Subject: AU: Truth Commission verdict on East Timor

Also AU: 
Forced march ended in massacre 
Leaders favour silence on horrors with Indonesia

The Australian

UN verdict on East Timor

Sian Powell, Jakarta correspondent


THE Indonesian military used starvation as a weapon to exterminate the East Timorese, according to a UN report documenting the deaths of as many as 180,000 civilians at the hands of the occupying forces.

The 2500-page report, obtained by The Australian, has been suppressed for months by the East Timorese Government and will infuriate Indonesia, which has punished only a handful of soldiers for the murders, assaults and rapes that occurred during its 24 years of occupation.

Napalm and chemical weapons, which poisoned the food and water supply, were used by Indonesian soldiers against the East Timorese in the brutal invasion and annexation of the half-island to Australia's north, according to the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation report.

The violence culminated in the 1999 reprisals for the independence vote, when the Indonesian military and its militia proxies rampaged through East Timor, killing as many as 1500 people and destroying most of the towns.

The report blames the Indonesian government and the security forces for the deaths of as many as 183,000 civilians, more than 90per cent of whom died from hunger and illness.

It claims Indonesian police or soldiers were to blame for 70 per cent of the 18,600 unlawful killings or disappearances between 1975 and 1999.

Based on interviews with almost 8000 witnesses from East Timor's 13 districts and 65 sub-districts, as well as statements from refugees over the border in West Timor, the report also relies on Indonesian military papers and intelligence from international sources.

It documents a litany of massacres, thousands of summary executions of civilians and the torture of 8500 East Timorese - with horrific details of public beheadings, the mutilation of genitalia, the burying and burning alive of victims, use of cigarettes to burn victims, and ears and genitals being lopped off to display to families.

Thousands of East Timorese women were raped and sexually assaulted during the occupation and the report concludes that rape was also used by the Indonesian military as a weapon of war.

"Rape, sexual slavery and sexual violence were tools used as part of the campaign designed to inflict a deep experience of terror, powerlessness and hopelessness upon pro-independence supporters," the commission found.

The deaths amounted to almost a third of East Timor's pre-invasion population.

The report found that after taking into account a peacetime baseline mortality rate, the number of East Timorese whose deaths could be directly attributed to Indonesia's deliberate starvation policy was between 84,200 and 183,000 people from 1975 until 1999.

East Timor, one of the world's poorest nations, with a population of just over one million people, had a pre-invasion population of 628,000.

The Indonesian security forces "consciously decided to use starvation of East Timorese civilians as a weapon of war", the report says. "The intentional imposition of conditions of life which could not sustain tens of thousands of East Timorese civilians amounted to extermination as a crime against humanity committed against the East Timorese population."

A culture of impunity prevailed in the occupied territory and "widespread and systematic executions, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and sexual slavery was officially accepted by Indonesia", the commission found.

"The violations were committed in execution of a systematic plan approved, conducted and controlled by Indonesian military commanders at the highest level."

The report, due to be handed by East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao to UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan tomorrow, also criticises Australia for its long-term de jure recognition of the Indonesian occupation and its failure to try to prevent the use of force in East Timor.

It recommends reparations from Indonesia and the members of the UN Security Council, including Britain and the US, who gave military backing to Indonesia between 1974 and 1999, as well as those nations that provided military assistance to Jakarta during the occupation, including Australia.

The report will worsen the already noxious reputation of the Indonesian military, which has largely escaped punishment for human rights crimes in East Timor. All bar one of the accused at the Indonesian tribunal on East Timor was acquitted or found innocent on appeal.

The commission carefully notes that many of the Indonesian military officers who played key roles in the occupation have since been promoted and details their ascension in the military.

The report said many of the current senior members of the Indonesian military "could be held accountable" for the violations in East Timor.

Titled Chega!, which means "Enough!" in Portuguese, the report is one of the most detailed and comprehensive of its kind ever compiled.

Sponsored by international donors, including Australia, and 3 1/2 years in the making, the report was given to Mr Gusmao in October. But he is only now preparing to publicly release it.

Last night Mr Gusmao, in Bali en route to New York to hand over the report, said it was an extremely important document, "because it's representative of the law".

It is understood he was both concerned about offending East Timor's giant neighbour and worried the report's detailed and trenchant criticism of the resistance - which also summarily executed and tortured civilians, particularly in the 1970s - could lead to social and political anarchy.


