4 February - A UN forensic team working at a massacre site in the Oecussi enclave of West Timor has exhumed a total of 37 bodies, the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) reported today.
The team also exhumed an additional nine sets of human remains, located two other bodies and expects to locate and exhume another eight bodies. All the remains are believed to belong to the victims of the 9 September 1999 massacre in Passabe, near the border with West Timor.
The forensic exams to identify the victims and ascertain the cause of death are expected to take a month, after which the bodies will be returned to the villages for burial. A religious service to honour the victims of the massacre was held today in Dili at the UNTAET Human Rights Centre.
In other news, UNTAET has identified 200 Timorese former policemen to work alongside its Civilian Police (CIVPOL) until the first recruits of the Police Academy graduate later this month. Following a selection process and a three-day training course from 23-25 February, the first group of 50 will be deployed around the territory by the beginning of March. The remainder will be dispatched by the end of April.
Known as the Police Assistance Group, the new assistants are neither members of CIVPOL nor of the future East Timorese Police Force, although they will be eligible to apply for the new force. They are to provide advice to CIVPOL officers on aspects of Timorese culture and share their professional experience of traditional patterns of criminal behaviour. They will not have powers of arrest.
In addition to rebuilding a civilian police force for East Timor, another top priority for the UN mission is to help reconstruct the physical infrastructure of the court system, with the help of the international community. UNTAET reported today that Portugal has sent a team to assess the reconstruction needs at the Dili Court House and Australia's Northern Territory government has promised to send furniture for the court.
Also today, an Indonesian military plane arrived in Dili, bringing humanitarian aid from religious groups in Indonesia. The flight was organized by the Society for Inter-Religious Dialogue, with the support of President Wahid of Indonesia, who made the airforce plane available.