Gender-Selective Atrocities
in East Timor (1)

Coverage: September 1999

Timor Map

Compiled by Adam Jones, Ph.D.
Research Associate, Department of Political Science
University of British Columbia
C472 - 1866 Main Mall
Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6T 1Z1

For more on gender-selective atrocities against men,
including extensive Kosovo materials, see the
Gender Page of this website.

Matt Frei,
"Face to Face with Timor Terror"
BBC Online, 4 September 1999

[...] While I was running towards the UN compound a pro-independence supporter was being hunted down like an animal.

The young man fell after being hit on the head with a machete. Then six black T-shirts descended on him.

A colleague hiding in a shack just opposite the gates to the UN compound filmed the whole thing. It took only 30 seconds to hack the man to pieces.

The attack was so ferocious that bits of him were literally flying off. The sound reminded me of a butchers' shop -- the thud of cleaved meat, I'll never forget it. [...]

Stephen Powell,
"International Pressure Builds on Timor Crisis"
Reuters dispatch, 7 September 1999

[...] A leading campaigner for East Timor independence, Jose Ramos-Horta, said Indonesia was seeking to repeat the "ugly, tragic years" of 1975-79 when some 200,000 East Timorese died in the aftermath of Indonesia's invasion, "without one single international witness."

"I have information that many males have been disposed of, have been killed and dumped into the sea," he said. [...]

Michael Perry,
"Dili Burns, Residents Flee Anarchy"
Reuters dispatch, 7 September 1999

[...] Within walking distance of the besieged U.N. compound in Dili, Catholic sisters sheltering 300 refugees, mainly women and children, said militias had threatened to attack at nightfall. [...]

"The police and military are clearly collaborating with the militias, they are not doing anything, nobody can defend the people. We have been threatened yesterday and the day before. Some of our refugees have fled to the hills."

"All the stores are burned and there is lot of looting. The shooting is getting closer. The militias are shooting at the men in the hills and behind them the military are also shooting."

"We need help, nobody is here to defend the people."

John Aglionby,
"City's destruction now complete"
The Guardian (UK), 9 September 1999.

[...] Villagers have told of men being marched to the waterfront in Dili and gunned down out of view of observers trapped inside safe houses. [...]

John Aglionby,
"'To Survive I Knew I Had to Get Out'"
The Guardian (UK), 10 September 1999

[...] Just as he [a prominent pro-independence activist], his wife and his children were about to leave, a young man ran into the house telling a terrible story. He had come from the port, where he and some pro-independence friends had been trying to leave on a ship. The women boarded, but the men were dragged away. Five were stabbed to death in front of him and their bodies dumped in the sea. [...]

Lindsay Murdoch
"Stacks of Bodies Went Up to the Roof"
The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 September 1999

NOTE: Serious doubts have been raised about the veracity of the following report -- see coverage for 15-25 September

[...] The destruction of the capital is greater than anybody could imagine. Hundreds of houses are blackened shells. The doors of government offices are ajar. Banks, cafes, hotels, boarding houses, service stations: all burnt or trashed.

One building - the police station - hides one of the most shocking of many shocking stories that have emerged so far from East Timor's killing fields.

Two days ago Ina Bradridge, wife of Mr Isa Bradridge, 45, of Ballina, walked the corridors of the station looking for a toilet.

According to Mr Bradridge, who told her story last night after evacuation to Darwin, she happened to glance inside a large building that she knew was once used as a torture cell for political prisoners.

"My wife told me she saw bodies. Thousands of them. Stacks of bodies went up to the roof. I know it is hard to believe but it is absolutely true. My wife saw arms and legs and dripping blood."

Now, from the safety of Australia, Mr Bradridge plans to do a lot of talking on behalf of his wife, who can't speak English, in the next few days.

"They [the Indonesian military] are going to obliterate everybody," he said before boarding one of the evacuation trucks with his family. The East Timorese have a choice ... they either leave or die."

Leaving Dili to fly out in the same RAAF shuttles that take out the Bainbridges, we drive in silence through the mass destruction, past street after street of smouldering ruin.

There are looters and thugs carrying pistols who walk with the arrogant swagger of the victor.

But Dili is basically empty. In five days 70,000 people have gone. The bare-footed teenagers with fresh fish tied to their poles are gone. The clapped-out taxis, the naked kids playing on the debris-strewn beachfront, the old people hawking Portuguese-era coins who used to bother us at the hotel, the people who used to sit in the gutter every morning and read the local newspaper. All gone. [...]

We drive past the two-storey Australian consulate, which was abandoned in great haste two days ago after the militia had spent two days terrorising the diplomats.

The high-iron gate is open and Indonesian soldiers are walking inside. We see the militia in greater numbers along the road from the consulate, towards the airport. One pushes an empty trolley, his head down, almost running. But it's hard to imagine there's anything left to loot.

It is here that for the first time we see ordinary people. Hundreds of women and children are camped out in the grounds of Dili's main police station. [...]

Dili Burns

Dili Burns (Photo)
Original Caption: "Dili, East Timor's capital, burns after pro-Indonesia militias
looted and destroyed parts of the city. The bloody campaign by pro-Jakarta militias
that has killed hundreds of East Timorese will not be allowed to derail the shift toward
independence, the head of the UN mission in the territory said Thursday."
(Reuters - POOL)

Craig Skehan and Malcolm Brown
"Refugee Plight Compared to Nazi Terror Against Jews"
The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 September 1999

[...] One distraught young mother said she witnessed the murder of two refugees on the back of a truck inside West Timor. She said she saw the two men tied up in a truck by militiamen on a road inside West Timor.

"Suddenly, in front of lots of people, a militia member drew a sword and slowly stabbed one of the people in the truck. Lots of blood began gushing, flooding the floor of the truck until it began to drip out," she said.

"The other man's hands and feet were tied like a pig and he was thrown like a bag of rice onto the asphalt then thrown into another truck."

Another man said he watched terrified at the West Timor port of Akapupu, near Atumbua at the northern end of the border, as militia used machetes to kill men alleged to be independence supporters. They were among East Timorese disembarking from a ship which had come from Dili.

"Other men had their hands tied and they were put on trucks and taken away," said one source, who is collecting accounts for presentation to the international community. [...]

Patrick McDowell
"U.N. Compound Menaced in East Timor"
Associated Press dispatch, 10 September 1999

[...] Comparisons to Kosovo and Cambodia have increasingly been made as television footage shows men, women and children, their hands raised, being herded at gunpoint from burning homes. [...]

Lindsay Murdoch
"Time to Pray, and Run the Militia Gauntlet"
The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 September 1999

Pat Burgess wipes away the tears. He doesn't want to make the life-or-death decision.

The Australian political officer working for the United Nations has just been told that staff and their dependants, including Timorese, are evacuating from the besieged UN compound in Dili.

But everybody inside knows that if we leave behind 1,500 refugees who have crammed with us into the compound the young men among them would be accused of being pro-independence and probably killed.

Burgess, like many other UN staff, hates the decision to evacuate that was made on the other side of the world in New York. But he has no choice. "Tell the young men to run," he tells his interpreter, wiping away more tears.

Burgess knows very well the lies that Indonesia's military and police officers have told the UN for months.

Promises that the Indonesian armed forces and police would not harm the refugees mean nothing. Asked what he thinks will happen to the women and children, he says: "They will probably rape the women."

Families sit around candles and pray for a long time. Some weep. They talk in whispers. These are intimate moments we do not want to disturb.

Only the gunshots and distant explosions break the near silence. But as the night wears on we step over babies and children sleeping on concrete and distribute our remaining food. It is only a few cans of corned beef and some packets of noodles but we are on our way to Darwin, away from the gunshots, the explosions, the orchestrated terror.

Or so we think.

The men run in the early hours as smoke continues to rise into the air from dozens of fires across the largely deserted town.

