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Amnesty International On East Timor

27 September 1999

Reports of hampered investigations and alleged extrajudicial executions strengthen the need for an international independent inquiry

(Darwin) -- Amnesty International is concerned about reports of lack of co-operation by the Indonesian authorities into on-going investigations of killings in East Timor, including that of murdered Dutch journalist Sander Thoenes.

"Indonesia's past record into investigating human rights violations leaves a lot to be desired," Amnesty International said. "If Indonesian authorities are going to be involved, they should not try to block any investigations, intimidate witnesses or destroy evidence."

According to recent reports, retreating TNI forces extrajudicially executed seven people, including two Catholic nuns, Sisters Erminia Cazzanaige and Celeste de Carvalho, together with Fathers Bernardo and Jacinto, who were killed between Baucau and Los Palos around 26 or 27 September.

These reports, while still unconfirmed by Amnesty International, are consistent with a pattern of unlawful killings believed to have taken place throughout the whole of East Timor. They are also consistent with the wider picture of the specific targetting of high risk groups, such as religious workers, by TNI and militia forcing them to flee into West Timor.

"These incidents again highlight the urgent need for the UN Secretary General to ensure credible investigations into suspected crimes against humanity and war crimes are independent, credible and effective," Amnesty International said. "Immediate steps must be taken by UNAMET and INTERFET to secure evidence and ensure protection for witnesses until proper investigations can take place."

The above reports only serve to strengthen the following Amnesty International concerns:

The UN Secretary General must ensure that the Commission of Inquiry, called for by the UN Commission on Human Rights, is genuinely international, able to act independently of the Indonesian government and national institutions, and is given the necessary resources and expertise.

In relation to evidence that might indicate violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law committed in a systematic manner, UNAMET and INTERFET should:

­ secure these sites;

­ ensure that timely exhumations and investigations are carried out by forensic and other experts;

­ ensure that evidence is preserved, not only for investigation purposes, but also for any judicial action to be carried out against those responsible in national courts, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, or under a specially created international tribunal;

­ ensure protection for witnesses.

Examples like these show the urgent need for evidence to be collected now.

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