Subject: AFP: E. Timor rights group calls for debate on atrocities


E. Timor rights group calls for debate on alleged Indonesia atrocities

Friday, January 20, 2006

The United Nations should publicise a report it was due to receive alleging that Indonesia's occupation of East Timor caused the deaths of up to 180,000 civilians, a rights group said.

The report by the independent East Timorese Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation alleged that Indonesia's military used starvation and sexual violence as weapons to control the tiny country during its 24-year occupation, according to an Australian newspaper.

The US-based East Timor and Indonesian Action Network (ETAN) urged the UN to publicise and discuss the findings in a bid to prevent a repeat of what happened in East Timor elsewhere and help find justice for the victims.

"Widespread understanding of the truth commission's report and recommendations is essential in charting a course of justice for victims," John M. Miller, ETAN's national coordinator, said in a statement.

"If such crimes are not to be repeated, the international community must acknowledge the devastating impact of the 1975 US-backed Indonesian invasion and quarter-century of illegal occupation," he said.

"The truth is known. Now is the time for justice," he added.

Indonesian soldiers used napalm and chemical weapons to poison food and water supplies during their 1975 invasion of the territory, a former Portuguese colony with a mostly Roman Catholic population, the CAVR report said, according to The Australian newspaper.

Based on interviews with almost 8,000 witnesses as well as Indonesian military papers and intelligence from international sources, it detailed thousands of summary executions and the torture of 8,500 people, it said.

Thousands of East Timorese women were also allegedly raped and sexually assaulted during the occupation.

"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 was quoted as saying.

ETAN said that the recommendations of the report, compiled by East Timorese as well as international experts, included its worldwide distribution and a referral to the UN's Security Council, General Assembly, Special Committee on Decolonisation and Commission on Human Rights.

The CAVR report claimed the policies of Indonesia's military against East Timor's civilian population caused the deaths of between 84,000 and 183,000 people -- up to a third of the territory's population -- between 1975 and 1999.

More than 90 percent of the deaths were due to hunger and illness, it said.

The Indonesian security forces "consciously decided to use starvation of East Timorese civilians as a weapon of war", the report said.

The commission submitted its report to the East Timorese government months ago, but President Xanana Gusmao wanted to keep it secret for fear of irritating Indonesia. He has since relented and will hand it to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York.

There are fears release of the report could inflame tensions with Indonesia and militia groups that are still active near the East Timor border.

But East Timor's ambassador to the UN, Jose Luis Guterres, has played down the likely impact, saying much of what is in the report was known and should not harm good relations between his government and Indonesia.

Indonesia annexed East Timor with the tacit approval of major powers but the brutality of the occupation turned world opinion against Jakarta and led to a vote for independence in 1999.

The vote sparked bloody reprisals by Indonesian-backed militia groups who killed hundreds of people before an international force restored order.

East Timor became independent in 2002 and remains Asia's poorest country.

see also


Back to January menu
December 2005 menu    
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu