UN `is presiding over whitewash in East Timor'

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THE UNITED Nations was accused of presiding over a whitewash yesterday when it emerged that an investigation into crimes against humanity in East Timor will be carried out in co-operation with Indonesian politicians and generals.

Humanitarian agencies and the independence movement have widely varying estimates of the numbers of civilians killed since the referendum four weeks ago, ranging from a few hundred to 25,000.

At a meeting in Geneva today, the UN Human Rights Commission is expected to pass a resolution calling on the Indonesian government's own human rights commission to take part in the investigation of atrocities carried out by the Indonesian military during its campaign of terror and intimidation in East Timor. The Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas Ham), which was set up by the former Indonesian dictator, President Suharto, is to be included after Asian members of the UN commission blocked previous, stronger, resolutions. The new resolution also calls for the participation of Asian experts, likely to be sympathetic to Indonesia.

"It's an absolute joke, a complete whitewash," one UN official told The Independent. Lucia Withers, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International, said: "To have Indonesians carry out an investigation into violations by their own army will cause East Timorese even more trauma than they have suffered already."

Meanwhile, in East Timor, the evidence of crimes against humanity - and so the chance of bringing successful prosecutions - is literally rotting away because of inadequate resources."The need for forensic experts is very, very urgent," David Wimhurst, spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in East Timor said yesterday.

Justice far off, page 10