So too do many of the young women, particularly the pretty ones. For 24 years Indonesian soldiers in East Timor have violated the women, for their selfish pleasure, with impunity.

As they run, fresh gunfire erupts. Short, sharp volleys.

Soon some of the men return exhausted after trying to climb the hill that rises almost vertically from the back of the compound. They report that the Indonesian troops who are supposed to be protecting us from attack fired over their heads, forcing them to return.

But soon others try other routes and find ways past the troops. With the fittest leading the way, others follow, including mothers carrying babies, cooking utensils and their few possessions.

As they shuffle into the darkness many of us are deeply concerned, justifying our helplessness by thinking that the East Timorese have shown remarkable resilience during decades of immense suffering.

We can only hope their instincts will keep them alive. [...]

Trevor Watson,
"UN Evacuees Say East Timorese Face Death"
Reuters dispatch, 10 September 1999

[...] One of the last journalists in the compound, The Sydney Morning Herald's Lindsay Murdoch, said the refugees feared they would be killed or raped after the U.N. evacuation.

"People here don't have any doubt that if they are left completely, certainly the young men would be killed and the women raped," Murdoch told Australian radio as he awaited evacuation. [...]

"East Timorese Forced into Camps"
BBC Online, 10 September 1999

[...] Conditions in the camps [in West Timor] are reported to be very poor.

"They are like Nazi camps," said Adalberto Alves, a Timor resistance spokesman from the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor.

"They [the refugees] cannot leave the concentration camps. They are receiving food, one meal a day only,as food is being saved for the women and children," he added. [...] [? Not clear who is doing the "saving"]

John Aglionby
"Herded, Sifted and Cut Off"
The Guardian (UK), September 10, 1999

[...] For most of the tens of thousands of refugees now in West Timor, dignity is in short supply. Whether they have arrived from East Timor by land, sea or air, the welcome is the same. They are whisked off by police and soldiers to camps guarded by pro-Indonesian militiamen and dumped there for processing.

The first stage is political identification, according to Manuel, an East Timorese who was able to get into the Noelbaki camp eight miles outside Kupang. He said when people arrived their names were checked off against a list of 20,000 known pro-Jakarta supporters. If they were on it, or could demonstrate support for Indonesia, they were put to one side.

All the others were taken to another part of the camp. Here the conditions are much worse, with people squashed together with little food and water.

"Many of the men are then 'taken away for questioning'," said Manuel. "The women have no idea what happens to their husbands. Many have not returned."

One woman said a militia camp guard told her: "You may have got your country but it will be a land full of widows." The woman had arrived in Noelbaki with her husband and two children on Monday. She has not seen her husband since. [...]

"Fiddling As Timor Burns"
The Guardian (UK), 11 September 1999

[...] The Catholic church, a key target for Muslim militiamen, vainly denounces a new genocide as its priests, nuns and congregations are slaughtered, its cathedrals set ablaze. At least 200,000 people - almost a quarter of the population - have fled. An untold number of pro-independence supporters, especially men, have simply disappeared. Even the 80-year-old father of the Timorese leader, Xanana Gusmao, was not spared; he was murdered this week, his wife is missing. [...]

Robert Garran, Richard McGregor, and Don Greenlees
"Tears for the Slaughtered"
The Australian, 11 September 1999

[...] The rampage [at the U.N. compound] came just after the UN had pulled out 350 international and local staff on evacuation flights to Darwin, leaving 80 foreign staff in the besieged Dili compound.

Last night, there were reports of heavy gunfire behind the compound as refugees who had taken cover there attempted to escape to the hills.

After arriving in Darwin yesterday, British police sergeant Philip Caine expressed the general concern about the East Timorese left behind, saying: "I was thinking to myself as we were coming out that all I was facing was a hairy ride to the airport – and they were probably facing death."

The Australian-based National Council for Timorese Resistance said two truckloads of East Timorese women and children were taken from refugee camps in West Timor in recent days and slaughtered by militiamen. [...]

Louise Williams and Leonie Lamont,
"Rape Used Over and Over as a Systematic Torture"
The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 September 1999

Sister Maria leaned forward and quietly confided the truth about the Catholic orphanage which lies along the lonely northern coastal road of East Timor: "Most of the children are mixed race, the babies of women raped by Indonesian soldiers." This is not a truth openly voiced in East Timorese society. Instead, said Sister Maria in an interview in Dili eralier this year, the children were raised by the Church. But, while they are not openly rejected, everyone knows the shame of their parentage.

In the early years following the Indonesian invasion, orphanages were filled with genuine orphans: so many adults had been killed in military operations. Now, Sister Maria said, most are children of rape, a tactic used over and over again in war, usually to hurt the father or husband of the victim. The woman's own suffering is an afterthought in a war between men. "One young woman I knew had four babies, I kept asking her why this had happened again and she just said there was nothing she could do," she said. Sister Maria's own whereabouts remain unknown, following the rampage through Dili and the murder of Catholic nuns and priests.

Rape, according to a report released this year by Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, has been systematically used by elements of the Indonesian military in East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya. "Rape was used by the military as a form of revenge, or to force the relatives out of hiding," she said. "Much of the violence against women in East Timor was perpetrated in the context of these areas being treated as military zones ... rape by soldiers in these areas is tried in military tribunals, and not before an ordinary court of law." Under Indonesian law, for a rape to be prosecuted it required corroboration – including the testimony of two witnesses. Women lived in a "realm of private terror," for any victims or witnesses who dared to take action were intimidated with death threats, Ms. Coomaraswamy reported.

"Many of the women who were raped as virgins are single mothers who have suffered stigma in their communities after giving birth to children of Indonesian soldiers ... Some of these children are the result of rapes, others are the product of a situation that resembles sexual slavery and some are the result of consensual sex ... the women are having a very difficult time, not only because of poverty, but because the sight of these children often reminds them of rape." She said the Indonesian state should take responsibility for these children.

Senator Marise Payne, one of the parliamentary members of the Australian observer delegation to East Timor, said she had been told of soldiers picking attractive girls from the villages, and making them their "playthings." "This has been happening for 20 years," she said. A Catholic nun, Sister Tess Ward, said: "Many women have said to me they feel dirty, and are too ashamed to tell people. I don't know of anytime when women were game enough to tell the police. Many of the people said to me the only people we can talk to is the priest or sisters."

Timor Demonstrators

"There are reports of women and children being forced into trucks to be taken to West Timor while men and boys are left behind. We know and we fear -- from Kosovo -- what that may mean."

Deputy British representative to the United Nations Stewart Eldon, statement to the Security Council, 11 September 1999

Agence France-Presse dispatch
"Timor Resistance Says Peacekeepers Needed Immediately to Stop Massacres"
13 September 1999

SYDNEY, Sept 13 (AFP) - East Timor lobby groups Monday said international peacekeepers had only hours to stop a massacre by the Indonesian army and pro-Jakarta militias.

"There's no time to waste," Abel Gutteres, president of the East Timor Relief Association, told AFP, a day after Indonesian President B.J. Habibie bowed to international pressure for peacekeepers to be deployed.

"The UN and the Australian government must be warned the Indonesian army intends to finish the job they've already started," he added, citing reports received by his organisation that the killings were planned before a multi-national peace-keeping force could be deployed in East Timor.

"We have reports they plan to kill every male over 10 in the refugee camps in West Timor.

"It's probably taking place right now." [...]

Agence France-Presse dispatch
"Refugees Starving in East Timor Mountains, Living Off Roots"
13 September 1999

[...] The UN officer also said he had received "disturbing reports" telephoned by refugees reaching Australia, that people dressed in UN jackets and caps, believed looted by pro-Jakarta miltias from warehouses, were loading East Timorese onto ships for deportation.

"There were UN caps and jackets in that warehouse," he said.

Other reports said men in the UN gear were loading young men into C-130 aircrft for unknown destinations.

Kelly said he had also heard accounts from resistance sources and from refugees in Australia that suggested the Indonesian military was planning "a concerted sweep" of refugee camps to take out all the young men. [...]

