Network urges UN to press ahead with East Timor prosecutions

 A network of Christian organisations and churches has called on the United Nations to take responsibility for the indictment of Indonesian military officers accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor. On 25 February the Serious Crimes Unit of the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) indicted eight Indonesian military officers, including former armed forces chief General Wiranto, for crimes committed during East Timor's 1999 referendum on independence. On that same day, UN spokesperson Fred Eckhard said that the UN had not issued the indictment and that the UN was only providing 'advisory assistance' to the government of East Timor. As the UN Commission on Human Rights begins its 59th session, the Christian Consultation on East Timor (CCET) has written today to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to criticise the UN for 'washing its hands of responsibility for the indictments'. "Now that indictments have been issued against some of these persons, it is somewhat disingenuous of your spokesman to suggest that they are nothing to do with the UN," writes Catherine Scott of the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) on behalf of the network, which includes CIIR, Pax Christi International, CAFOD, and other organisations. She adds: "The crimes committed in East Timor were not only crimes against the East Timorese population, but were crimes against international law. They were crimes against the international community and against the UN itself." An International Commission of Enquiry in a report on 31 January 2000 recommended that the UN 'should establish an international human rights tribunal consisting of judges appointed by the United Nations'. The Commission said: "The actions violating human rights and international humanitarian law in East Timor were directed against a decision of the United Nations Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the charter and were contrary to agreements reached by Indonesia with the United Nations to carry out that Security Council decision. Effectively dealing with this issue will be important for ensuring that future Security Council decisions are respected." The CCET urges the Secretary General to recall the recommendations of the commission; requests an independent review to assess progress in East Timor and Indonesia to bring the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice; and asks him to consider alternative options for justice, including setting up an international tribunal. It also calls on the UN to urge the Indonesian government to hand over the indicted officers to the Serious Crimes Unit. In 1999, the East Timorese voted in a referendum supervised by the UN for independence from Indonesia, after having been occupied by Indonesia's armed forces for more than 25 years. The Indonesian army withdrew, but destroyed 70 per cent of East Timor's infrastructure in a three-week rampage during which 250,000 people were forcibly displaced into Indonesian West Timor. Source: CIIR For more information visit the CIIR website: at

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