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Disband para-militaries: Xanana

Suara Pembaruan - February 4, 1999

East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao has pressed the Indonesian govt to disband the para-militaries in East Timor. He said their presence could trigger armed conflict, putting the lives of the people in danger.

One primary focus in East Timor after it becomes independent will be avoiding armed conflict. "We must do everything possible to protect the lives of the pro-integration East Timorese", he said, as quoted by his lawyer, Hendardi to the press in Cipinang Prison.

The statement was made to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions when it visited the prison. As he had said on previous occasions, Xanana stressed the importance of safeguarding the lives of all Timorese, at this moment following the change in the Indonesian government's position.

In his discussion with the Working Group, Xanana said that the abuses in Timor were not just confined to arrests and detentions but to danger of armed conflict which represents a threat to the entire population.

The head of the Working Group, Louis Joinet, said the Group was investigating all arbitrary detentions, including the PRD prisoners and the elderly PKI prisoners. Hendardi told the press that the Group was particularly concerned about the elderly men now serving life sentences.

The Working Group regards Xanana's detention as being arbitrary because he is the leader of the Timorese people who are engaged in strugging for their independence. Joinet said that differences of opinion should not be the reason for any government to arrest and detain someone. Xanana also urged the UN Working Group to place UN officials in East Timor to monitor the human rights situation.

The Working Group's visit, said Hendardi, had come as the result of a decision of the UN Human Rights Commission in Genenva last year and its findings will be present to the Commission at its next meeting. If it finds that there are many human rights abuses, it is possible that the Commission will adopt another resolution criticising Indonesia for this.