John Aglionby et al.,
"How the Indonesian Army Plotted to Destroy A Nation"
The Observer (UK) (in The Globe and Mail, 13 September 1999).

[...] Documentary evidence, clandestine intelligence intercepts and eyewitness accounts show that the atrocities in East Timor have been carefully conceived for nearly a year by the Indonesian army. The aim, quite simply, is to destroy a nation. Our investigation has also revealed that Western intelligence services were also aware of the army's plans – and warned the United Nations, many months ago.

At military headquarters in Dili, a greying, tight-lipped Indonesian soldier, Major-General (Zacky) Anwar Makarim, outlined what he wanted done. The militias were to conduct house-to-house searches in pro-independence towns and villages and put Dili under siege. All routes in and out of the city were to be blocked, and water and electricity supplies cut. All communications with the outside world would be stopped.

Then, the commanders were told, their men would have to round up thousands of women and children who would be trucked across the border into Indonesian West Timor. Thousands of people who were more amenable to rule from Jakarta would be shipped in to replace them. Finally, and crucially, the United Nations and all journalists would be forced out. The generals wanted no witnesses to the killings. [...]

[Comment: Killing of whom, exactly?? These passages, the heart of the description of Indonesia's genocidal strategy in one of the most extensive media treatments of this subject, are almost comical in their avoidance of the core atrocity: the gender-selective execution of men. Anyone willing to do the math can see who's left over to be slaughtered if women and children are excluded from the analytical equation (the reality is of course far more messy than the Herald's summary suggests). But acts of gendercide, which Aglionby has already noted in passing (see earlier coverage), attract no notice in this broader examination of Indonesian military strategy.]

Mark Dodd,
"Refugees Shot At as They Starve"
The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 September 1999.

[...] [Timorese guerrilla] Commander Ruak blamed the Indonesian military for torching district centres at Manatuto, Baucau and Viqueque. "In the small villages the fires are the same as Dili or even worse - total chaos. The population has no help, no protection, no food, no water and no medicine." [...]

Ian Timberlake,
"Militias Killing in West Timor Camps"
Australian Financial Review, 14 September 1999.

[...] Most refugees who have crossed the land border, fleeing the post-election violence in East Timor, are staying in the Atambua area, where they were sheltering in groups of 800 to 1,000 people, one source said.

"You see displaced people behind houses," he said. "Each camp has a co-ordinator either military or militia."

Two travellers said young men are rarely seen in the camps. "What is happening to the young men? Are they recruited by force?" one asked.

Other sources said many of the refugees in Atambua were pro-Indonesian and probably families of militiamen who have been ordered to fight across the border.

A young East Timorese who fled to Indonesian West Timor called the refugee centres "concentration camps". He said he had been able to stay elsewhere.

"We don't want to register at the camps, because if we register, we go on a blacklist and the militias will force us to follow them," he said. [...]

The source said militias had been "sweeping" the camps, looking for supporters of East Timorese independence. "We definitely know the militias are going around Kupang," the source said. [...]

Urgent Action - 14 September 1999
The East Timor Human Rights Centre
Fitzroy, Australia

The East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) is deeply concerned about the plight of the growing numbers of East Timorese refugees in West Timor.

On September 11, Australia’s Minister for Defence, John Moore, estimated that 180,000 refugees had already arrived in West Timor. Between Monday and Wednesday, trucks filled with people arrived hourly, and on Wednesday, Hercules planes carrying Indonesian soldiers accompanied by women and children believed to be their families were arriving every fifteen minutes. Yesterday, Sunday September 12, another group of refugees arrived at Kupang airport from Lospalos, in the east of East Timor.

On September 12, approximately 16,000 refugees were in Kupang, in five different areas: Noelbaki village, Naibonak military complex, Kupang Sport Building (GOR), KONI Building and Golkar’s building. Sources confirm that refugees are without adequate food, and are extremely thin and demoralised.

Refugees Killed in West Timor

Reliable sources have confirmed that in Atambua on Monday September 6, an East Timorese refugee was tied up and then repeatedly stabbed until he died, in the front of a large number of refugees. The perpetrators were Indonesian military and militia. In Kupang, a further two refugee men were first shot dead in front of their families and friends and then taken to an unknown place.

Indonesian military terrorises towns

Reliable sources confirm that there is a significant presence of Indonesian military, police and militia, and that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between these three forces. Indonesian military, police and militia are patrolling both Kupang and Atambua, and are carrying out operations, particularly at night, where they search for East Timorese men, including independence supporters. Between Monday September 6 and Thursday September 9, the streets were deserted, and the town extremely tense. Sources fear that East Timorese men and independence supporters are being rounded up to be assassinated. There are unconfirmed reports that on Friday morning all refugees in Atambua were forced to form a line and report their activities to Indonesian military and militia. An unconfirmed number of refugees were then taken to an unknown place using two trucks, where they were allegedly tortured and then killed. [...]

Bernard Lagan and Janine MacDonald,
"Bodies Burn As Thousands Face Starvation"
Melbourne Age, 14 September 1999

{...] Dr. McNaughton said witnesses had confirmed to him yesterday the burning of bodies on Saturday and early Sunday.

"We have eyewitness descriptions of piles of bodies being burnt on the streets of Dili."

He and the director of another group, Timor Aid, Ms. Maria do Cea Federe, said there were reports from Dili of ships leaving the harbor, loaded with forcibly deported refugees and then the ships returning empty after a very short time.

They said they feared people were being thrown overboard en mass. There were also many reports of people being shot on the wharves of Dili.

[Speculative Comment: I think it is likely that the burned bodies are victims of the gendercide, but the report of whole groups of refugees being thrown overboard from boats suggests that many indiscriminate acts of ethnic slaughter may also be taking place. The "gendercide" is, in my view, an important part of the story, and so far the most severe atrocity; but it should not be allowed to overshadow the more general horror visited upon the Timorese people as a whole.]

Doug Struck and Keith B. Richburg,
"Refugees Describe Method to Murderous Rampage in E. Timor"
Washington Post, 14 September 1999.

KUPANG, Indonesia, Sept. 13 — Jani thought he was safe on the ferry. After three days of terror in East Timor, the boat would take him and two college friends to safety, he thought.

Then the militiamen boarded. No young men may leave East Timor, they announced as the boat prepared to depart. Jani, 27, tried to hide; the militiamen caught his friends. "Are there any others?" they demanded, Jani recalls. "No, no other young men," his friends replied in a last gift of kindness.

They marched Armando Gomez, 29, and Armando DiSilva, 30, to the front of the boat and killed them as 200 refugees watched. Gomez's body was dumped into the sea, DiSilva's on the ground by the dock.

Jani raced through the boat. "Please help me," he whispered to the other refugees. A woman motioned to him to hide between her and her children. The searching militiamen walked by.

The account of Jani, now a fearful refugee in western Timor, adds to the mounting evidence that victims of the murderous rampage by militia gangs in East Timor following the territory's overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia were systematically culled from the population at large.

Young men, political opponents of the Jakarta government, Roman Catholic clergy and anyone else suspected of favoring the independence opposed by the militias were targeted, in a chilling echo of the techniques of systematic killing seen in Kosovo.

In Jakarta today, the top U.N. official for human rights said she had gathered consistent and credible evidence that members of the Indonesian armed forces and police had engaged along with the militias in a "well-planned and systematic policy of killings, displacement, destruction of property and intimidation" that could lead to prosecutions before an international tribunal.

Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said President B.J. Habibie agreed in a meeting today on the need for an international commission of inquiry, the first step toward establishing a full-fledged criminal tribunal, similar to the war crimes panels set up after the genocide in Rwanda and the massacres in the former Yugoslav republics.

She said it was urgent for an international peacekeeping force to be deployed quickly to begin amassing evidence, because "there has been some burning of bodies and dumping of bodies into the sea," as the perpetrators of massacres in East Timor attempted to "cover up tracks."

