||Eyewitness East Timor: ETAN Testimony submitted to Joint
Congressional Hearing on East Timor
West Timor Crisis and Repatriation of Refugees
The Need for an International Tribunal and Investigations
Security & Reconciliation
East Timorese NGOs and Church Groups
International Aid and Development
House-Senate Joint Asia and Pacific Subcommittee Hearing on February
10, 2000 East Timor in Transition
Eyewitness Testimony offered by Lynn Fredriksson, Washington
Representative for the East Timor Action Network and Gabriela Lopes da
Cruz Pinto of East Timor
[Gabriela Lopes da Cruz Pinto and Lynn Fredriksson traveled to East
Timor via Darwin, Australia from January 6 through January 26, 2000 for
the purposes of assessing the current security and humanitarian situation
there. Their report, available through the East Timor Action Network,
presents an overview of the current situation by issue area-- focusing on
the continued plight of refugees in West Timor, investigations into recent
human rights violations, the mass influx of international non-governmental
organizations (INGOs) and their effectiveness in addressing the ongoing
humanitarian crisis, and the development of local East Timorese NGOs. The
following testimony is taken in large part from this report. Contact:
We thank Congressman Lantos and the subcommittee for allowing us this
opportunity to present our understanding of East Timor in transition.
In August and September of 1999, the people of East Timor achieved a
victory they had sought for 23 years-- they won their independence in a UN
supervised referendum on self-determination. During that period, and the 7
months and 23 years preceding it, the people of East Timor paid a terrible
price for their victory. Although we applaud the U.S. Congress and
administration for taking bold action by cutting military and financial
ties to Indonesia in early September to stop the Indonesian
military-supported violence devastating East Timor, we only wish that
action had come earlier. Because the international community waited
throughout the spring, waited throughout the threats of vote period
violence, and waited until after that violence had been unleashed,
hundreds of thousands of East Timorese were forced from their homes,
thousands were killed, and Dili and many other towns were terrorized, then
From the beginning, we must argue that the U.S. has historic
responsibility in the case of East Timor to follow through on commitments
to assist in its full transition to independence and to see justice
brought to those who violated its most fundamental human rights. In fact,
the U.S. offered unquestioning military, financial and political support
to Indonesia's occupation of East Timor until 1992. It was after the Santa
Cruz massacre that claimed over 270 innocent lives that the U.S. Congress
began banning, restricting and conditioning U.S. military assistance to
Indonesia. This was, we posit, the beginning of the end of the occupation.
But it would take eight long years before the U.S. would cut off ties
completely, and Indonesia would allow a referendum and finally withdraw
its troops. For these changes we are most grateful.
East Timor is now a land of paradox -- utterly devastated yet on the
verge of independence, mourning but full of hope for the future. It is not
yet time for the U.S. or the international community to draw back from
involvement there; on the contrary, it is critical for both East Timor and
Indonesia that we follow through on our commitments to the first new
country of the millennium. East Timor is certainly politically and
economically viable, but its needs will be great during its two to three
years of transition to full independence. For instance, East Timor is not
fully secure even now. On the West Timor side of its land border,
thousands of militia members and large numbers of Indonesian military
personnel are still active, organizing cross border raids, infiltrations,
and, in the enclave area of Oecussi, full attacks on East Timorese land.
Inside East Timor, growing street crime is often the result of lingering
militia violence-- killings, beatings and robberies. This is not
In refugee camps in West Timor, over 100,000 of an estimated 250,000
East Timorese driven from their homes in August and September remain
virtual hostages to ongoing Indonesian military-supported militia
activity. Access to these camps for humanitarian relief and accompanied
repatriation has not substantially improved, with reports over the last
two weeks of threats and attacks against several prominent humanitarian
organizations. Though an estimated 20-30,000 refugees in the camps do not
wish to return to East Timor because of their militia or pro-autonomy
affiliations and fears of retaliation against them, the majority are being
held against their will to return. This must be addressed -- sooner rather
than later. If it isn't, the reported death toll due to malnutrition and
illness of 500, mostly children, will undoubtedly escalate, and the risk
of further relocation to other areas of Indonesia will increase.
The U.S. Congress and administration must redouble their efforts to
influence the Indonesian government to follow through on its promises to
stop militia violence against the refugees, allow truly open access to
international organizations, and assist in safe repatriation of some
70,000 more refugees back to East Timor. U.S. law requires no less, under
the Leahy et al conditions passed in the Foreign Operations Appropriations
bill of FY 2000, before the U.S. can reestablish military ties with
Indonesia. This law offers the current administration the means by which
to ensure not only security for East Timor and full repatriation, but also
a just judicial process to try those Indonesian officers and East Timorese
militia leaders accused of directing atrocities perpetrated against the
people of East Timor.
