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UN must put in place East Timor war crimes tribunal.

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Media Release

The Hon Warren Snowdon, MP

Australian Labor Party

Member for the Northern Territory


22 September 1999


UN must put in place East Timor war crimes tribunal


Federal member for the Northern Territory, Warren Snowdon, said today the United N ations Human Rights Commission’s extraordinary session on East Timor beginning in Geneva tomorrow needed to recommend that a war crimes tribunal with wide-ranging powers be established.


“While an International Criminal Tribunal can only be established by the UN Security Council the Commission tomorrow can pass a resolution calling for it to be set up,” Mr Snowdon said.


The special session, which will last for several days, is only the fourth time the Commission has met in these circumstances - twice for crises in Yugoslavia and once in Rwanda.


The session comes as a result of a strong plea issued by Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. following her visit to Darwin and Jakarta.


“Even though the Australian Government is not a member of the Commission, we want it to support this resolution if moved,” Mr Snowdon said.


“I believe any tribunal subsequently established to be effective must:

  • Be able to investigate crimes dating back to 1975.
  • Be based in the region, perhaps in Tokyo, New Del hi or Bangkok.
  • Be powerfully resourced, with investigating officers based in Dili.
  • Include a witness protection program, and measures to safeguard evidence.
  • Include strong powers for reparation, including access to the assets of the accused.
  • And importantly, have the right to extradite any accused to the tribunal.


“Already the Interfet force in East Timor is coming across sites of killings. These are war crime sites and therefore we must ensure that evidence of these massacres is not destroyed,” Mr Snowdon said.


“I urge discussions between the Human Rights Commissioner and the Interfet commander on the best means to identify potential sites of war crimes and ensure that they are properly documented.


“As part of this forensic investigations unit should be flown to Dili as a matter of urgency.


“It is important that the perpetrators of war crimes and other human rights violations are properly brought to account, regardless of who they are,” Mr Snowdon said.






Tony Haritos; (02)6277 4520; 0417 804 878



md 1999-09-23  10:38