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No amnesty for crimes against humanity, says East Timorese bishop

Amnesty should not be offered to those responsible for crimes against humanity during the violence that surrounded East Timor's 1999 bid for independence, said Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo of Dili.

In a pastoral statement released in late June, Bishop Belo said amnesty could be offered to those who committed less serious offences because newly independent East Timor's fledgling justice system could not bear the cost of prosecuting all offenders.

"However, persons who committed the most serious crimes such as mass murder, even for political reasons, should not be eligible for an automatic amnesty," he said.

Amnesty has emerged as a controversial topic in East Timor as the country tries to move from its violent, bloody past toward a peaceful future. Many want the militias responsible for the wave of violence during the UN- sponsored independence vote in 1999 prosecuted.

More than 1000 people were killed in the aftermath of the referendum. Rape and other human rights abuses also were used by the militias, who were financed and trained by the Indonesian military, as a tool to thwart independence supporters.


10 Jul 2002