But she said the scale of the abuses was so massive and the witnesses so numerous that a committee of experts should easily be able to find enough evidence for prosecutions and that members of the armed forces would likely be implicated.

"I don't know how far up the scale that can be traced," Robinson said, "but certainly there will be accountability on a significant number wearing army uniforms or in a position of local authority."

Beside the killings and the expulsion of people from East Timor's cities, Robinson said she also had heard from relief agencies about some "very worrying allegations of rapes of women" in refugee camps in western Timor, which is part of a separate Indonesian province. She said those accounts need to be verified.

The move to begin an international inquiry into the Indonesian military's conduct in East Timor is a delicate one for Habibie, given his precarious relationship with the armed forces and his need to secure military backing if he is to have any chance of retaining his office next month when the People's Consultative Assembly, one of two Indonesian parliaments, convenes to choose the country's next president. No member of the armed forces attended Habibie's meeting today with Robinson at the presidential palace.

Marzuki Darusman, chairman of Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission, attended the session and said the initial inquiry commission will likely involve Indonesian investigators but that it also would have international experts. The panel, he said, could be given "a certain status or recognition by the U.N."

Here in Kupang, in western Timor, the militias "had names of all of the [pro-independence] party members, and they were killing them one by one," a refugee said.

"The militias had names, pictures, addresses. They had lists," Jani said. "They went to the houses and to the port and to the police headquarters, and they took people who were pro-independence."

"At night, the militias would come to the houses" in Dili, the capital of East Timor, a third refugee said. "They were looking for young men. The militias knew that most of the young people there were for independence. If they found us, they would kill us."

The refugees spoke in secret with a reporter, and all pleaded that their full names not be used. The militias that terrorized them in East Timor reign over the refugee camps here in western Timor and move freely around the town of Kupang. Accounts from the camps say the militias are searching for opponents.

The fear is pervasive, even though western Timor was supposed to be a place of safety. Refugees here shun foreigners, and several stopped talking in mid-interview because they said they were scared. Foreigners and local journalists are not allowed inside the camps. Foreign aid workers do not enter; Indonesian officials who make tours of the camps insist that no foreign reporters accompany them.

But in clandestine conversations, refugees described the campaign of terror that followed the announcement of East Timor's vote on independence: 98 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots, 78.5 percent of them for independence from Indonesia.

The fires that soon engulfed so many homes in Dili were not set randomly, but were used to drive people from their homes, a 23-year-old student said. "They threatened us with guns and machetes, and we heard all the men were going to be killed and the houses burned. They came at night to our house, but I ran out and hid in an empty Red Cross house," he said. The next night, his home was burned. His family fled, and he does not know where they are. [...]

Atrocity, Dili, September 1999

Timor Atrocity (Photo)

Daniel Morrissey,
"E. Timorese Speak of Their Pain, Hopes for Freedom"
Reuters Dispatch, 15 September 1999

DARWIN (Reuters) - Evacuated East Timorese refugees Wednesday gave eyewitness accounts of the bloodshed and brutality that turned their homeland into a living hell -- and said they longed to return to a free, independent nation.

"We feel that we are completely hurt because they destroyed our things, our houses and some of us got killed, but our heart and our home is in East Timor," said Kristina da Costa Almeida, who has two children missing in the bloodied territory.

The 31-year-old mother of four said the militia had kidnapped her son while her five-year-old daughter was in the care of Catholic nuns who were forced by the militia toward West Timor.

"They were taken away," said Almeida, through an interpreter, at a camp housing about 2,000 refugees in the north Australian city of Darwin.

The militia had tricked her son, she said. "The militia came back and lied to my son. They were setting up some kind of trap and they got him and he was taken away."

The United Nations Tuesday airlifted 1,500 East Timorese refugees from its compound in the territory's capital, Dili. The compound was closed because their safety could not be guaranteed.

Pro-Jakarta militias have killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands in a wave of violence in East Timor since the territory voted on August 30 for independence from Indonesia.

Lorenca de Jesus Rodriguez, who secured the safety of all her three children, said the Indonesian army had threatened refugees on the way to Dili airport.

"They said, 'Why you run away. You nearly got independence and those kids, just give them to the militia to eat'," she said.

Natlino da Silva, 37, holding his five-month-old child, told reporters refugees did not dare respond to the soldiers' taunts.

"We were afraid," said Rodriguez.

She said four young East Timorese had decided to risk returning to the mountains behind Dili to support the resistance to Indonesian rule, rather than take the chance to evacuate.

"Three of them were shot... Only one returned," she said.

Almeida said she had seen the militia shooting two young men and then burning the bodies.

The refugees also said there was a militiaman at the Darwin camp Tuesday. ``Yesterday when we had lunch he was sitting and nobody was sitting with him...," said Almeida.

Australian police Wednesday detained 12 people, believing at least three to be militiamen or Indonesian troops, after they were flown into Australia Tuesday as refugees.

A family of 10 and two other men had been detained, said police. "There were indications that one was militia and the other two maybe Indonesian army," police superintendent Mick Van Heythuysen told reporters.

John Aglionby,
"Death Strikes Starving Refugees"
The Guardian (UK), 15 September 1999

[...] Agio Pereira, a member of Mr Gusmao's National Council of Timorese Resistance, said the situation was deteriorating so rapidly that women were killing themselves because they were afraid of being raped by paramilitaries. "They just don't want to be raped in front of their relatives; they kill themselves so that they are not humiliated," he said.

With heavily armed East Timorese militiamen controlling West Timor's airports and harbours and the military refusing to attack them, the situation in the western half of the island is almost as bad as that in the east.

More than 150,000 East Timorese are now in West Timor, many of them forced there against their will and most resigned to living in camps run by the militias.

Foreign aid workers and journalists are banned from the camps and there is an increasing number of reports that the militias are intensifying their operation against supporters of independence.

A member of the East Timor Relief Association in Australia said he had heard that all pro-independence males above the age of 10 were being taken away and killed.

Dili, 1999

Timor Atrocity (Photo)

"UN Observer Sounds Alarm Over Absence of Men
among E. Timor Refugees"
Agence France-Presse dispatch, 15 September 1999

OTTAWA, Sept 15 (AFP) - Canadian diplomat Ken Sunquist, who was part of a UN delegation which visited refugee camps in West Timor, sounded the alarm over the absence of men among East Timor refugees Wednesday.

"It looked very strange to see maybe 25,000 people in the streets of the camps," and only a "marginal" number of men, Canada's ambassador to Indonesia said in a conference call from Jakarta.

"I was stunned by the fact that the overwhelmingly vast majority of the people are children under the age of 15 or older women of the age 60-plus.

"You hardly see any men between the ages of 16 and 45 or 50," he continued, adding "there has been some separation of the men from the rest of refugees."

The observers, the first UN personnel authorised to visit the camps in a trip Tuesday, were extremely concerned about their fate, he stressed.

According to the refugees in the camps, many men were separated from their wives and children at the border between East and West Timor by Indonesian soldiers. Observers were not able to determine why.

Other refugees said the men fled into the hills of the troubled province after seeing their families safely aboard ships bound for West Timor. [...]

Paul Dillon and Jeff Sallot,
"The Chilling Disappearance of East Timor's Young Men:

Canadian ambassador says thousands
are unaccounted for at refugee camps"

The Globe and Mail, 16 September 1999

Thousands of East Timorese men have disappeared en route to the relative safety of refugee camps in the western section of the embattled island, Canada's ambassador to Indonesia said after a tour of the area.

Ken Sunquist and Norway's ambassador here are the first foreign diplomats to visit the camps in the West Timorese capital of Kupang, home to more than 100,000 refugees fleeing anti-independence militias responsible for an orgy of violence in neighbouring East Timor over the past two weeks.

