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RIGHTS-EAST TIMOR: UN Security Council Approves Peacekeepers

UNITED NATIOS, Oct 30 1999 (IPS) - The UN Security Council Monday committed the United Nations to be the interim administrators of East Timor and voted unanimously to send more than 10,000 peacekeeping troops to the Pacific island state.

The 15-nation Council gave the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) a mandate to maintain law and order in the formerly Indonesian-occupied state, as well as to set up an effective administration, social services and political and development infrastructure.

To achieve those goals, UNTAET was authorised to deploy up to 8,950 soldiers, 200 military observers and 1,640 civilian police officers in East Timor.

The troops, one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces in several years, also were authorised under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter to use “all necessary measures,” including military means, to perform their tasks.

The mission would be headed by a special transitional administrator, who will “have the power to enact new laws and regulations and to amend, suspend or repeal existing ones,” according to the Council resolution.

The Council set an intitial 15-month term for UNTAET, lasting until Jan. 31, 2001. The mission was expected to be deployed within the next two to three months, UN officials said, with UN Under-Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello as its first administrator.

Until that time, security in East Timor would remain the responsibility of the 16-nation International Force (Interfet) led by Australia, involving more than 7,000 troops, which has been operative for the past month.

Several Interfet contributors, including Australia and New Zealand, emphasised Monday that they would continue to provide troops to UNTAET even after Interfet has handed its mission over to the UN force.

“Australia looks forward to the time when the multinational force in East Timor will hand over its duties to the military component of UNTAET,” said Australian Ambassador Penny Wensley.

Michael Powles, New Zealand’s ambassador, said that there were compelling “symbolic and practical” reasons to replace Interfet with the UN force as quickly as possible.

Australia has been under particular pressure from Asian nations to cut back its forces, which number more than 4,500, in East Timor, as some Indonesian officials – particularly those from the recently-defeated government of Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie – accused the Australians of using excessive force.

Indonesian Ambassador Makmur Widodo urged UNTAET to act impartially in East Timor and cautioned that “self-righteous attitudes have proved…to be of no relevance in rectifying the situation but rather could exacerbate the situation.”

Widodo dismissed what he called “unverified and often exaggerated reports of human rights violations,” in which pro- Indonesia militias and their Indonesian military allies were accused of widespread atrocities following the Aug. 30 self- determination ballot.

“Allegations of mass killings have not been supported with even a shred of credible evidence,” he claimed.

Yet Interfet troops have uncovered evidence of killings of supporters of East Timor’s independence, which largely were blamed on the militias.

UN officials estimated that, in the aftermath of the overwhelming vote for independence on Aug. 30, some 500,000 of the more than 850,000 East Timorese were forced to flee their homes, and hundreds of thousands still living in camps in the Indonesian province of West Timor.

The scale of atrocities, and the muted response to the violence by many Asian states, prompted concern among East Timorese leaders over any Asian role in UNTAET.

Jose Ramos Horta, a Timorese Nobel laureate and pro- independence activist, warned recently that if Asian nations were not more forceful in their stance with Jakarta, “we don’t want them.”

Bernard Miyet, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, said that the United Nations, however, was trying to get support for UNTAET from as many Asian countries as possible.

In particular, many key members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines, were expected to contribute troops.

“We will establish the mission as quickly as we can,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday. UN officials were negotiating with countries to obtain the necessary resources for the deployment of the mission, Annan added.

The approval of the East Timor mission came just three days after the Security Council unanimously approved the creation of a 6,000-soldier peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone. The two new missions more than doubled the number of UN troops and police deployed worldwide, Miyet noted.

In recent years, UN peacekeeping missions had shrunk in size, from more than 70,000 troops deployed in the mid-1990s to about 14,000 earlier this year.

But the Sierra Leone and East Timor missions, Miyet argued, showed that the Security Council was more willing to support UN peacekeeping. “The pendulum is bouncing back,” he said.

 
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RIGHTS-EAST TIMOR: UN Security Council Approves Peacekeepers

UNITED NATIOS, Oct 25 1999 (IPS) - The UN Security Council Monday committed the United Nations to be the interim administrators of East Timor and voted unanimously to send more than 10,000 peacekeeping troops to the Pacific island state.
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