Subject: West 'must pay' for brutal occupation

World News

The Times

November 29, 2005

West 'must pay' for brutal occupation

By Richard Lloyd Parry

Contentious report seeks restitution for East Timor

THE British and American governments and international arms makers should pay compensation for their part in Indonesia’s brutal 24-year occupation of East Timor, a commission of inquiry has demanded.

The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR), an independent organisation established by the East Timorese Government, is calling for reparations for victims of torture, rape and violence perpetrated by Indonesia from its invasion in 1975 to its bloody withdrawal in 1999.

The commission is demanding that Western governments contribute to the fund because of the tacit approval they gave to the occupation, and the weapons and military training they provided to Indonesia. And it is urging the international community to hand over those suspected of human rights abuses, freeze their assets and block them from travelling as a prelude to a series of trials.

However, several of the commission’s key recommendations are opposed by President Gusmao of East Timor, who has said that they would have disastrous consequences.

Human rights campaigners fear that he will suppress parts of the unpublished report, some of which has been seen by The Times, for fear of offending Indonesia and the governments that supported it.

Paul Barber, of the British human rights organisation Tapol, said: “We are extremely concerned by reports that the President is reluctant to publish in full this important report, which will help the Timorese people and the world to understand the truth about the terrible crimes committed during Indonesia’s brutal occupation.”

Indonesia invaded East Timor ­ formerly a Portuguese colony ­ in 1975, a step tacitly approved by much of the non-communist world, including Britain, the US, Australia and Japan. At the height of the Cold War an independent East Timor looked to many like a potential Cuba in the centre of South-East Asia. President Suharto of Indonesia was, by contrast, a committed anti-communist and friend of the W est. He was supplied with arms by Western companies and with military assistance and training by the US and Britain until 1998, when he resigned after nationwide demonstrations.

President Suharto’s forces fought a cruel guerrilla war against the dwindling East Timorese Army, Falintil. As many as 200,000 people died.

After East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-organised referendum in 1999, Indonesian troops and local militias burnt its towns, killing 2,000 people, and deported 250,000 inhabitants to Indonesia.

“The permanent members of the Security Council, particularly the US but also Britain and France, who gave military backing to the Indonesian Government between 1974 and 1999 and who are duty bound to uphold the highest principles of world order and peace and to protect the weak and vulnerable, (should) assist the Government of Timor-Leste in the provision of reparations to victims of human rights violations suffered during the Indonesian occupation,” the CAVR report says. “Business corporations that profited from the sale of weapons to Indonesia during the occupation of Timor-Leste (should) contribute to the reparations programme”.

The British company most often accused of contributing to the suppression of East Timor is British Aerospace, whose Hawk fighter jets were repeatedly said to have been used against Falintil during its war of resistance. A spokesman for BAE Systems, which includes British Aerospace, refused to comment. The Foreign Office said that it would wait for the publication of the report before issuing a statement.

The 2,500-page report was presented to President Gusmao at the end of last month, and the CAVR expected to release it yesterday. But it remained under wraps, provoking fears that the Government is attempting to reduce its impact.

Despite his own sufferings as a guerrilla leader who spent six years in an Indonesian jail, Mr Gusmao has always emphasised the importance of good relations with Indonesia, the vast island nation of 242 million that surrounds tiny East Timor’s population of 952,000.


December 1975 President Ford visits Jakarta. Suharto tells him of his intention to invade East Timor. The day after Ford’s departure, it begins. Civilians massacred on the quayside in the East Timorese capital, Dili

1977-79 Indonesian Operation Encirclement and Annihilation entails looting, burning of villages, mass imprisonment, torture, rape and the massacre of prisoners. Red Cross reported humanitarian disaster with mass starvation

1983 Hundreds massacred by soldiers in the village of Kraras

1991 180 mourners killed by soldiers at cemetery in Dili

1992 Guerrilla commander Xanana Gusmao captured

1994 Robin Cook tells Parliament that British Aerospace jets have been bombing in East Timor since 1984

1998 Suharto is forced to resign

1999 His successor permits a UN-run referendum. 80 per cent back independence. Indonesian-led units burn towns and cities

2002 East Timor becomes independent


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