Subject: Release E. Timor Atrocities Report Even If Indonesia Objects: Rights Groups

Human rights groups say E. Timor Truth Commission report should be public even if Indonesia objects

NEW YORK, Dec. 16 (AP): East Timor should publicly release a Truth Commission report on Indonesian atrocities during 24 years of occupation even if it offends Jakarta, the lead researcher on the report and a key human rights advisory group said.

Australia and the United States are also reportedly implicated in the commission's findings, for quietly giving the green light to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975.

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao has repeatedly said he favors reconciliation with Indonesia over seeking justice for an estimated 200,000 Timorese who died under Jakarta's rule.

Gusmao presented the 2,500-page Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission report to Parliament last month but has not yet made it public.

Patrick Ball, who designed a unique survey of mortality rates before and during Indonesian occupation, said Thursday that Gusmao owes it to his people to let the truth out:

"Today's geopolitical convenience does not trump the Timorese people's historical right to know their past," he told The Associated Press. "This is a chance to understand a people's history."

East Timor deserves recognition and honor as "a tiny country maintaining its focus on independence and survival," Ball said by telephone from Bogota, Colombia, where he is working on another project.

The Truth Commission collected some 8,000 testimonies of personal suffering, which were entered into a database, much as truth commissions in South Africa and elsewhere have operated.

But "you need to know what normal mortality looks like to make an assessment of intensified mortality," Ball said.

Ball's research team in East Timor sought to establish a baseline of mortality prior to the Indonesian occupation, as a basis of comparison with 1975-1999, when the former Portuguese colony was devastated during a long war of liberation.

Indonesia's iron-fisted rule ended in 1999, after a UN-organized plebiscite resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence.

Ball's researchers ran a random survey of 1,400 households to learn how family members had died in recent decades. That, however, ran into the problem of data becoming scarce as they surveyed back through decades to seek elderly survivors.

"So we went and surveyed every public cemetery in East Timor. We collected the names, dates of birth, and dates of death from 319,000 graves," Ball said.

"With that information, we can make a total mortality estimate. We can make estimates by type of death, by killings, hunger and disease, accidents."

The triple survey method allowed the Truth Commission to uncover the "type of death, type of perpetrator - you can see the data emerging, you can get a focus on it two or three different ways, and they all come together," said Ball, the director of human rights programs for Benetech, a private company based in Palo Alto, California, that designs surveys of mass atrocities.

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