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Proof of `systematic killings' in Timor

A UNITED Nations investigator said yesterday that her team had found evidence of "systematic" murder in East Timor, but prospects for justice for the newly independent country remain uncertain after the Indonesian government declared its unwillingness to see senior officers prosecuted overseas.

"We will try not to deliver the generals to an international tribunal," the new Indonesian Foreign Minister was quoted as saying in the Jakarta Post yesterday. "We don't want generals unable to travel overseas and [liable to] be arrested like Pinochet."

The head of the UN Commission of Inquiry in East Timor, Sonia Picado, said that about 200 bodies had been uncovered - the victims of an explosion of violence by Indonesian troops and their militias after the country voted for indepen-dence from Indonesia in a referendum in August.

"The killings in East Timor were systematic," Ms Picado said in Jakarta after a nine-day investigation. "Every day you find bodies. So many people have died including women and children." But she declined to say whether she would recommend the setting up of an East Timorese war crimes tribunal such as those established for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

The Indonesian government has set up its own investigation, led by senior human rights lawyers, which announced this week that it would summon leading officers for questioning this month. The Committee for the Investigation of Human Rights Abuses in East Timor says it has drawn up a list of 60 generals involved in abuses, including the former armed forces commander, General Wiranto.

The new government of President Abdurrahman Wahid, which was democratically elected in October, has promised not to interfere with either of the investigations. But it still needs the support of the military, which has already been humiliated by the loss of Timor and by allegations of further human rights abuses and violence in the provinces of Aceh, Irian Jaya and the Spice Islands.

On Tuesday, the Defence Minister, Juwoni Sudarsons, warned that, unless democratic institutions in Indonesia are strengthened, "within months or years ... the military will come back in full force and take over from civilian control".