|Subject: ETHRC Annual Report: Executive Summary
Date: Mon, 01 Mar 1999 17:26:09 -1000
From: ethrc <email@example.com>
EAST TIMOR HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE
"Escalating Violations in East Timor: Is a Peaceful Solution Possible?"
Annual Report of Human Rights Violations in East Timor 1998
28 February 1999 Ref: SR2/98
1998 saw major developments towards the resolution of the East Timor conflict. Following the resignation of President Suharto in May 1998, the spirit of reform prevailing under the incoming Habibie government introduced an unprecedented atmosphere of freedom and optimism into East Timor. President Habibie proposed a wide-ranging autonomy for East Timor, conditional upon East Timor accepting integration with Indonesia. While this option is believed to be unacceptable to the vast majority of East Timorese, the advance nevertheless represented a turning point for East Timor.
Then in January 1999, Indonesia announced an unexpected policy change, saying that if East Timor rejects autonomy as a final solution, President Habibie will ask the People's Consultative Assembly to consider granting East Timor independence, after the June 1999 election. It is the first time Jakarta has publicly acknowledged the possibility of an independent East Timor and appears to be an admission that Indonesia has lost the battle over East Timor.
At the latest round of UN talks in February, Indonesia agreed in principle to give the East Timorese the opportunity to accept or reject the autonomy offer. While Indonesia is yet to outline how it proposes to let the East Timorese people choose, it is still steadfastly opposed to the possibility of a referendum and has suggested that the consultation will take place by some other means.
While the dramatic shift in policy from Indonesia and the current direction of the UN talks herald extremely positive changes for East Timor, including unparalleled prospects for the territory's independence, conditions in East Timor have deteriorated markedly. Renewed military offensives against Falintil and intensive operations launched by ABRI against the civilian population have been accompanied by high levels of human rights violations.
Also of great concern is the creation of new civilian militia groups by ABRI in late 1998 and the increased role that paramilitary and militia groups, armed and trained by ABRI, have been taking. The escalation of violence and the increasing militarisation of the East Timorese population poses a serious threat to the implementation of a peaceful transitional phase to independence, and severely undermines the sincerity of the Indonesian government's commitment to finding a peaceful solution.
The escalation in violations in the second half of 1998 saw at least 28 East Timorese being subjected to extrajudicial execution, 149 arbitrary detentions, and 183 cases of torture and ill-treatment. The ETHRC also received numerous reports of intimidation. Many of these violations are a result of the military's efforts to suppress the political rallies and public meetings that have been fuelled by the new air of confidence existing in East Timor and constitute violations of the East Timorese people's rights to freedom of expression and association.
This report documents these violations, for the period July to December 1998, and proposes concrete steps which can be taken by the government of Indonesia, the East Timorese Resistance and the international community to reverse the trend of escalating human rights violations in East Timor. The recommendations contained in this report also provide an agenda for a peaceful solution to the East Timor conflict, based on respect for human rights. It is hoped the agenda will create the opportunity for a peaceful transitional period in East Timor, leading to a UN-supervised referendum, at which the East Timorese people can finally determine their own future.