16 September 2009

UN criticises Timor-Leste over militia leader's release

15 September 2009 (AFP) – 1 hour ago DILI ­ The United Nations' human rights representative in East Timor criticised Tuesday government "interference" in the release of an Indonesian militia leader accused of crimes against humanity.

The government of former rebel leader Xanana Gusmao went outside the law in freeing militia leader Martenus Bere last month, Louis Gentile, the local representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters.

"What we know is that the legal means to release someone from prison were not followed, so whatever has happened must be therefore something that is political and there must be some kind of interference," Gentile said.

"If there is no trial in East Timor and there is no adequate trial in Indonesia then the (UN) Security Council... has to consider what other option is available to bring those people to justice, including an international tribunal," he said.

The government has been under fire for its decision to release Bere, who was arrested after crossing into East Timor on August 8 for his alleged involvement in the 1999 Suai church massacre in which up to 200 people died.

He was released during commemorations marking 10 years since East Timor won independence from a brutal 24-year Indonesian occupation in a UN-backed vote amid militia violence that killed around 1,400 people.

The opposition Fretilin party moved a censure motion in parliament this week over Bere's release, aimed at giving President Jose Ramos-Horta the authority to dismiss the government.

However, Ramos-Horta is a strong supporter of forgiveness for those accused of rights violations during the Indonesian occupation, during which at least 100,000 people are estimated to have died due to violence, preventable disease and starvation.

Only one person is currently in prison in East Timor over violence committed around the 1999 vote. No one has been successfully prosecuted in Indonesia, according to rights group Amnesty International.
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