The current U.S. State Department position indicates a general
willingness to let the internal Indonesian judicial process play out, but
promises that if this process proves unable to demonstrate credibility and
falls short of international expectations, greater pressure will be placed
on Indonesia for an international process. Although we respect the need to
allow Indonesia to try its own military officers accused of human rights
violations in East Timor and in areas of Indonesia itself, we also caution
that the Indonesian government has yet to control its military
sufficiently to prevent ongoing violations nor has there ever been
accountability for human rights violations to date. This is still true in
East and West Timor, as described above, as well as West Papua/Irian Jaya,
Aceh, and the Malucca Islands. For this reason, we recommend that the U.S.
government extend unwavering support to the UN international inquiry in
preparation for the anticipated need for an international tribunal.
Further, we feel the need to remind our elected officials that the
international community, as with Rwanda and Bosnia, is responsible for
bringing about justice for East Timor.
Additionally, it is extremely important for the United States to
continue emergency assistance, as well as reconstruction and development
aid to East Timor. We are pleased by the levels and focus of current U.S.
assistance. But, we are also concerned that President Clinton requested
only $15 million in ESF funding for FY 2001; this is $10 million short of
this year's approved funding and will be insufficient to meet the
wide-range of needs for reconstruction, institution-building and
preparations for independence in East Timor.
It must also be acknowledged that the time for emergency assistance is
not yet past. Malnutrition and disease persist at crisis levels,
particularly outside the capital of Dili. The creation of jobs and job
training programs is also crucial, as the majority of people are
unemployed and the need for road and building construction, basic
services, and program assistance is vast. The U.S. should assist the
United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and
international NGOs in every way possible to develop job programs
immediately. The speed at which pledged donations impact projects in East
Timor is also much too slow. More attention must be given to expediting
the steps between promises of funding and the actual delivery of
In general, we found that institution building -- particularly in the
areas of education, a health care system, financial bodies, banking and
economics, small enterprise, a civilian police, an independent judiciary,
press, and an overall political governing structure -- has only just
begun. The very immediate need for basics like sanitation facilities,
clean potable water and electricity is far from being adequately
addressed, even in Dili. UNTAET, the CNRT (National Council of Timorese
Resistance led by Xanana Gusmao), the National Consultative Commission
(NCC), the World Bank, the International NGO forum, and the East Timorese
NGO forum are all attempting to plan, consult and train for these
development goals. However, coordination among them is complex at best,
and requires much greater organization and greater Timorese participation.
Much greater sensitivity, fair play, and more inclusive actions will be
required of international NGOs.
That said, given the last 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation and
the horrendous aftermath of the overwhelming vote for independence in
August, it is quite amazing to see what has already been started and
accomplished. Much credit must be given to the people of Dili and other
towns for their calm and hardworking commitment to rebuild their country
from the bottom up. Dili is swarming with activity by day, and the
vitality and hopefulness of the vast majority of those we encountered is
inspiring. We believe it is now in large part up to the international
community to sustain funding and a range of other relief and development
assistance -- and to do so with the utmost expeditiousness and sensitivity
-- over the next two to three years before East Timor reaches full
independence. Toward that end we offer additional observations and
Crisis and Repatriation of Refugees
There are still an estimated 100,000 refugees trapped in camps around
Kupang, Atambua, Atapupu, Kefamenanu (Kefa) and other areas. The
conditions under which they are held is horrendous with little to no
medical care, ongoing threats and intimidation by TNI-supported militias,
and high levels of malnutrition. Those in Kupang now have access to the
"mercy ship," which is transporting some 400 or more refugees
with their belongings and animals back to Dili by sea approximately twice
a week. Those further inland in West Timor and those along the East/West
border have fewer opportunities. There are now attempts being made to
route the mercy ship to Atapupu as well. This would be important. During
our assessment, the only land route open was between Atambua and Batugade.
Only 100-200 refugees are being transported by truck via this route each
day, excluding weekends. All other land routes were closed at the time of
our assessment, and spontaneous returns were down to almost zero, in part
because of a new agreement cutting off further cross-border commerce,
making everyone crossing on foot or in private vehicles suspect. Batugade,
on the border, with its processing center for returning refugees, is a sad
place still under an occupation of sorts. All but deserted, each day it
hosts convoys carrying small numbers of refugees, sick and hungry, from
camps around Atambua.
The reasons why so many East Timorese have not yet been able to return
home are many. The primary ones remain militia propaganda, intimidation,
threats and violence. Secondary but not insignificant others include fears
of retaliation toward former militia members, family members of militia
members who offered them support, pro-autonomy supporters, and former
civil servants. Some appear to be waiting for greater reconstruction and
social services to be reestablished in East Timor as well; they've lost
all they have and fear for their subsistence. Remarkably few acts of
retaliation have occurred to date, but militia members are clearly being
identified and singled out for verbal harassment at times in East Timor.
