Subject: RI dismisses report on Timor atrocities during occupation

Also: AP: Report blames Indonesia for over 100,000 deaths in East Timor, rights violations; AFP: Gusmao presents Annan with report on East Timor atrocities

January 20, 2006

RI dismisses report on Timor atrocities during occupation

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government played down Friday a report leaked to the Australian media alleging that Indonesia's 24-year-long occupation of East Timor (now Timor Leste) caused the deaths of up to 180,000 people.

However, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia was looking forward to continuing the reconciliation process with its tiny neighbor and former colony, according to his spokesman.

"The President is concerned about the news of the Timor Leste report. But he has not received any direct explanation from the Timor Leste side," Dino Patti Djalal said.

"We were surprised because (news about) the report came not from the (East Timor) government but from another party. As yet, we haven't seen it," Dino said.

Indonesia and Timor Leste had already closed the dark chapter in their relations and had agreed to move forward, Dino claimed. "That is the spirit that we should hold on to," he told The Jakarta Post.

The 2,500-page report by the independent East Timorese Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) was leaked to the Australian media sometime this week.

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

The report, carried by The Australian newspaper Thursday, alleged that the Indonesian military used starvation and sexual violence as weapons to control the tiny country during its 24-year occupation.

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.

The report also accused Indonesian soldiers of having used napalm and chemical weapons to poison food and water supplies during the 24 years of East Timor's annexation since 1975.

The potentially damaging claims were rejected by Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono.

He said the administration of former dictator Soeharto had "no means to import, let alone to produce" napalm weapons.

"So, why have some foreign human rights activists accused us of using napalm to kill East Timorese guerrillas? ... In the Vietnam war, American soldiers used napalm to quell the guerrillas, while we have never allowed it in any kind of military operation," Juwono said.

He called the report, which mentioned the deaths of up to 180,000 people during the occupation, "a war of numbers and data about things that never occurred" in Indonesia.

Similarly, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Yuri Octavian Thamrin said the report was "unreal" and "impractical" because it was written purely from human rights perspective.

He cited an example of the Dayton Accord, an agreement to end the three-year war in the former Yugoslavia, which used many approaches, a part from human rights.

"It is also said that the Timor report was drafted by non-Timorese people. These people, currently living in London, New York or Geneva, might not understand the development in Indonesia-Timor Leste relations. Both countries have to live side-by-side perpetually as neighbors by geography, and both have agreed to move forward," Yuri said.

He said President Gusmao planned to meet Susilo in Jakarta on Jan. 27, but could not say whether the meeting would discuss the report.

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

The U.S.-based East Timor and Indonesian Action Network (ETAN) urged the UN to publicize 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, the national coordinator of the rights group, said in a statement quoted by AFP.

"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.


Report blames Indonesia for over 100,000 deaths in East Timor, rights violations

01/20/2006 02:25:14 PM EST AP WorldStream English (all)

UNITED NATIONS_A report on Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor blames over 100,000 deaths and massive human rights violations including starvation and the use of napalm primarily on Indonesian security forces, Timorese officials said Friday.

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao was to deliver the report by the independent Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation to Secretary-General Kofi Annan later Friday. It was not released to the public but copies were leaked after it was presented to the Timorese parliament and cabinet in November.

The report chronicles widespread torture, starvation, sexual enslavement and the use of napalm by the security forces.

Investigators found that at least 102,800 people were killed or disappeared from 1975 to 1999, Pat Walsh, an adviser to the commission, said earlier this month. At least 84,200 others died from "excess" hunger and illnesses directly related to the conflict.

Gusmao confirmed to The Associated Press that the figure was over 100,000 and that the report cited the use of napalm. He said it was up to the commission to release the report, which took over three years to compile, and he was abiding by the law requiring him to present it to the Timorese parliament and government and the U.N. secretary-general.

In anticipation of the report, Indonesia on Friday denied using napalm or deliberately starving civilians.

"This is a war of numbers and data about things that never happened," Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono told reporters in Jakarta. "How could we have used napalm against the East Timorese? Back then we didn't even have the capacity to import, let alone make napalm."

Napalm, or jellied gasoline, is a flammable weapon that was widely used by American forces in the Vietnam War. The United Nations banned the use of napalm against civilian populations in 1980.