"The refugee camps themselves are filled overwhelmingly with women and children, so we're wondering where the men are, whether they've been segregated elsewhere, whether they're up in the hills in East Timor or if there's some more sinister explanation," Mr. Sunquist said after touring three Kupang-area refugee camps on Tuesday.

"We tried to ask these questions on several occasions but it's clear that the people felt we were putting them at risk even talking to them. There were lots of police around everywhere we went."

Most of refugees seen by the joint mission, which accompanied five Indonesian cabinet ministers to Kupang, were older men, women and boys under the age of 16, he said.

"While we were at the airport, for example, a plane came in with 171 people aboard, 150 of whom were children under the age of 10, older women and several younger men who appeared to have been wounded, but whether this was done by the militias before they left or not we couldn't tell," he said.

A senior manager with a Western aid agency operating in Kupang confirmed that there is mounting evidence of atrocities in East Timor as well as stories of detention camps.

"That issue [men unaccounted for] is something we've talked about, but it isn't in the context of culling men out of the trucks as much as it is about massacres," said the man, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals against his staff.

"We've had reports from IDPs [internally displaced people] of camps along remote sections of the border surrounded by barbed wire with people inside, but we've had no independent verification. We're concerned obviously, we're all aware of what happened in Bosnia and Croatia."

Mr. Sunquist, who spent a great deal of time in East Timor in the time leading up to the occupied territory's referendum on independence, said he is personally alarmed because he has been unable to contact many of the friends he made.

He said there is "crystal clear" evidence that militia groups and the Indonesian military colluded in launching the rampage of violence in East Timor after the referendum results were announced earlier this month.

It is almost certain that hundreds of people were killed, but whether the death toll reaches the thousands is unclear, he said. [...]

From the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
Press Briefing - 14 September 1999

UNHCR is gravely alarmed by persistent reports and indeed mounting evidence of deportation of East Timorese to West Timor and cases of separation of men from women and children. Reports from various sources speak of families being separated while being forcibly taken to West Timor. They speak of anti-independence militias hunting down supporters of independence in West Timor’s capital Kupang and the border town of Atambua which has been overrun by militias. UNHCR is adamant that no-one should be taken away from East Timor against their will and that all those already deported must be allowed to return. [...]

Dennis Schulz,
"Refugees Recall the Flames of Death"
Melbourne Age, 16 September 1999

East Timorese refugees housed in the tent city outside Darwin have arrived with stories of mass murder by the Indonesian military in rural East Timor. Many of their tales are being recorded by UNAMET volunteers for a possible judicial inquiry.

Joao Brito, 15, of Ermera, spoke of the murder of perhaps hundreds of people in his township.

Sitting inside his tent, he told of the events on 4 September, the day the result of the 30 August autonomy referendum was announced.

An hour after the announcement,. two trucks of Kopassus special forces arrived in Ermera. The men were dressed in the black T-shirts of the Aitarak militia. They were accompanied by militia members recruited in West Timor. Joao and others watched their arrival from a hillside coffee plantation.

The soldiers, armed with automatic weapons and carrying cans of petrol, were after independence supporters.

"They called house-to-house and they burned out the political leaders," Joao said through an interpreter. "When the houses burnt, they let the women and children out, but they pushed the men back into the fire where they died."

He said the force marched through the township, burning buildings and shooting and slashing his neighbors with machetes. The killers made no secret of their delight.

"After they cut with machete, they shouted and danced because they are happy they kill people. They say, `You dogs. You do not have the right to independence'." [...]

A UNAMET human rights officer, Mr John Bevin, expressed no surprise at the ferocity of the Ermera attack, saying it was consistent with reports he was getting from other East Timorese.

"The stories they're telling are absolutely appalling," Mr Bevin said.

Maggie O'Kane,
"Atrocities Reported in West Timor Camps"
The Guardian (UK), 16 September 1999

United Nations officials who stayed behind in Dili when their compound was abandoned have been bombarded with calls alleging atrocities in the refugee camps of West Timor to which thousands of East Timorese have fled.

"We've had calls saying that the refugee camps are being dominated by the militia. The callers are reporting violence, intimidation and executions in the camps," said Colin Stewart, a UN political officer and one of the 11 who volunteered to stay behind.

"The militia are coming into the camps with lists and calling out certain people, most of them young men, and taking them away," he said by mobile phone from the Australian consulate in Dili, the only fortified building in the city, where the UN mission has been relocated.

"But generally there's a feeling here that if people can hang on things will be OK. A couple of days ago the militia were shooting at our cars; now they are confining themselves to rude gestures. They have looted everything by now."

There are also reports that young men are still being dragged off the army trucks used to deport civilians. "I stress that these are unconfirmed reports," Mr Stewart said. "My impression is that they are winding down." [...]

Michael A. Lev,
"E. Timor Survivors Describe Killings,
Rampaging Militias"
Chicago Tribune, 16 September 1999

[...]Several of the refugees in Darwin said three people trying to sneak out of the UN compound in Dili were shot dead by the Indonesian army.

One refugee, Carlos Mendoca, 19, who said he was threatened by militiamen who wanted him to join their group, said Indonesian soldiers were passing out amphetamine-like pills to militiamen to excite them into a killing frenzy.

The incident could not be confirmed, but UN workers in Dili said they had heard similar stories.

Authorities said the refugees appeared to be in good condition but many were traumatized by their experiences and grieving over the deaths of relatives.

"These people arrived here yesterday talking about members of their families--husbands and fathers--who had been killed the night before," said Mick Van Heythuysen, Darwin's police superintendent. "It's very distressing." [...]

Mark Dodd,
"Militias Plot to Use Refugees as Hostages"
The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 September 1999

[...] [Quoting "a senior U.N. official"] "We are receiving lots of reports of small groups of five to 10 people being tied up and killed in different places. Sometimes many more. The real number, we simply do not know.

"There are lots of reports of extra-judicial killings. Even TNI [Indonesian military] confirmed the death of Father Karim, the German father from the Jesuit refugee service. He was killed in the middle of the night last week in Dili.

"There are many credible reports by East Timorese of people seeing bodies being burnt like in Kosovo. But without a systematic forensic investigation, we will probably never know the true death toll." [...]

Conor O'Clery,
"Killer Held in Mountains Tells of Murder Plans"
The Irish Times, 22 September 1999

[...] Accompanied by a pro-Falintil (resistance army) guide armed with a machete, I came across hundreds of [internally-displaced Timorese] sheltering in little mountain valleys and in groves of banana trees mostly afraid to come down until told it was safe. In a hut made from saplings and banana leaves, a two-hour trek from Becora over arid mountain slopes, Aliza Alvez was weeping uncontrollably. A mother of four, she told me she had ventured to Becora yesterday and found her home burned and husband missing. Further up the mountain there were large concentrations of displaced people, mostly women and shy children who smiled for a stranger despite their hunger. They showed me the scarcely edible tubular roots they dug up to eat. They had water, carried up from the river in jars, but no medicine. Three children and two adults died here in the last week from starvation and disease. [...]

"Persecution of Refugees Stepped Up Throughout Indonesia"
Agence France-Presse dispatch, 22 September 1999

DARWIN, Australia - The persecution of East Timor refugees has spread throughout Indonesia, with the military stepping up a campaign of harassment and terror in places such as Bali and Java, the Carter Center said Wednesday.

Churches, hotel owners and local residents were being ordered to inform on the whereabouts of refugees, the Center said citing reliable sources.

"Refugees from East Timor continue to be harasssed, intimidated and forced to flee from places in which they have sought refuge," the Center said in a statement handed to AFP.

It pointed to Denpasar, in Bali, and the Javanese cities of Surabaya, Malang, Solo, Yogyakarta and the capital Jakarta.

Indonesian authorities, with the assistance of local government officials, members of the FPDK (a pro-autonomy umbrella organisation) and suspected militia were "ordering churches, hotels, boarding houses and neighbourhood residents to report the presence of Timorese refugees".