Militia propaganda and rumors spread in the camps are false and
misleading, both targeting anti-independence populations and targeting the
majority who are pro-independence.
Within East Timor, in town after town, we visited with people who named
large numbers still missing from their villages, their families. While in
Ainaro, we were brought to the church school and immediately surrounded by
families who insisted on reciting lists of names of their relatives still
missing in West Timor.
Regarding those who were forcibly removed from Timor Island altogether,
there is currently little hard data and few estimates. Many people have
already returned from various parts of Indonesia, but the number, names,
and whereabouts of those taken from East Timor by boat and plane but not
taken to West Timor are not yet determined. To our knowledge, to date
there has been no systematic international effort by any NGO or the UN to
establish who is still missing and to gain free access to Indonesia to
locate and return those individuals and families safely.
Need for an International Tribunal and Investigations
As we traveled throughout the western half of East Timor through Ainaro,
Suai, Same, Viqueque, Baucau, Dili, Liquica and Batugade, we interviewed
CNRT leaders and representatives, East Timorese NGO representatives,
international NGO officials, and others about the reconciliation process,
the UN and Indonesian commissions of inquiry and their investigations, and
the potential for Indonesian trials and/or an international tribunal.
Without exception, each individual and group called for an international
Each believes it to be critical to the internal East Timorese
reconciliation process. For the most part those we interviewed stressed
the need to prosecute Indonesian generals and other TNI officers as well
as East Timorese militia leaders, but not average militia members whom
they wished to be reintegrated into families and communities. They believe
that Indonesian trials will be a travesty of justice, and that the world
is responsible (particularly because of the UN referendum) for a fair set
of independent trials. Neither UN nor Indonesian investigators had reached
many of the more rural areas for testimonies or forensic testing. And the
terrible destruction, such as what we witnessed at massacre sites, still
represents open wounds.
In Suai we were taken through the Cathedral and church where hundreds
were killed along with their priests Frs. Hilario and Francisco in
September. Forensics tents still stand nearby. In Liquica, we walked over
the courtyard where TNI led militias to kill dozens of refugees seeking
shelter in Fr. Rafael's church and residence. In Dili, we went to Manuel
Carrascalao's home, where Aitarak attacked, killing his son and dozens of
others before the vote. One after another we witnessed the reasons why
there must be a valid and successful trial for crimes against humanity.
Near Ainaro, we heard of a place called "Jakarta," a ravine
used as a killing field, where from 1981 some 300 people were killed and
buried, including two on September 4 of last year. Stories in Ainaro
include the burning of bodies on a spit, the cutting off of limbs,
disemboweling of pregnant women and the disappearing of children. These
are not unique.
Security & Reconciliation Issues
Security issues in East Timor involve border security, recent attacks on
Oecussi (East Timor's enclave territory within West Timor), infiltration
by TNI, continuing militia activity, civil security, crime and civilian
police training, InterFET (and now peacekeeping operations), and other
political issues. They also involve local East Timorese projects promoting
nonviolence, reconciliation, and conflict resolution.
Generally, we observed that East Timor is not yet secured against
militia and TNI threats, and its enclave of Oecussi (Ambeno) is still
regularly under attack (a violation of sovereignty). In Dili particularly,
politically and economically motivated crime as well as random acts of
aggression are becoming common. People are afraid to go out at night.
The general destruction remains, in places, almost beyond belief,
street after street either burned to the ground or flanked by empty
concrete shells of buildings. Massive cleanup has been done, but not yet
reconstruction. This is true of many other towns we visited as well. Young
people are unemployed and in great need. We were told by several sources
about fire engines filled with petrol spraying house after house in Dili,
one by one. The house were then lit and burned down; we witnessed the
evidence as we drove through the dark streets.
More hopeful: there are NGOs, youth groups and many educated
individuals who are investing their time and energy in conflict resolution
programs, education and workshops. Development of a judicial system and
the training of civilian police are just underway.
There is great concern about Jordanian forces in Oecussi, about their
relationship with former Indonesian General Prabowo, in exile in Jordan.
As of the time of our assessment, there were only 10 civilian police in
Oecussi, 2 trucks, a radio and a satellite phone there.
Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta described Oecussi as a priority
concern. TNI continues to support the militias there. TNI is conducting
exercises on the border, and there were fears that this would increase
after Ramadan. In Suai there are fears of border attacks. A suspected
Kopassus intelligence officer was recently arrested in Suai and brought to
InterFET and UNTAET. There is little doubt, say informed sources, that
Kopassus is inside the border areas, collecting information and attempting
to destabilize the situation.
