Subject: AI: Detailed testimony from 2 East Timorese refugees
Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1999 18:52:39 EDT

also: Forced militia recruitment and arrests in relocation camps

AI INDEX: ASA 21/150/99 14 September 1999


Testimonies from two East Timorese refugees

(Please note that certain names and locations have been deleted to protect the individuals concerned)

Testimony 1

On Friday, 3 September, I began to feel unsafe, so went for refuge at the [...]. There were only a few refugees there, just pregnant women. I was told not to leave the room, in case someone recognised me. But I was uneasy, so the next day, I asked permission to go home because I hadn't brought anything except the blouse I was wearing and the children.

In the middle of the road I met a neighbour.

She asked, "Where are you going?". I said I wanted to go back to my house. She then prohibited me because my family and I were being sought and my house had already been ransacked by the militia.

I began to cry and told my husband what I had heard about our house, that it had already been ransacked. My husband said, "If that's the case, you go to the police and request an escort so that you can see the condition of the house."

So I went to the police along with my nephew. The police asked me, "Why do you want to go to your house?" I said, "It's not that, Sir. I wanted to come here to report that my house has been ransacked by militia, by Aitarak ["Thorn" militia]. We've heard it's been burned. So, I want to see what condition my house is in." I was hounded by another question, "What is it you wanted to save from that house?" I was then confused because I didn't know what I wanted to save. I only had the blouse I was wearing, so finally I said, "Sir, whatever can be salvaged, I will take with me. Even if there is nothing there, I just want to see what is there."

After quite awhile, I was taken to the house by eight police. One of them said, "You have made a mistake asking for our help; actually security problems are no longer our responsibility. But we still have some sympathy, we are still human, so we are helping you; after all, you are also a woman."

A police beside me continued, "Supposing they have begun to murder each other there, we will just have to let it go, we can't take any action because it is no longer our responsibility."

Actually I wanted to contest this because according to what I heard along with what I had read and seen in the mass media, Pak Alatas [Indonesian Foreign Minister] said that this was still the responsibility of the Indonesian government. But the police didn't explain it to me like that, and because I was confused and felt stuck, I just remained silent. If I responded in a way that would invite questions I might be finished off right there.

So I indeed saw that my house had been completely ransacked; nothing was left. It was all gone; wardrobes, clothes, all of it had been destroyed. Statues of Jesus and the Nazareth family had disappeared, also prayer candles that had been blessed. It was as if they used those candles to burn my house. Furthermore, I was surprised there was absolutely no trace of the TV or radio. I thought for sure they had been stolen because I saw all my dishes stacked in a wok as if they were ready to be carried away. They probably didn't have a chance to take them. After I saw it all, all that was left were my husband's neckties. They probably figured they had no use for those so just left them. All our shirts and blouses had been burned. I could take only a few remaining children's clothes that were still in decent condition because at the time we sought refuge we didn't have an opportunity to take anything at all with us. After taking the children's clothes I went to the regional police and waited for my husband whi le I cried.

After I met my husband I returned to [...] thinking I might die because the condition was really tense. The militia were running wild in the streets while shooting in every direction. When I arrived at Y, I heard the militia who had already surrounded [...] and were shooting at the fence. I hid with three of my children in the bathroom. I unrolled a mat for my children in the bathroom. I straightened up the room so that when they broke in they would think no one was there. Shots were heard throughout the night into the morning.

Early in the morning, A suggested that the four of us go to [...] because of fears that we would be attacked. And it's true that we got information that the night after we left, that place was burnt. It's a good thing we left that morning, so that we were safe.

We left East Timor on 6 September. When I was leaving I saw lots of Aitarak militia wildly checking everyone leaving the territory. My hand was grabbed by a militia but fortunately my sister said, "Hey don't. She's my brother-in-law's older sister from Flores!" So they released me.

When we arrived at our destination there were a lot of militia there, closely watching everything along with the police. I covered my head with a handkerchief so I would not be easily recognized. I was afraid of the brutal militia that might pull me away.

As we were travelling to our final destination, we stopped for fuel. There I witnessed a horrifying event. I saw two people who were tied in a truck by Aitarak militia. In the truck were not only the two tied people, but also militia. Suddenly, in front of lots of people, a militia member in full style slowly drew a sword. As if wanting to indicate his prisoner's acceptance, he slowly stabbed one of the people tied in the truck. Lots of blood began to gush, flooding the floor of the truck until it began to drip out. The other person's hands and feet were tied like a pig. They threw this person like a bag of rice onto the asphalt. From the asphalt he was thrown into another truck. I don't know what happened after that because then we left.

In the bus I cried when I saw their savagery; that they could do such a thing.