In Bali, a popular tourist destination, police and military officials had visited Timorese shelters and told them a "sweeping operation" was underway to "arrest and drive them out of their refuges".

This included Kuta Beach, a favourite among foreign holidaymakers.

"Indonesian soldiers and FPDK members have approached and threatened Timorese residents, barring access to banks, shops and telephone bureaus."

The US-based watchdog said it had evidence that police officers and militiamen murdered at least one refugee who was travelling by sea from Kupang, in West Timor, to Bali on September 13.

It said a group of armed police wearing T-shirts of the Kontingen Lorosai (the special police contingent sent to East Timor to oversee security) dragged two refugees from their room on the passenger ferry Anu.

They were severely beaten before one of the two was taken away.

A short time later a self-proclaimed Aitarak milita member boasted to the wife of the man: "I wouldn't bother looking for your husband because I killed him myself." [...]

"Timor Atrocities Unearthed"
BBC Online, 22 September 1999

Evidence of systematic atrocities carried out by pro-Indonesian militiamen against the people of East Timor has been uncovered in the capital, Dili.

A BCC correspondent was shown what appeared to be a torture and execution centre where up to 30 victims were killed then beheaded and dismembered before their bodies were thrown into a well.

The discovery came as international peacekeeping troops pushed further into the devastated territory and militia groups stepped up their activities. [...]

The armed anti-independence groups are alleged to have carried out atrocities similar to those in the Balkans.

Pro-independence campaigners showed BBC correspondent Ben Brown a site where they said militiamen hanged their victims from a meat hook -- still in evidence -- and slit their throats before decapitating them and dumping their bodies down a well.

The stench of rotting flesh was testimony to the allegations.

Between 10 and 30 people had been killed in this way, eyewitnesses told him. [...]

Maggie O'Kane,
"No Evidence So Far of Mass Killings"
The Guardian (UK) 24 September 1999

Horror stories of mass executions in East Timor, including the murder of almost 100 priests and nuns by the military and militia, have yet to be borne out and evidence uncovered by the Guardian in the capital suggests that they may be exaggerated.

So far 15 bodies have been found in the capital, Dili, which has a population of 130,000, and another three on the outskirts of the city, the United Nations says. However, 30,000 people are hiding in the hills above the city and have yet to come down to tell their story.

The extent of the killing outside the capital is also unknown.

Yesterday the head of the British forces, Brigadier David Richards, when asked about evidence of mass killings, said: "The bodies would have been all over the place. I haven't seen evidence of that."

In three days of investigation in dili, the Guardian interviewed almost 100 refugees, only one of whom had had a relative murdered.

In an account broadcast by television networks around the world, an Australian aid worker claimed that she had seen "bodies piled up to the ceiling" in the cells of the Polda police headquarters, with "blood streaming down the wall."

When the Guardian visited the headquarters yesterday, which had just been abandoned by the Indonesian army, the cells were littered with rotting food and rubbish. There wa sno sigh of blood or of any attempt to clean the cells.

A second report of 20 people being murdered in the diocesan offices at the port also appears to be untrue. While the offices were burned, there was no blood, no evidence of charred remains and no smell of decaying bodies.

Father Francisco, a diocesan priest at Bishop Carlos Belo's headquarters in Dili, said that reports that pro-Jakarta militiamen had opened fire on refugees, killing dozens of them, were also untrue. He said one man had died at the bishop's house.

Despite reports that up to 100 priests and nuns were killed in the two weeks after the pro-independence vote, the total number is believed to be four. "We know three priests at Suai were killed and one priest in Dili," Fr. Francisco said.

Hundreds of refugees have been sheltered by Fr. Francisco in the bishop's garden since the referendum on August 30, but he said none had reported mass killings or mass graves. "I have heard individual reports of a body here and there, but none of mass killings."

As the peacekeepers fan out across the country, there will undoubtedly be details of killings, particularly in towns like Liquica and Suai, where the militia were reportedly most brutal. But the emerging pattern is of people terrorised into leaving their homes rather than mass executions.

Bernard Lagan,
"Bodies Dumped from Passenger Liner: Witnesses"
The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 September 1999

Suspected supporters of East Timor's independence were executed on ships taking refugees from the territory and their bodies dumped in the sea, according to witness accounts collected by an Australian election observer who has just returned from Kupang, West Timor.

Ms. Katharine Kennedy, of Melbourne, who was an accredited observer to the United Nations-supervised ballot in East Timor, fled to West Timor to escape violence after the result was announced on September 4.

While in West Timor, she noted the following accounts from witnesses:

On September 13, about 15 young Timorese men were stabbed and thrown overboard from an Indonesian passenger liner, the Pelni Awu, en route from kupang to Denpasar in Bali. The witness believed the killers were members of the Indonesian Army.

On September 8 at the Dili wharf, Aitarak militias separated men from a refugee group and told them to remove their shirts. The militias then shot 10 dead before an Indonesian Army member intervened.

On September 6 four alleged members of the National Council of timorese Resistance (CNRT) were shot and thrown over the side of an Indonesian naval vessel carrying forcibly deported refugees to Kupang.

Ms. Kennedy's accounts are backed in general terms by the Carter Centre, which has an East Timor Observer Mission in Darwin. A report released by the centre yesterday said Indonesian police and militias were seen to murder a refugee being shipped from Kupang to Bali on September 13. [...]

Amnesty International,
"Fear, Intimidation and Forced Relocation
in the [Indonesian] Archipelago"
AI Index: ASA 21/166/99, 24 September 1999

As the international peace-keeping force arrives in East Timor, tens of thousands of forcibly displaced East Timorese are at risk of serious human rights violations throughout Indonesia, Amnesty International said in a report released today.

"The situation of the East Timorese people forcibly displaced to West Timor and other parts of Indonesia is becoming more critical every day, Amnesty International said.

"We should be celebrating the birth of an independent nation, but instead we are witnessing its baptism in blood."

"Independence activists are being hunted down at checkpoints, on boats and in house-to-house searches," the human rights organization added. "Militia and members of the Indonesian army (TNI) continue to intimidate, threaten and attack the displaced East Timorese with total impunity."

In the report, Amnesty International documents patterns of mass human rights violations committed against the tens of thousands of East Timorese displaced within East Timor itself and those forced to flee to West Timor and other areas of Indonesia in what appears to be part of a deliberate policy of forced deportation by the TNI. The report is based on eyewitness accounts and refugee testimonies collected in the field.

The human rights organization has received credible reports that 35 young East Timorese men were killed on board a ship bound for Kupang from Dili on 11 September. According to an eyewitness account, the bodies of the victims were dumped overboard. Amnesty International has collected accounts of other incidents of East Timorese being beaten and killed on boats leaving Dili.

Meanwhile, armed militia groups -- mostly Aitarak militia -- operate with almost complete impunity in West Timor. They are mainly concentrated in the border area of Atambua, but they are also present on the streets of Kupang and in Kefamenanu District.

In Kupang and Atambua militia groups are reported to be regularly checking refugee camps, houses and local hotels for pro-independence supporters, humanitarian defenders and human rights workers. There are also credible reports that unlawful killings have taken place in Atambua and that some people have been abducted from the refugee camps by militia or detained by the military.

One refugee recounted to Amnesty International the detention of his cousin in Kefamenanu:

The next day my family were forced to leave Kefameanu... When they were leaving, a civilian who works for the military in Atambua, stopped my cousin Leonio Guterres from leaving with the rest of my family. I do not know why he was picked - whether it was because he is a young, strong man or whether there was some suspicion about his background. He was detained at Kodim (District Command) in Kefamenanu. I fear he may be dead or in grave danger.

The security of East Timorese displaced, often forcibly, to other parts of Indonesia has also seriously deteriorated. East Timorese in Jakarta, Yogyakarta , Flores and Bali are facing serious intimidation, threat of arrest, constant military surveillance and are unable to leave.