Bishop Basilio Nascimento told us: "The situation without law and
order and discipline can deteriorate." Problems with crime are a
reoccurring concern. The Bishop also had concerns about the period (we're
now in) of transition to peacekeepers and about the absence of an
effective legal system.
The training of civilian police began in November. They will soon focus
on recruiting East Timorese, working with UN peacekeepers, UN police, and
CNRT. They plan to publicize the names of those considered prior to their
inclusion in trainings, to allow time for concerns about individual
candidates to be assessed. Current projected recruitment is 40-400,
hopefully increasing to 1000-3000 later. There is no plan for a military
in East Timor.
Several groups are working together with the legal aid organization
Yayasan HAK to launch a campaign to spread information about
reconciliation to the youth. During the incident at the Mosque in Dili in
October, when people were trying to force Muslims out, they managed to
stop the violence. Bishop Belo was asked to help, as were some commanders
from Falintil as well. The East Timor Human Rights Commission has been
taking testimonies on human rights violations, and working on
reconciliation since before UNTAET arrived. Jose Ramos-Horta is planning
to open a Peace and Mediation. In June he plans to open a diplomatic
school. Scholarships for East Timorese students are much needed.
East Timorese NGOs and Church Groups
Some of the greatest moments of our assessment mission were found in our
meetings with local East Timorese NGOs, most notably the women's
organizations, ETWAVE and Fokupers, the legal aid foundation Yayasan HAK,
and the development agency ETADEP. All of these groups, and others, are
well established, widely respected organizations based on principles of
human rights and social service. Each of them offered to us either full
proposals or general ideas about how we can best support their work.
(These are available separately.)
Overview of International Aid and
Programs It is difficult to summarize the work, coordination and
effectiveness of the over 50 international NGOs that have established
themselves in Dili in the last 4-5 months, and of UNTAET, the
administering agency for East Timor for the next 2-3 years. Overall, we
found the officials and workers we encountered in OCHA, IOM, UNHCR, ICRC,
Catholic Relief Services, Jesuit Refugee Services, Timor Aid, and other
institutions, very competent and very hard working. Yet, there are several
key problems that they have yet to overcome:
- lack of adequate funding and material resources
- disparity of incomes between expatriate and Timorese workers
- general labor conditions for Timorese workers
- general lack of inclusion of and consultation with Timorese NGOs,
individuals and CNRT (less so in the last instance)
- the veritable absence of established humanitarian programs in rural
towns outside of Dili.
The last Saturday of our assessment, there was a protest near the UN
after 10,000 people showed up with applications for two hundred available
jobs. Someone had erected razor wire around the area; when the crowd got
hot and unruly a lot of people were injured.
These concerns were raised to us consistently at most of our meetings,
and we observed many of them ourselves throughout our trip. We feel
obliged to label the current situation an ongoing humanitarian crisis of
food distribution, medical care, and shelter in East Timor, primarily
outside of Dili.
In conclusion, we would like to offer a number of formal recommendations
to members of Congress and the U.S. administration as to how to best
assist East Timor in transition.
In regard to the ongoing and very troubling refugee crisis, we strongly
advise the reestablishment of rigorous efforts to open access to camps in
West Timor, and to freely and safely repatriate the tens of thousands of
East Timorese refugees in West Timor and untold numbers off island.
To represent the will of without exception every East Timorese we spoke
with, an international tribunal to try Indonesian military officers and
East Timorese militia leaders is critical to the internal reconciliation
and healing of East Timor. An Indonesian judicial process should be
encouraged, but support for preparations for an international process
should be actively continued.
East Timor is not yet secure from border attack, infiltration,
Indonesian military violence in Oecussi, and the large numbers of TNI
troops amassed in West Timor. These issues, as well as the two above (and
concerns about security from human rights violations against Indonesian
provinces, including Aceh, the Malucca Islands, West Papua, South
Sulawesi, and Java) require that the U.S. maintain its ban on military
assistance to Indonesia for the foreseeable future.
We were most impressed by the level of professionalism, respect and
effectiveness so many of the East Timorese NGOs have achieved despite
extremely challenging circumstances and very few resources. We request
continued and increased U.S. support for their projects, as well as for
government building in East Timor.
Overall we found the East Timorese political and NGO leaders and
workers frustrated by multiple problems involving the large number of
international groups operating in Dili. UNTAET is an impressive
undertaking operating with inadequate resources and personnel, and we met
many hard working and dedicated INGO workers providing critical services.
Yet lack of coordination and sorely inadequate inclusion of East Timorese
labor and advisers are continuing problems. Job training and employment
opportunities (with decent salaries) for East Timorese workers should
become immediate priorities. Toward that end, sustaining current levels of
U.S. financial assistance is extremely important.
We thank you for your past and continuing support for the realization
of peace, justice and independence in East Timor. We look forward to
working with you in the future.
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