Our Reporters on the Trail

For those committed to human rights everywhere, justice is often in the details.

Finding and then convicting the people who use violence to violate the high principles of freedom and democracy can require meticulous searching for the smallest clues.

In two former war zones, East Timor and Bosnia, international investigators are still digging up - sometimes literally - evidence that pins blame on specific warriors.

Such evidence, though often grisly, serves not only to punish the perpetrators but to send a signal to would-be human-rights violators in any nation that they too can be found out. The forensic techniques of uncovering evidence of human rights atrocities have greatly improved in recent years

The Christian Science Monitor and many newspapers contribute to this effort by gathering eyewitness accounts and other information to expose major atrocities.

Our reports don't always make for pleasant reading, but then, telling the truth about past wrongs does help to make our world better.

In 1995, the Monitor found the first on-the-ground evidence of a massacre of civilians from the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. That slaughter by Bosnian Serb fighters was Europe's worst atrocity since the Holocaust. This week, an international war-crimes tribunal will put Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic on trial for that genocide. (See story, page 6.)

On the other side of the world, Monitor reporter Cameron Barr has investigated a killing spree in the former Indonesia-controlled enclave of East Timor. His reports, starting in today's Monitor (see page 1), provide evidence for the first time that Indonesian officers and soldiers were involved in at least 21 disappearances and murders, including that of Monitor contributor Sander Thoenes.

Mr. Barr's stories provide unpleasant details about the final days before Indonesia reluctantly granted independence to the half-island, when soldiers of Battalion 745 targeted people who wanted freedom from a foreign power.

Indonesia still has much to answer for in its 24-year brutal occupation of East Timor, which ended last year. A new civilian president is slowly trying to reign in a military that too often ran amok in East Timor and elsewhere. Without justice against past military abuses, Indonesia faces difficulty in holding its new democracy together.

Shining a light on human rights violations is not easy.

But it sure beats living in the dark.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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