East Timorese seek international court for 1999 abuses

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DILI, Sep 25 (Reuters) About 50 people demonstrated in East Timor's capital today, calling for an international tribunal to try individuals who committed atrocities during the vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999.

The Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), which was set up by Indonesia and East Timor to promote reconciliation between the two neighbours, is holding a final round of hearings this week in East Timor.

But critics say that the commission, which is meant to uncover details of the violence and human rights abuses that occurred as East Timorese prepared to vote, is toothless because it lacks the power to punish those found responsible for abuses.

Yesterday, the commission heard the testimony of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who led the nation's fight against Indonesian rule and who spent seven years in jail in Jakarta.

Protesters in Dili demanded that the commission be disbanded.

''The CTF only defends the criminals and stands in the way of justice,'' said Xisto da Costa, one of about 50 protesters who rallied outside the commission's office in Dili.

''They don't hear the victims' voices,'' he said.

The United Nations estimates about 1,000 East Timorese were killed when pro-Indonesia militias went on a rampage before and after the territory voted to break away from Jakarta rule.

Indonesian officials have told the commissions that only about 100 people were killed.

The militias, backed by members of the Indonesian army, also destroyed most of East Timor's infrastructure.

Today, a former district chief told the commission that before the vote he had been asked by the Indonesian military to set up a militia to defend integration.

''We were trained by General Prabowo in Aileu and we had weapons,'' Tomas Gonsalves told the hearing, referring to the former head of the Indonesian military's special forces, Prabowo Subianto.

He alleged that then-governor Abilio Soares, who died this year, asked militia members to kill independence supporters and church leaders.

Predominantly Catholic East Timor became fully independent in May 2002 after 2-{ years of UN administration that followed 24 years of Indonesian occupation.

REUTERS ARB DS1245

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