UN Pledges More Resources to East Timor Chief Investigator

Published November 20th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The UN chief investigator for serious crimes in East Timor has agreed not to resign after last minute pledges by the body's administrators to supply his unit with desperately needed resources, a UN official said Monday. 

Oivind Olsen heads some 30 investigators in the UN's Special Crimes Unit in Dili, tasked with gathering evidence on crimes committed during East Timor's independence-ballot violence between January 1 and October 25 last year. 

An official told AFP that Olsen tendered his resignation late last week out of frustration at chronic under-researching of the unit, which was crippling its capacity to prosecute and undermining efforts at reconciliation. 

"He didn't want to become a scapegoat for the inefficiency of UNTAET to do its job," the official, who declined to be identified, said. 

Leaders of the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) pleaded with him not to quit and promised to give the unit more resources, he added, eventually convincing Olsen to stay on. 

Olsen declined to elaborate when contacted by AFP. 

"I am not resigning, that's all I can comment," he said by phone from East Timor's capital Dili. 

Asked if the unit had been promised more resources, he replied: "Things are moving," adding that he was compiling a report on resources lacking in the unit. 

Two-thirds of the 56 people arrested on suspicion of serious crimes in the province have been released because the Special Crimes Unit lacked the resources to continue their investigations, a UN investigator told AFP. 

Local leaders in the violence-hit town of Suai complained to a delegation from the UN Security Council last week that the failure to punish confessed killers and rapists in their community was a barrier to reconciliation. 

East Timor's Non Government Organisations (NGOs) Forum reinforced the message to the delegation, telling them that UNTAET was failing "to carry out its mandate to bring to justice" those responsible for last year's violence. 

"These war crimes took place over a year ago and the longer the investigations are delayed the less likely it is that there will ever be successful prosecutions," a report by the Forum stated. 

It called on the Security Council to ask UNTAET to immediately reallocate "substantial resources" to the investigation of war crimes. 

"The Serious Crimes Unit has only been allocated the resources to investigate a very small proportion of the alleged war crimes," the report said. 

"It is grossly understaffed, and lacking anything like sufficient basic necessities as interpeters, transport and computers." 

Olsen's near-resignation has pushed authorities to act on the pleas for more funds, an official said. 

"There are moves afoot to ... provide the resources needed," he said. 

At least 600 people were killed, towns razed, and thousands driven from their homes by anti-independence militias, backed by Indonesian army personnel, in the months before and after the territory's August 30 for independence -- JAKARTA (AFP)  



© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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