Global Policy Forum

Army Elite Knew Timor Slaughter Plan, Says Report


By Mark Forbes

Sydney Morning Herald
December 20, 2005

An official investigation into human rights abuses in East Timor has found that the highest levels of Indonesia's military executed a systematic plan of death and destruction during the 1999 independence vote. The report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation was submitted to East Timor's President, Xanana Gusmao, last month but he has refused to release it because of concerns it could destabilise relations with Indonesia.

A copy of the report, leaked to Singapore's Straits Times newspaper, says: "The crimes committed in 1999 were far outweighed by those committed during the previous 24 years of occupation. The report estimates 18,600 East Timorese civilians were murdered, and at least 84,000 more died as a direct result of displacement policies during Indonesia's 24-year occupation of the former Portuguese colony. Although the East Timorese administration has not been advocating new prosecutions of those behind the abuses, the commission recommends the renewal of the mandate of the UN special crimes unit to investigate and try human rights violations.

It highlights eight "exemplary and critical" cases of massacres and executions perpetrated by the Fretilin resistance and the Indonesian military. It also calls on the UN Security Council to set up an international tribunal "should other measures be deemed to have failed to deliver a sufficient measure of justice and Indonesia persists in the obstruction of justice". The commission wants Indonesia to table the 2500-page report in parliament, revise official Indonesian accounts and education materials related to its presence in East Timor and provide full documentation of military operations that resulted in human rights violations.

Mr Gusmao, who has kept the report secret, told East Timorese MPs last month that the report's recommendations could not be considered "absurdly utopian, but are realistically very ambitious".

The commission found death and destruction surrounding the August 1999 independence vote were not the work of so-called rogue elements of the Indonesian military, as Indonesia has claimed, but part of a systematic plan approved, conducted and controlled by Indonesian military commanders to the highest level.

"Members of the civil administration of Timor and national-level government officials, including [Indonesian] ministers, knew of the strategy being pursued on the ground, and rather than taking action to halt it, directly supported its implementation," the report says. The report cites incidents including the alleged September 1981 massacre of 160 Fretilin fighters and their families on the slopes of Mount Aitana, south-east of Dili. Human rights violators are not named but identified through a coding system corresponding to secret list that only Mr Gusmao has.

The Straits Times says the commission is circumspect about Australia's role before the 1975 invasion. It says hopes for a smooth decolonisation were thwarted by "Portuguese neglect, Indonesian interference supported by its key Western allies, the US and Australia, and the inexperience of the young leaders of the territory's newly formed parties". Australia had been well placed to influence Indonesian policy, the report says. It "cautioned against force, but led Indonesia to believe it would not oppose incorporation. It did not use its international influence to try and block the invasion and spare Timor its predictable humanitarian consequences."

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