UN team to be invited to E. Timor

In a sign of improving relations with the world body, Jakarta says it will invite a UN human-rights team to observe conditions in East Timor.

INDONESIA will invite a United Nations human-rights team to visit East Timor amid signs of a rapprochement between Jakarta and the UN over the troubled territory.

Foreign Minister Ali Alatas disclosed that the team, a working committee on arbitrary detentions from the UN Commission on Human Rights, will be in East Timor “within one year” to observe the conditions there.

Foreign Ministry sources here told The Sunday Times that this would be the first time a team would be despatched to the territory.

In previous years, particularly after the Dili incident in 1991, the UN body sent a special rapporteur every year to make assessments.

A senior Indonesian armed forces (Abri) officer said that, among other things, the UN team would be granted access to jailed East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao.

“We want them to get an accurate and objective picture of what is happening on the ground,” said the Abri source.

The government initiative comes as Indonesia accepted what it called a balanced UNHCR statement on East Timor.

“The chairman’s statement is acceptable because its contents are balanced,” Mr Alatas said on Thursday.

The commission had in its statement called on Indonesia to promote human rights through various means, including the release of detained East Timorese.

But it also acknowledged that progress had been made.

“The commission welcomes the intention of the government of Indonesia to continue to cooperate with the Commission on Human Rights and its mechanisms, and, in particular, the government’s decision to invite the UN working group on arbitrary detention to visit East Timor,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, Mr Alatas lashed out at Portugal for hosting a meeting of East Timorese leaders living in exile, saying that it undermined efforts at resolving the matter.

The Fretilin, an East Timor rebel group, is still waging a guerilla war against Indonesian troops.

East Timor was declared part of the Indonesian territory in 1976 but the UN does not recognise the move and considers Lisbon the administering power.

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