'Still no justice' in East Timor

By Karishma Vaswani 
BBC News, Suai

Anti-independence militia in Dili, East Timor (26 August 1999)
Hundreds of people were killed and injured in violence around the poll

East Timorese victims of the violence of 1999 and of Indonesia's occupation have yet to receive any justice, says a report by Amnesty International.

Ten years ago an overwhelming majority of East Timorese people voted for independence from Indonesia.

But in the lead up to the vote and in its aftermath, militia loyal to the Indonesians went on a rampage, killing and injuring hundreds.

Amnesty has called on the UN to set up an international criminal tribunal.

Suai was the location of a deadly church massacre of 1999, one of a number carried out by pro-Indonesian militia in the aftermath of the referendum vote.

At least 26 people were killed in the Ave Maria church. Locals here say hundreds more remain unaccounted for.

Many of the victims of the violence are angry and disappointed with their government for not punishing those responsible for the crimes.

Monumental task

A young woman washes clothes in Dili, East Timor (file image)
Most people in East Timor live on less than $1 a day

Amnesty International's report says the United Nations, and the governments of Indonesia and East Timor, have failed to deliver justice to the victims of violence in East Timor.

It is calling on the United Nations to set up an international criminal tribunal, which should have the power to punish those responsible for human rights violations.

The report adds that previous attempts by the East Timorese and Indonesian governments to bring justice to the people of East Timor have not worked, and have created a culture of impunity that continues to haunt people here.

But East Timor's government says that continuing to focus on the past will not allow the nation to move forward and that its priorities are to develop the local economy so the country's people can begin to rely on themselves instead of foreign aid.

But that is a monumental task - East Timor remains one of the poorest countries in Asia. Most people live on less than $1 a day.

Ten years on from the historic independence vote, and the optimism amongst East Timor's people is still evident.

But Amnesty warns that the country's leaders must deliver on the promises they have made to their citizens, before it is too late.

source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8223686.stm

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