Testimony 2

The increase in violence such as murder, capture, terror, intimidation, and burning houses in Dili after the referendum caused me to flee with my family from our house in [...] and run to the government-provided house of my uncle in [...]. But on Friday night, 3 September 1999, I heard that the results of the referendum would be announced at 9.00 a.m. the next day, Saturday, 4 September 1999, so my family hurried to seek refugee at Bishop Belo's compound before the announcement. The reason we sought refuge at Bishop Belo's was because we considered it safer. We thought the militia wouldn't go into the Bishop's house because although the militia had already burned residences in Dili, at least they would still have some respect for Bishop Belo. But we realized just how wrong we were after the Bishop's compound was attacked on 6 September 1999 at 10.45 a.m.

Approximately half an hour before the attack, I saw the Bishop call a refugee, [...], to arrange for all the refugees who wanted to go to Baucau because at that time that region was still considered safe. After that, [...] called [...], an East Timorese singer, to announce to the refugees that whoever wanted to go to Baucau could sign up for that. Transportation would be provided by a team from Baucau who also guaranteed safety for the refugees. As we began to pack our things to take to Baucau, the militia suddenly began to attack us. Before they entered, they began shooting in. I chanced to see not just the Aitarak ["Thorn"] militia shooting us, but also police and military were behind the militia, also shooting in. The refugees inside ran in all directions.

After they broke in they began to burn the Bishop's house with gasoline, beginning with the windows of the library until the chapel windows. Empty water bottles filled with gasoline were thrown into other buildings. Besides that, someone threw two cooking stoves, one into the dining room and one into the front guest room. In the end, fire was burning out of control everywhere.

As the militia entered they forced us to exit the house. At the moment I ran outside, I saw a child shot in the eye. We refugees were threatened at rifle-point and gathered in the yard outside in front of the Bishop's residence. The militia began to swear at us, saying we had all just tagged along after albinos (white people), but we could now see for ourselves that they had run off and left all of us behind. Besides the militia, police and military were also present and joined in terrorizing and verbally abusing us.

We were left alone. There was no longer anyone to order us about. We sat in the sun in the wide yard. From there I saw a vehicle owned by the police entering. They ordered us to all sit and then pressured us to surrender our car keys to them. Fortunately my father would not hand over the keys.

Next to be attacked was the Sister of Canosian's house. The militia began to shoot in front of the sisters' house while screaming that if all of you (sisters) don't get out of the house we will burn all of your houses along with all of you. Hearing this the sisters ran outside carrying objects used for mass such as chalices, etc. Those sisters joined us. After making us sit in the sun for two hours, they ordered us to take our things inside. After taking our things inside, they threatened us to leave the Bishop's residence because if we didn't leave, they would attack all of us later at 5.00 in the evening (17.00).

We ran outside carrying as much of our things as we could. In front of the residence I saw a lot of people looking for their families. A cousin of mine was looking for her son and daughter. Some were looking for their parents. We just cried and cried. We were confused about which direction we should go. If we returned to our houses, they would attack us again. We finally agreed to take refuge at the regional police station because it was probably safer.

We headed to Polda [the Regional Police Headquarters] in our own car. The road to Polda was very tense. Everywhere there were militia and police. At approximately 2.00 we arrived at [...] Polda. There I saw a lot of refugees. The Polda refugee site, although larger than the one in Licedere, was not safe because of all the militia there. They controlled whomever entered there.

The next morning after we heard that a Hercules transport was to fly from Baucau to Kupang, we ran to the trucks owned by Polda that would take us to the airport. My younger siblings and I ran and got into a truck, but my father, mother and older brother got into our car to go to the airport. We wanted to go to Baucau actually, but after we got to the airport we heard that there was no route to Baucau, so we were forced to go to Kupang.

At 14.00 we arrived at Eltari airport in Kupang. We didn't list ourselves as refugees because my cousin's wife is from Kupang. We're living with them for the time being while we look for other places to stay.

[Note: 'Loro Sae' is the name for East Timor in the local language, Tetum].

Source: Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom

News Service 168/99 AI INDEX: 21/139/99 8 September 1999

East Timor

Forced militia recruitment and arrests in relocation camps

East Timorese pro-independence supporters who have been forced into relocation camps are reportedly being arrested or forcibly recruited into militia units, Amnesty International said today.

The news came as the Indonesian National Army (TNI) and pro-Indonesian militias continued to force people to abandon East Timor for neighbouring West Timor in a move referred to by the United Nations Assistance Mission to East Timor (UNAMET) as a systematic campaign of "forced population movement".

"The East Timorese are being forced to abandon their homes for a life on the run or in makeshift camps, where the militias, police and army can intimidate, arrest and detain them at will," Amnesty International said.

"Some men are reportedly even being forced to join pro-Indonesia militia groups and to go back to East Timor to fight their own people."