Gusmao, asked about the Indonesian comments, said "as a state we didn't comment on the result," noting that the commission also cited human rights violations committed by the Timorese resistance against the Timorese people.

According to the International Center for Transitional Justice, a human rights group, the report says violations by Indonesian security forces were "massive, widespread and systematic" and Indonesian forces used starvation as a weapon of war, committed arbitrary executions, and routinely tortured anyone suspected of sympathizing with pro-independence groups.

It found that 85 percent of the human rights violations reported to the commission were committed by Indonesian security forces acting alone or through government-backed militias and about 10 percent were committed by pro-independence forces led by Gusmao.

During the commission's hearings, Gusmao said, pro-independence groups "more or less recognized their involvement in hurting people" and apologized.

"We respect the result" of the commission's report, he told a news conference. "The main objective is to present the situation of 24 years of war."

"The numbers, the figures, can be disputed, but the essential (point) is to remind not only our future generation not to commit all that happened before again in East Timor, but also to remind the international community to try every day (to ensure) that it doesn't have happen again elsewhere," Gusmao said.

"We accepted the result of the report as a way to tell the truth (about) what happened, as a way to heal the wounds in the people's minds, even in the people's bodies," he said.

"We need this. If we hide the truth, we will not be courageous enough to look at (each) other eye-to-eye. That is why I believe it is not so important to look at the figures but it's more important to look at the lessons ... for us and for everybody," Gusmao said.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and ruled the tiny half-island territory with an iron fist until 1999, when a U.N.-organized plebiscite resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence. Withdrawing Indonesian troops and their militia auxiliaries destroyed much of the country's infrastructure and killed at least 1,500 people.

The United Nations sent a U.N. peacekeeping force and administered the territory until East Timor became independent in 2002. A U.N. political mission is scheduled to wrap up its operations in May.

Gusmao said he and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta would be meeting U.N. Security Council members to ask for the United Nations to maintain a small political office to continue helping East Timor.

The international community pressured Jakarta in 2002 to establish a special tribunal to prosecute Indonesians allegedly responsible for the violence. But the trials have been widely criticized as a sham, with all 17 police and military commanders indicted receiving acquittals. The other, a Timorese militia leader, is free on appeal.

Indonesia and East Timor have repeatedly said they don't want to open old wounds and have rejected recommendations made in the 2,500-page report. Among them are that Indonesian troops involved in the bloodshed face new trials and that international arms suppliers and nations that supported the violent 1975 invasion compensate victims.

"We don't advocate the punitive justice, but retrospective justice," Gusmao said, pointing to South Africa as a model.

For East Timor, he said, "the best justice" was after Indonesian President Suharto stepped down in 1998 and the international community started looking "at our rights."


Agence France Presse -- English

January 20, 2006 Friday 9:56 PM GMT

Gusmao presents Annan with report on East Timor atrocities


East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao on Friday presented UN Chief Kofi Annan with a long-awaited report documenting atrocities committed in his country under Indonesia's 24-year occupation.

The more than 2,000-page report, compiled by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), established that at least 102,800 Timorese, roughly 10 percent of the territory's current population, died as a result of the Indonesian occupation.

It was the fruit of more than three years of intensive work during which more than 7,000 victims testified on human rights violations committed in East Timor between April 1974 and October 1999.

Speaking to reporters after his talks with Annan, Gusmao said the main objective of the report was to establish the truth of what happened and to ensure that the international community act so that it does not happen again.

"We accept the results of the report as a way to heal the wounds," he said. "The figures (of casualties) can be disputed. But it is not so important to look at the figures. It is more important to look at the lessons."

"We don't advocate punitive justice but restorative justice," Gusmao, citing as a model South Africa, where a Truth and Reconciliation Commission exposed the brutal excesses of apartheid and for the first time gave mainly black victims a voice.

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 Miller, ETAN's national coordinator, said in a statement.

The CAVR report blamed the deaths, most of them due to hunger and illness, on the policies of Indonesia's military toward East Timor's civilian population.

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

CAVR had submitted its report to the East Timorese government months ago, but Gusmao kept it secret until now for fear of irritating Indonesia, its powerful neighbor.

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.

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