Annan calls sentences in West Timor killings "wholly unacceptable"

Annan calls sentences in West Timor killings "wholly unacceptable"

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Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "shocked" to learn of the light sentences handed down by a Jakarta court today to six men in connection with the murders of United Nations relief workers last year in West Timor, according to a statement issued today by his spokesman.

"This is a blow to the international community's efforts to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and a wholly unacceptable response to the ultimate sacrifice which Pero Simundza, Samson Aregahegn and Carlos Caceres made in humanitarian service," the statement said.

The convicted men were reportedly given sentences ranging from 10 to 20 months for the 6 September 2000 killings of three staff members from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Atambua, West Timor.

While welcoming the determination of the concerned authorities to bring the perpetrators of such acts to justice, Mr. Annan said the ruling appeared "incommensurate" with what was known to have been deliberate and brutal killings.

According to the statement, the Secretary-General remains concerned over the unresolved issue of the armed militias and the high number of East Timorese refugees remaining in camps in West Timor. He reiterates that it remains the responsibility of the Government of Indonesia to implement all measures called upon by the Security Council in September 2000, including disarmament of the militias and repatriation or reintegration of refugees.

For its part, the United Nations refugee agency said it was "deeply disturbed" by the light degree of punishment given to the offenders. "The sentences make a mockery of the international community's insistence that justice be done in this horrific case," the organization said in a statement issued in Geneva. "Today's sentencing flies in the face of world opinion and is an affront to the memory of those humanitarians who have given their lives in the service of others."

In other news, the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) today reported that of the 67,000 houses rendered unliveable during the 1999 post-referendum violence in the territory, 47 per cent have been rehabilitated, according to a poverty study by the National Planning and Development Agency.

The study also revealed that 98 per cent of East Timor's 498 neighbourhoods reported that its households had benefited from food distribution since August 1999, and 63 per cent had received shelter kits.