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West Timor: UN officials dismayed by light sentences for killers of aid workers

West Timor: UN officials dismayed by light sentences for killers of aid workers

Two top United Nations officials have expressed their disappointment at the light sentences handed down by a Jakarta court to six men accused of involvement in the brutal killing of three UN aid workers last September in West Timor.

UN General Assembly President Harri Holkeri of Finland today expressed his surprise at the ruling and noted that UN humanitarian staff routinely exposed themselves to risk in carrying out their work, according to his spokesperson.

Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to President Wahid of Indonesia, Ruud Lubbers, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, noted that the three victims were killed while trying to assist the Indonesian Government in coping with the refugee crisis in West Timor. In that light, the sentences amounted to a failure of justice and were an affront to the deceased, their families and the UN system, he said, adding that the rulings also created a dangerous environment of impunity for humanitarian workers.

The High Commissioner's Office (UNHCR) stated today that Mr. Lubbers had been informed by the Indonesian authorities that an appeal would be made. UNHCR's position is that those responsible for the killings must receive sentences proportionate to the crime.

Meanwhile, the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) announced today that as part of its ongoing efforts to prepare the former territory for independence over 307,600 East Timorese have been registered by the Civil Registry Unit.

The best results have been achieved in Manatuto district - with over 65 per cent of the estimated population already registered - and in Aileu district with over 50 per cent registered. More than 40 per cent have registered in Ermera, a densely populated district with an estimated population of over 92,000 people.