International Inquiry Commission on East Timor Concludes Session in Geneva

News and Press Release
Originally published
COMMUNIQUE, Geneva, 14 December 1999
The Commission of Inquiry set up by the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the request of the Secretary-General, and pursuant to a decision of the Commission on Human Rights, to examine issues of respect for human rights and humanitarian law, concluded a series of meetings in Geneva today. The Commission met with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and briefed her on their activities.

The Commission had earlier assembled in Geneva, then proceeded to East Timor and the region for a visit that lasted from 24 November to 8 December 1999, and then returned to Geneva to consider its report to the Secretary-General. The report is in an advanced state of preparation and will be submitted to the Secretary-General in due course.

The Members of the Commission are Ms. Sonia Picado Sotela (Chairperson), CostaRica; Mrs.Judith Sefi Attah, Nigeria; Mr. Justice A.M. Ahmadi, India; SirMariKapi, Papua New Guinea; and Mrs. Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, Germany.

Witnesses gave evidence that intimidation and terror was systematically used that resulted in many killings and injuries. They also spoke of the targeting of women which included sexual abuse and rape. UNAMET also informed the Commission of abuses against its staff.

The Commission saw for itself the extent of destruction of property and interviewed many returnees who were displaced. They spoke of the terror that had forced them to flee. The Commission heard testimony of the destruction of evidence including removal of bodies from the site of killings.

The Commission heard evidence of the involvement of militia groups and army personnel in the intimidation and terror complained of.

Members of the Commission feel that the individual's right to know the truth and to have an effective remedy for violations of human rights must be given priority. The Commission further emphasizes the need to act against impunity.

Members of the Commission are unanimously of the view that the investigatory process into the allegations of atrocities should be continued with a view to bringing those responsible to justice.