Militia groups have been seen in Kupang, the capital of West Timor, and are believed to be active in camps for displaced people in Atambua and Kupang. One eyewitness today reported seeing a militia member carrying a machine gun inside one of the camps in Kupang. Senior militia leaders have also visited the displaced persons in Atambua.

One man from Ermera District, East Timor, was reportedly taken into custody by the security forces in a displaced persons site in Atambua on 7 September, after he had removed an Indonesian flag from a local health clinic.

An East Timorese man, Jose da Costa, was reportedly detained by police along with 19 unnamed women at a camp housing East Timorese. Jose da Costa was arrested after another man in the camp, who suspected that he was a member of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), informed the police of his presence. It is unclear where he and the 19 women -- also suspected of being pro-independence supporters -- are currently detained.

While the Indonesian Red Cross has apparently gained some access to the displaced persons camps, access remains restricted. Journalists and international humanitarian workers have been assaulted at the camps, possibly by militia members.

The forced relocation of East Timorese is believed to have begun on 4 September. Eyewitnesses reported seeing TNI members telling people in Dili to leave their homes and threatening those who refused.

Forced relocation is reported from all districts on East Timor, but in particular the western areas of Ermera, Liquisa, Suai, Dili and Bobonaro Districts. Eyewitnesses in Atambua claim that the displaced East Timorese are arriving in West Timor in trucks with TNI and militia members in the same vehicles.

Estimates of the number of East Timorese who have already arrived in West Timor range from 44,000 to around 60,000. They are concentrated in three main areas; the majority are in Atambua, near the border with East Timor and around Kupang, the capital of West Timor. Some 8,000 East Timorese are also believed to have arrived in the town of Kefamenanu.

According to United Nations staff 5,000 East Timorese were today gathered at Dili’s harbour and being forced to leave.

The Commander of Indonesia’s Armed Forces, General Wiranto, has denied that East Timorese are being forced to relocate to West Timor, claiming that the departure of tens of thousands of East Timorese is "spontaneous".

Serious concerns remain for the safety of thousands of internally displaced persons still in East Timor. Along with the around 1,500 people -- mostly women and children -- who have been seeking shelter in the UNAMET compound, where they are at grave risk of militia and TNI attacks on suspicion of being pro-independence supporters. Their situation is likely to become more critical as UNAMET staff prepare to withdraw from East Timor.

"The East Timorese people have already been left with no human rights observers or journalists," Amnesty International said. "Soon there will be no witnesses at all to the TNI and militia violence."

Source: Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom

News Service 168/99 AI INDEX: ASA 21/137/99 8 September 1999

Indonesia/East Timor

Attacks on nuns, priests and church workers

Amnesty International is seriously concerned for the safety of priests, nuns and church workers in East Timor who are increasingly being targeted by armed pro-Indonesian militia an the Indonesian National Army (TNI).

Historically perceived by Indonesian authorities and pro-integration East Timorese as being in favour of independence for East Timor, priests, nuns and church workers have been subjected to death threats, arbitrarily detained and physically assaulted.

On 6 September, Bishop Belo’s home in the capital, Dili, was attacked by what journalists describe as a handful of militias backed up by a larger number of soldiers from the Indonesian National Army (TNI). Thousands of internally displaced persons seeking shelter at the Bishop’s residence were marched off at gunpoint by militia and TNI. Their whereabouts are unknown.

On 8 September, the home of Baucau’s Bishop, Basilio Nascimento, was attacked, and the Bishop and staff are now believed to have gone into hiding fearing for their lives. There are also reports that two priests in Suai have been killed.

Amnesty International is also concerned at unconfirmed reports that four priests in Suai -- Father Dewanto, Father Hilario Pereira, Father Francisco Soares and Father Luis Bonaparte -- are at grave risk of attack. Fears for their safety have been heightened by reports that Father Hilario Pereira, Father Abel Jacob, Father Domingos Soares, Father Francisco Soares, and Father Abel Belo are on a militia death list.

Several churches and offices have already been destroyed across East Timor in the last few days. Reports from East Timor today say that in Dili alone the Dili Cathedral, the Motael Church and a convent in Becora have been attacked. These reports cannot be confirmed.

The United Nations Assistance Mission to East Timor (UNAMET) -- confined to its compound in Dili and denied access to their own food stocks by the TNI -- is currently withdrawing most of its staff to Darwin, Australia. There are no human rights monitors left in East Timor and a handful of journalists remain. In what has been a systematic campaign of intimidation, threats and attacks against observers, the Indonesian national Army (TNI) and the militias have ensured that there are no longer any witnesses to their atrocities.

Source: Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom

World Leaders Contact List The East Timorese need you to speak out for them

Back to September Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu