early next month.

Elements of the Indonesian military and pro-Indonesia militias launched a systematic campaign of killing and destruction after the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-sponsored ballot on August 30.

Amnesty said there was also evidence atrocities were continuing particularly in militia-controlled refugee camps in Indonesian West Timor, where more than 260,000 East Timorese fled, voluntarily or by force, last month.

Nobel peace laureate Bishop Carlos Belo Thursday called for former Indonesian army chief General Wiranto and other senior generals to be brought before an international tribunal to answer for atrocities in East Timor.

[Joyo note: Bishop Belo's call for Wiranto and other Indonesian generals to be brought to justice received extensive international coverage -- BBC, The Independent (London), Times (London), major Australian papers, Straits Times, wire services, and front page article in today's South China Morning Post.]

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