Many East Timorese in Indonesia believe they are on "lists" held by the TNI and the militias. In Bali, those fleeing the violence in East Timor are living in fear, continually having to move location to avoid detection by militia or TNI.

"In a climate of rising xenophobia, East Timorese are easily identifiable for discrimination and attack." [...]

Philippe Naughton,
"Shocked U.N. Team Finds E. Timor Countryside Deserted"
Reuters dispatch, 25 September 1999

BAUCAU, East Timor (Reuters) - A U.N. humanitarian team that drove along East Timor's northern coastline Saturday found a country almost entirely devoid of people, raising fears that many more may have been deported than previously thought.

The team of experts, escorted by six armored personnel carriers and three helicopters, took four and a half hours to travel along the twisting 80-mile road from Dili to East Timor's second biggest city, Boca.

For the first 30 miles, not a single person could be seen in an eerily deserted landscape. The convoy passed 11 villages and settlements, most almost entirely destroyed by fire, before encountering the first people at the town of Manatuto.

Hundreds of thousands of Timorese have fled into the hills, driven from their homes by a bloody campaign of murder and arson by military-backed anti-independence militias in the wake of East Timor's overwhelming vote to break from Indonesia.

The aid workers were shocked to find so few had come home.

"My first thought is that there are more people who have been forcibly deported from East Timor than had been anticipated," Gilbert Greenall, a British government aid expert seconded to the U.N. in East Timor, told Reuters.

"If it turns out that 100,000 people are missing, that's going to be very, very difficult to explain away."


Dr Heidi Quinn, a medical aid specialist with France's Medicins Sans Frontieres, said: ``I was just surprised how deserted it was. There were no people until Manatuto. Where are the people? Are they all in the hills?''

The United Nations has estimated that around 150,000 East Timorese were forcibly taken to West Timor after the territory voted for independence on August 30. Up to half a million more were believed to have fled into the hills.

But Saturday, as the United Nations made its first land trip outside Dili since U.N. forces arrived Monday, the team passed village after village where not a soul could be seen.

In Manatuto, the convoy was greeted with jubilation by a crowd of around 200 locals. Young men reached up to shake the hands of Australian soldiers and a British army major was virtually mobbed as he shook hands with town officials.

The crowd shouted "Freedom! Freedom!" and "Viva East Timor!," their celebrations delaying the departure of the convoy.

One man in Manatuto, resident Tomas Carceres said there were still about 3,000 local people hiding in the hills under the protection of Falintil independence guerrillas.

The town used to have a population of around 9,000.

There did not, however, appear to be a shortage of food -- all along the road from Dili to Baucau crops were ripening and goats, pigs, chickens and water buffalo roamed freely.

"If I had to go through my mind and say what is my principal anxiety, it is not the normal things," Greenall said. "It is the question -- where are the people?"

Greenall, who has also made aerial reconnaissance missions, said no major groups of people hiding had been found.

"We have not found any camps with 50,000 people in them, so the situation has lots of pluses but some very sinister minuses," he said.

The convoy arrived at the airbase in Baucau at dusk, just in time to see the last Indonesian military plane leave. The airfield, which can take big cargo planes, is to be used as a base to distribute aid around a large section of the territory.

Keith B. Richburg,
"East Timor Refugees Terrorized in Camps:
Militias Hold Many as Virtual Hostages"
The Washington Post, 25 September 1999

KUPANG, Indonesia, Sept. 24—They fled here in abject retreat, packed onto trucks scrawled with the names of their militia gangs and bringing with them their assault rifles, machetes and dreams of revenge.

But as East Timor's militias have settled here, across the border in western Timor--now riding around the streets of Kupang in open-backed trucks and wearing their characteristic black T-shirts--they have brought their reign of terror and intimidation, this time against tens of thousands of displaced East Timorese living in sprawling refugee camps as virtual hostages, according to relief workers, human rights monitors and others.

There are now more than 200,000 East Timorese scattered throughout as many as three dozen camps--some of them in churches, government buildings and a stadium and some along the road with people living in tents and under tarps. Relief agencies say many, if not most, of those camps are controlled by the pro-Indonesian militias, who deny access to most Westerners.

There have been repeated reports of militia members entering camps at night and taking away suspected supporters of independence for East Timor. Young men are also being forced to join the militias. This is thought to be a regrouping, a swelling of the ranks, for a possible incursion into East Timor, where an Australian-led multinational peacekeeping force is gradually wresting control of the capital, Dili, from the armed gangs and departing Indonesian soldiers.

"Right now our job is to protect the refugees, but, like it or not, there will be war," said a 26-year-old militia member named Binto, who spoke at a camp located at a provincial sports stadium here. "We will return to East Timor, but we have to fight for it."

And relief agencies say they are alarmed that the Indonesian government has announced plans to begin relocating the refugees farther away from East Timor--part of what aid groups here fear could be a forced removal of people as a prelude to the eventual partitioning of East Timor.

"They've got between 150,000 and 200,000 people hostage here," a foreign relief worker said. "They're not refugees; they're hostages."

"What's happening here is horrible," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They're burning houses on this side of the border. We hear reports of pregnant women being killed and their bellies split open. Boats leave with 'X' number of people and arrive with less." He added: "The militia and military--you can't make a difference anymore--are in control of this city. And the government can't do anything."

Khin Sandi Lwin, senior program coordinator for the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Jakarta, just returned from a trip to the refugee camps at Atambua, near the border between East Timor and western Timor, and she said she saw militia members brandishing their automatic weapons inside the camps she visited. "This is a very strong militia-controlled area," she said. She was able to go into the camps only because she is Burmese; Westerners, and particularly "white faces," are generally not allowed.

She estimated that 127,000 refugees are living in the district around Atambua. Asked how many are there voluntarily, and how many are being held against their will, she said, "With the militia all around, we wouldn't want to ask them."

The New York-based Human Rights Watch also said in a statement: "Militias in West Timor are terrorizing the East Timorese, infiltrating the camps, and systematically attempting to identify and retaliate against independence supporters. They have also assaulted, 'disappeared,' and killed those attempting to aid and shelter refugees."

On Aug. 30, nearly four-fifths of East Timorese defied militia intimidation and voted overwhelmingly to separate from Indonesia and become an independent state in a U.N.-backed referendum. But the anti-independence militias retaliated with a vengeance, engaging in murder and destruction that provoked intense international pressure on Indonesia to accept foreign peacekeepers in East Timor.

As they embarked on their rampage, the militias were seen herding thousands of East Timorese toward the border. Relief workers said they fear that many--particularly young men, anyone associated with the United Nations or working for foreigners, or anyone suspected of being an independence supporter--may have been executed along the way.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, for example, had about 70 East Timorese staff members in Dili. When militiamen raided the Red Cross compound, the expatriate staffers were loaded onto a truck and eventually taken to the airport to leave. About 2,000 refugees, and some staff members at the compound, were last seen being marched along the beach. Today, Red Cross officials said only 11 of their local staff members have arrived in western Timor; the others are missing.

Not all of the refugees here are considered "hostages." Some are the relocated families of military personnel, others the families of the militias. They are kept in military camps, like the Noelbaki camp about nine miles from here, where most of the men wear military uniforms.

The militia campaign of terror has extended beyond western Timor, and is said to reach as far away as Bali, and even Jakarta, where suspected independence supporters have received death threats and are being hunted down. Some East Timorese university students, and Red Cross staff members, have been moved several times because of death threats, with some being relocated to Darwin, in northern Australia.

"There's militia in Jakarta, there's militia in Surabaya," said an aid worker here. "They know who they're looking for. They have names."

"The carefully-planned campaign of violence and terror carried out by the Indonesian security forces and their militia surrogates in East Timor and in west Timor over the past several weeks has spread throughout Indonesia," said the Atlanta-based Carter Center, which sent monitors to observe the East Timor referendum and still has observers scattered around the archipelago.

