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International human rights inquiry into East Timor

UN sets up international human rights inquiry into East Timor.

30 September -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan today asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, to set up an international commission of inquiry on East Timor and to report the results by 31 December.

The commission would include "adequate representation of Asian experts" and cooperate with the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights, the Secretary-General said in a letter to Mrs. Robinson.

Speaking at a UN press conference in New York, Mrs. Robinson said it was "extremely important" that Indonesia is taking ownership of the violations in East Timor, adding that the national human rights commission has asked her office in Jakarta to provide support and technical assistance into its own fact-finding mission.

But "it's not a substitute for the international commission of inquiry," Mrs. Robinson stressed. She noted that the Indonesian investigation would be confined to the period after the 30 August ballot, when anti-independence militia began a rampage of violence and bloodshed throughout East Timor, while the international inquiry would cover all of 1999.

Meanwhile in East Timor, a UN investigation has begun into the discovery yesterday of 10 charred bodies in a small pick-up truck that had been set ablaze in a field just off the coastal road west of the capital Dili, a UN spokesman said. The UN police have also joined a Dutch police investigator looking into last week's murder of a Dutch journalist working for The Financial Times of London. Two eyewitnesses to that murder were found, and their investigation is continuing.

East Timor capital braces for 100,000 returnees: UNHCR. 30 September -- United Nations relief agencies today continued delivery of emergency supplies to thousands of East Timorese scattered throughout the territory as the capital braced for the return of up to 100,000 displaced persons.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 70,000 residents have returned to Dili so far, with another 30,000 expected to reach the capital soon. Humanitarian workers are working diligently to provide people coming down from the hills with basic services.

A 29-car inter-agency humanitarian convoy escorted by the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) arrived in Lospalos, delivering plastic sheeting, food, collapsible jerry cans and health kits. According to UN officials, a small child suffering from pneumonia and several other seriously ill people were evacuated by helicopter to the Portuguese hospital in Dili.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it will shift its food distribution strategy to land deliveries. The first distribution of rice, enough to feed 100,000 people for a month, is expected to take place Monday.

A UNHCR staff member joined an aerial assessment mission over the western portions of the territory by the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET). They reported seeing many houses burning in the towns of Maliana and Ermera. On return to Dili, the UNHCR staff member estimated that the level of devastation in the western area is worse than in the capital.

Meanwhile in West Timor, UNHCR estimated that there are 136,000 displaced East Timorese in the Atambua area. Other members of the UNHCR team visited five camps of displaced persons in the Kupang area.

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