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Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 00:15 GMT 01:15 UK

UK Politics

Cook backs Timor 'war crimes' probe

Will a war crimes tribunal follow the peacekeepers?

The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, is backing the creation of a special tribunal to deal with crimes against humanity in East Timor.

East Timor
Any such tribunal, he said, should have powers to prosecute not only those who carried out the crimes, but those who planned them.

At the United Nations in New York, he said the holding of a special session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on Thursday was the start of the process.

"If we have the opening to create a [war crimes] tribunal, Britain would certainly support that," Mr Cook said.

The BBC's Barnaby Mason at the UN: "Mr Cook said no immunity for those responsible for atrocities"
And if it led to the conclusion that there were individuals who had committed major international humanitarian crimes, they must not go unpunished, he said - there must be a remedy.

"We do not only look for justice against those who may have carried out the violence in the streets. We have got to follow it back to those who planned, incited and organised the violence."

He said that the co-operation of the Indonesian authorities and military in investigating the killing of a Financial Times journalist would be a very real test of co-operation with the international peacekeeping force in general.

[ image: Mr Cook: Crimes must be punished]
Mr Cook: Crimes must be punished
In a meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, he called on Jakarta to cooperate fully with the peacekeepers and to allow humanitarian convoys to reach hundreds of thousands of refugees.

He said Mr Alatas had told him of Indonesia's own investigation into human rights abuses in East Timor.

But Mr Cook said that should not preclude an international tribunal.

He added that the European Union had decided to back the setting-up of a tribunal into human-rights abuses in the former Portuguese colony.

Generals named

His comments follow the naming of six Indonesian army generals and two officers alleged to have orchestrated "genocide" in East Timor.

The European Council of Humanity Action and Co-operation, which identified sites of war crimes in Kosovo, also disclosed the identity of 13 militia leaders who it said should be prosecuted along with the generals.

There have been widespread allegations that the Indonesian army co-ordinated and abetted the assault on pro-independence Timorese after the UN-supervised referendum.

Australia has already offered its support for a tribunal, while the United States says it is reviewing the proposal.

But UN diplomats said many countries, amongst them China, had misgivings about creating such a tribunal because it could destabilise Indonesia's already rocky transition to democracy.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has said it is clear that elements in the Indonesian army played a role in militia atrocities in East Timor.

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