Subject: SMH/E Timor: Evidence of organised killing campaign grows

Sydney Morning Herald November 12 1999

Evidence of organised killing campaign grows

By PAUL DALEY, Herald Correspondent in Dili

Evidence is emerging that Indonesia's security forces and militias orchestrated a campaign of widespread murder in East Timor in early September and hid the bodies before the arrival weeks later of international troops and observers.

Evidence of hundreds of killings in Dili alone - and possibly many more at sea - confirms the view of Australian intelligence figures that thousands, rather than hundreds, of East Timorese have died in recent months.

The international peace force in East Timor, Interfet, officially lists the number of dead at 108.

But the East Timor Human Rights Commission says that in the three weeks to October 22 it found evidence of 364 recent killings in Dili alone.

The commission says it is also investigating allegations that the Indonesian military (TNI), police and militias killed a large number of East Timorese students aboard a passenger ferry en route from Java to East Timor on September 7 and dumped their bodies at sea.

The allegation is given weight by Australian signals intelligence, which specifically indicates a large number of East Timorese students were killed at sea.

The signals intelligence also points to many other East Timorese being killed on boats or on land and then being dumped into the ocean.

The Australian intelligence community believes the discovery of more than 90 bodies on beaches on the north and south coasts of East Timor in recent weeks is further evidence that a large number of people were disposed of at sea.

''You have a situation where in some cases hands and feet were tied. In other cases bodies have wounds or were burnt,'' an intelligence source said.

''It leads to the conclusion that large numbers of East Timorese could be dead - some killed at sea, others killed on land, then burnt and hidden at sea.

''This takes some effort and it points to a systematic cover-up.''

Asked if Interfet's official death toll was correct, the commission's general co-ordinator, Ms Isabel da costa Fereira, said: ''The commission also has started investigations into killings, and from October 2 until October 22 we found 364 bodies just in Dili and [nearby towns of] Hera and Tabar.

''We are still expecting reports from our investigators who have been sent to other places to see how many might have been killed in other parts of East Timor in the same period,'' she said.

While Interfet has been charged with securing East Timor, its mandate does not include searching for bodies or investigating crimes.

Ms Fereira said the 364 bodies did not include those reportedly found on beaches, many of which were being buried after discovery.

Of the missing East Timorese students, she said: ''On September 7 there was one boat coming from Java and Bali, and we hear that a lot of students were coming by that boat, and we hear that many of them were killed and dropped into the sea.

''But we cannot be sure of that because, of course, if they drop the bodies into the sea we are not able to find them.

''At the moment, we believe it was an operation involving TNI, the militias, the police and other military institutions.''

Ms Fereira, who outlined some alleged crimes to a United Nations special rapporteur in Dili this week, urged the UN to send experts urgently to investigate allegations of rape, torture, murder and other crimes.

''It is very important that the international community come into East Timor because the evidence of crime is here now,'' she said.

An American doctor who runs a clinic in Dili, Dr Dan Murphy, said he had recently treated four patients who claimed to have witnessed killings at sea.

He said he believed the official estimates of how many people died are very low. ''People died in every district and in sizeable numbers,'' he said. ''I have had four patients recently who were witness to killings at sea.''


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