Forced march ended in massacre

From: The Australian

By Sian Powell

January 19, 2006

ONE of the most enduring horrors of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor was the "fence of legs" campaign in 1981, which rounded up civilians - young and old, sick and hungry - and made them march across the island.

The fence of legs was intended to flush out resistance fighters, and most importantly Fretilin leader Xanana Gusmao, now the fledgling nation's leader.

Instead, the weakened East Timorese fell sick and died in horrendous numbers, and the march ended in a massacre.

The report by the UN's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation has found that as many 60,000 civilians were forced into the marches.

In mid-1981, one human fence began walking westwards from Tutuala in the far east of East Timor, while another began marching along the Viqueque corridor to the northeast. The two fences converged on Mount Matebian, and then fanned out to Lacluta.

The report found that when the advance reached Lacluta in September, hundreds of people were massacred by Indonesian troops. "The commission received evidence of a large massacre of civilians, including women and children, at this time," it says.

Indonesian authorities admitted to only 70 being killed, while Monsignor Costa Lopes of East Timor's Catholic church said the death toll was closer to 500.

An East Timorese resistance fighter told the commission the killings were conducted by Battalion 744, later to be commanded by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, now Indonesia's President.

"I witnessed with my own eyes how the Indonesian military, Battalion 744, killed civilians in front of me," Albino da Costa said.

"They captured those unarmed people, tied them up then stabbed them to death. There was a pregnant woman captured and killed just like that. I saw it from a close distance, just 100m from where it happened."

The operation found far more villagers than guerilla fighters cowering in the bush.

It is likely that many Timorese refused to give up the resistance fighters, and those coerced "assistants" comprising the fence of legs - many of them children - failed to notice them.

The commission found the operation had "very serious humanitarian consequences" on an already weakened civilian population. Many died in the struggle across East Timor's rugged terrain. The forced march took place over the planting season, and most of the subsistence farmers forced to participate could not plant their crops, leading to yet another famine.

The fence of legs operation was not an isolated incident.

The Indonesian military routinely used civilians in campaigns - several thousand children were recruited as operations assistants, according to the commission.

For the fence of legs campaign, the commission found that the Indonesian military recruited children as young as 10.

East Timorese civilians were savagely punished if they failed in the duties they were coerced into by the Indonesian military.

"On 14 July 1980, Rubigari, Rai Olo, Rubi Gamu and Loi Gamu were forced by TNI (the then Indonesian military) to guard the post at night," one witness testified.

"My father, Rubigari, fell asleep when it was his turn to do the night watch.

"He was caught by three members of TNI Battalion 202. They shouted at him, kicked and hit him with their weapons until his ribs were broken, and he died right there."


The Australian Thursday, January 19, 2006

Leaders favour silence on horrors with Indonesia

Sian Powell, Jakarta correspondent

GOOD relations with Indonesia have always been of prime importance to the independent nation of East Timor.

The half-island of one million people is surrounded on three sides by giant Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago with a population of 230million.

East Timorese leaders have found it politic to stay more or less silent on the horrors of the bloody years of occupation.

President Xanana Gusmao, a one-time resistance hero, has fostered amity with Indonesia, even publicly hugging the former head of the Indonesian armed forces, General Wiranto.

Just this month there were reports that Mr Gusmao had invited the notorious militia leader Eurico Gutteres back to East Timor, reports hastily denied after an uproar.

Yet on a broader scale, relations are still brittle. Most Indonesians believe a rigged UN ballot in 1999 stole East Timor from them, along with all the valuable Indonesian investment in infrastructure there. They regard the East Timorese as a thankless and benighted mob. Many East Timorese fear and resent Indonesians -- most have lost someone to Indonesian violence or neglect.

So the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation report is a grenade tossed into a flammable international arena.

The Indonesian Government will probably try to ignore the report, even though Mr Gusmao has said he will personally travel to Jakarta to give a copy to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

East Timor will do its best to smooth over the damage to its friendship with Indonesia. Mr Gusmao is required by law to present the report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, but he has obviously been reluctant to release it publicly.

He has repeatedly made it clear the future matters more than seeking retribution for the past -- and he carefully downplayed the commission's report in a speech to parliament.

"The grandiose idealism that they (the commissioners) possess is well manifested to the point that it goes beyond conventional political boundaries," he said.

And in an obvious reference to Indonesia, he added: "The report says the `absence of justice ... is a fundamental obstacle in the process of building a democratic society'. My reply to that would be `not necessarily'."

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