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Bishop Belo calls for international court action on 1999 East Timor violence

Dili's Bishop Carlos Belo, last night called for an international court of justice to prosecute those responsible for the bloody rampage against the East Timorese people in September 1999.

Bishop Belo made his decisive intervention after receiving an honorary doctorate at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney.

"It is our belief that only an international court will be able to prosecute the generals and commanders who were behind the September 1999 violence," he said. "It is clear that what happened in East Timor was not a spontaneous response by Timorese who wanted to stay with Indonesia."

He continued: "According to James Dunn, your former Australian consul to East Timor, who presented his report to the UN last week, it was indeed a conspiracy led by a number of Indonesian generals. He said that he could name 24 Indonesian officers as key people involved in the bloody rampage."

Bishop Belo insisted that reconciliation does not replace the need for justice, but instead demands it.

"Reconciliation alone is superficial, but if it combines with justice then healing and restoration becomes possible for the people of East Timor - and for the people of Indonesia," he said.

He suggested that if the cost of an international tribunal is an issue, it shouldn't be. And that justice is a more effective deterrent to further violence than force.

"Western Governments appear to happily accept the expenditure of billions of dollars on military action against dictators like Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosovic. An effective international criminal court is a much better deterrent than the use of force will ever be."