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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Timor militias face atrocities probe

The motion could lead the way to a full scale war crimes tribunal

Alleged atrocities by pro-Indonesian militias in East Timor are set to be investigated by an international commission, after the United Nations' main human rights body voted in favour of an inquiry.

East Timor
The UN Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva on Monday passed the EU-sponsored plan despite Indonesian opposition.

Indonesia has said it will not co-operate with the international investigation. It says its own inquiry led by the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas) is sufficient.

[ image: Indonesia says further intervention could enflame nationalist sentiment]
Indonesia says further intervention could enflame nationalist sentiment
Other Asian countries also opposed the plan, arguing that Jakarta had shown good faith in allowing international forces into the territory.

The head of Komnas and co-chairman of the ruling Golkar party, Marzuki Darusman, told the BBC that the vote was "a setback for the Indonesian Government". But he said "we will just have to accept it."

However, he added that the move could deepen nationalist sentiment amongst the Indonesian public "against the perceived intrusion of outside interests."

Rising protests

Head of Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights, Marzuki Darusman: "Setback for Indonesian government"
There have been growing protests, particularly in the capital Jakarta, against the Australian-led international intervention in East Timor.

The commission also resolved that those responsible for human rights violations in East Timor should be brought to justice and called for all refugees to be allowed to return home.

The vote came as reports emerged from East Timor of further atrocities, including the deaths of five Roman Catholic clergy and nine civilians allegedly killed by departing Indonesian soldiers.

[ image: The EU says
The EU says "grave violations" of human rights must be investigated
The 53-member UN commission voted 32-12 in favour of a motion calling on UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, to launch an inquiry. There were six abstentions.

China and the Philippines were among those to voting against the resolution. Three other countries were absent from the vote.

Indonesia's ambassador, Hassan Wirajuda, had appealed for Asian allies to vote against what he called "the high-handed self-righteous approach" taken by the EU.

'Grave violations'

The BBC's Claire Doole in Geneva:"Indonesian warned an international inquiry could be counterproductive"
But Finnish ambassador Pekka Huhtaniemi, speaking on behalf of the EU, said that "extremely grave violations" of human rights had to be investigated by the international community.

He said the resolution was "constructive and co-operative in its spirit".

On Friday, EU officials softened the text of the original proposal, adding praise for the Indonesian Government and stressing the need to work alongside Indonesia's own National Commission on Human Rights.

[ image: Much of East Timor has been reduced to a smouldering ruin by weeks of violence]
Much of East Timor has been reduced to a smouldering ruin by weeks of violence
The new proposal calls for "adequate representation of Asian experts" on the inquiry panel.

Speaking to the BBC Mr Huhtaniemi said the EU would have liked to achieve a consensus on the inquiry but ultimately it became obvious that could not be achieved and the motion would have to be put to a vote.

"We know that there are many qualified human rights experts in Asia" he said.

Finnish ambassador Pekka Huhtaniemi: We would have preferred a consensus
The commission of inquiry is being seen as the first step towards the possible creation of a UN war crimes tribunal for East Timor.

However Mr Huhtaniemi said any decision to proceed towards a tribunal would be up to the UN Security Council based on material uncovered by the inquiry.

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