Subject: AP: Truth hearings recalling Indonesian brutality conclude in East Timor

Truth hearings recalling Indonesian brutality conclude in East Timor

November 21, 2003 2:23am AP Online All

A witness Friday recounted seeing Indonesian troops and their militia proxies shooting and stabbing terrified refugees in a church in East Timor in 1999 during violence that swept the territory when it voted for independence.

The testimony at the East Timor Commission for Reception, Truth & Reconciliation occurred on the final day of a series of hearings here aimed at exposing the horrors _ and healing the wounds _ of Indonesia's bloody occupation of the territory.

The hearing comes after efforts to bring Indonesian suspects to trial over the massacres have largely failed, and East Timor's leaders have said they do not favor convening an international tribunal to bring them to justice.

Herminia Mendes said she saw Indonesian troops and police, along with scores of militia proxies, attack Liquica church on April 6, 1999, where hundreds of refugees were sheltering.

"My guess is there were about 60 or 70 dead bodies spread every where," she said. "I saw with my eyes the dead bodies were taken in a truck, but I do not know where they were taken," the 37-year-old told the commission.

Her testimony, one of a series since Wednesday about massacres in East Timor since 1975, was aired on national television and radio.

Commission organizers say the hearings are part of efforts by the tiny nation to come to terms with its violent past and publicly record the atrocities committed by Indonesian troops and their local proxies.

The testimonies could also be used in later prosecution of those responsible, but this is considered unlikely.

A special Indonesian rights court convened last has been widely criticized as a sham because it convicted only six of 18 Indonesian military and government officials. All remain free pending their appeals.

Last year, the court acquitted an Indonesian soldier of charges he failed to prevent the Liquica massacre.

Indonesian officials have ignored indictments from East Timorese prosecutors.

Moreover, East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao has made it clear he does not support calls for more efforts to bring those responsible to justice, saying the tiny country's relations with Indonesia were more important.

More than 1,000 people were killed before and after a 1999 referendum in which the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence from 24 years of often brutal Indonesian occupation and, before that, more than four centuries of Portuguese colonial rule. Much of the half-island was destroyed in the 1999 violence.

Some estimates say as many as 200,000 East Timorese may have died during Indonesia's occupation as a result of military operations against the guerillas and starvation and disease.

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