"Armed militias [continue] to harass and terrorize refugees from East Timor who have taken refuge in Bali and several cities on the island of Java, including the Indonesian capital of Jakarta," the center said in a report.

No one seems certain of the motive for holding tens of thousands of people hostage. But some relief groups and human rights officials have suggested the militias may have been trying to empty East Timor of its pro-independence population as a prelude to demanding that the western half of the territory be allowed to remain a part of Indonesia. The western half, with its coffee plantations, is the most economically viable part of otherwise poor East Timor, and many prominent Indonesians are said to have business links there.

An aerial survey of the western side of East Timor done Thursday by the United Nations found "very few people living there," according to David Wimhurst, a U.N. spokesman in Darwin.

The government has announced plans to relocate as many as 100,000 East Timor refugees away from the border areas and into semi-permanent settlements elsewhere in East Timor, as well as on neighboring islands.

Machete victim, East Timor, September 1999
(BBC Online photo, 28 September 1999)

Machete Victim, East Timor, 1999 (BBC Online photo)

Indira A.R. Lakshmanan,
"Survivors Tell of Eluding Rampage in Timor"
Boston Globe, 27 September 1999

[...] After grimly surveying two charred skeletons and noting their identities, Captain Alan Roan of the Gurkha Rifles said that compared with Bosnia, things seem to be "not to the same extent here - not yet. There'd be whole houses filled of bodies in Bosnia."

Asked about where all the missing people were, Roan said it seemed the perpetrators were "more cunning here."

Hampering the search is a lack of access to the Indonesian stronghold on the western part of Timor, where massacres of independence supporters are considered most likely to have occurred.

There are indisputable reports of people being taken against their will en masse to West Timor and from there to other parts of Indonesia, even as recently as three days ago. Amnesty International said 35 men were thrown off a boat fleeing Dili on Sept. 11.

One place to start gathering evidence is in the Dili suburb of Becora, where a reporter found three separate gravesites on Saturday, and residents said there were more. In just one day, a reporter who drove through the city in search of evidence of those victims was led by residents to the remains of seven recent corpses in six different locations.

For professional war crimes investigators, verifying such atrocities and mass killings is likely to be fraught with conflicting and confusing evidence.

A 2-day-old grave on a college campus contains either the disemboweled corpse of a man found hanging from a pole with his throat slit, or the waist-down half-corpse of a man who was killed and eaten by animals, according to differing accounts from men who said they buried the unknown victim.

A couple of hundred yards away, at the economics building, bloodstains marked the curbstones next to a shallow grave that neighbors said they dug three days ago for an unidentified old man.

Roberto da Silva, a 29-year-old farmer who was hiding in the hills above Dili until the multinational force arrived, said that he felt so angry when he found the unknown victim that if he knew the killers he would kill them.

Da Silva, who wears a plastic rosary around his neck, acknowledges that Catholicism preaches forgiveness, not murder and revenge. "Yes, I'm a Catholic," he said "but if you do it to me, I have to do it to you."

His attitude suggests that UN officials should quickly investigate the bloody revenge campaign that followed the vote for independence and initiate a justice system - before fed-up vigilantes take matters into their own hands.

Twice in three days, angry mobs have grabbed suspected militiamen and started to beat them before international peacekeepers could intervene to arrest the suspects and calm the crowd.

In at least two other instances, crowds turned over suspects to the Australian-led peacekeepers without hurting them.

Gaspar Arauju Da Costa, a 17-year-old student who had fled to the hills with his uncle, found his pro-independence father murdered in the secondary school adjacent to their backyard when they returned a few days ago. He is still angry at the killers, he said quietly, but believed in "court justice. Put them in jail, don't kill them."

His father, Paul Da Costa, 53, was supposed to flee to the mountains with Gaspar and his own brother, but he wanted to wait for his daughter. The militias found them first, said a female neighbor, and Gaspar's mother, three sisters, and younger brother all were seized and taken against their will to Kupang, in the undisputed Indonesian western half of Timor.

Da Costa's body is now in a pit behind the secondary school, covered with banana leaves and waiting for proper burial in his hometown in the hills when the situation is safe enough to transport it, his son said.

A black square of cloth pinned to his shirt to indicate mourning, Gaspar looked as though he was about to cry and could not answer when asked if independence was worth the high price of a murdered father and missing family.

Across town in the Balide neighborhood, a burned-out house painted with murals of Jesus and Mary hide the charred skeletons of two men who were allegedly shot to death and then set on fire by militias and men in military uniforms on Sept. 7. The fumes of burned flesh still hang heavy in the air. Neighbors have left pink bougainvillea e.

"They looked for young people, but there were no young people left here," said Rafael Joaquin Galuso, 21, whose uncle, Geronimo Galuso, 40, was one of the victims. "So they killed the old people," he said.

Doug Struck,
"E. Timor Villages Go Up in Smoke As Army Retreats"
The Washington Post, 27 September 1999

[...] Huge numbers of families are splintered in East Timor because the men, fearing they would be killed, fled to the hills, and their families were then taken to western Timor hundreds of miles away, where they are in camps controlled by the militias. Few have returned, and it remains unclear if they are free to leave the camps, or how they would get back. [...]

Scorched earth, Timor

Timor: Scorched Earth, 1999 (photo, 27k)

Lindsay Murdoch,
"Australian Troops in Ghost Town"
The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 September 1999

Australian soldiers arrived in this ruined town 40 kilometres west of Dili yesterday to find only a few dozen people and eight members of the Falintil independence group.

Residents told soldiers thousands of people had been forced from their homes two weeks ago, put on trucks and taken to West Timor. [...]

A local independence leader, Mr Amadeu Dos Santos, arrived in the town from the mountains where he had been hiding. He didn't know how many people had been killed in Liquica.

"A lot of young men who were fleeing Dili were stopped in their cars here and I think the militia took them away and killed them," he said. [...]

Craig Skehan,
"Killers Stalking Political Activists"
The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 September 1999

East Timorese independence supporters say they are being terrorised in Jakarta and elsewhere by militiamen with shadowy political connections.

Sources said that one man who had been actively involved in searches for independence activists was closely connected to Prabowo Subianto, the disgraced son-in-law of former president Soeharto.

The man, who is blind in one eye, is reputed to have criminal connections.

Prabowo is a former head of the Indonesian Kopassus special force, which has been involved in training anti-independence militias in East Timor.

In May last year, Prabowo was sacked after soldiers under his command were accused of kidnapping and torturing political dissidents.

Opposition groups say they suspect that Prabowo loyalists are linked to a growing number of disappearances of East Timorese independence activists who were forced to flee from their strife-torn homeland.

"There is no doubt that people have disappeared, not just here in Jakarta but in other places as well, including Bali," one activist told the Herald.

"It is just a matter of how many have gone into hiding and how many have been kidnapped or killed."

An East Timorese human rights activist whose home in Dili was destroyed in a militia attack was able to escape to Jakarta.

"I am with a group and we move houses every couple of days," he said. "There are a lot of people like us."

One East Timorese leader said the bodies of four East Timorese independence supporters, all men, had been found in Tanggeran township west of Jakarta. He said there had been reports that the same area was being used by Indonesian commandos to train militias for future use in a guerilla campaign in East Timor aimed at disrupting attempts to build an independent state.

East Timorese leaders estimated more than a thousand East Timorese may have fled to Jakarta.

"It is not easy to get here if people are known to have worked for the independence cause," one source said.

"People have to hide on the way. Now, even here in Jakarta, they are not safe."

Although now living overseas, Prabowo maintains a network of supporters within the armed forces.

"Indonesia Denies 'Concentration Camps'"
BBC Online, 29 September 1999

[...] The Carter Centre said its observers had found refugees faced intimidation in East and West Timor, Java, Bali, Irian Jaya, Flores and Alor and were also being held in militia-controlled camps in Sumatra and Sulawesi.

Amnesty [International] and The Carter Centre reported refugees in West Timor camps were being recruited into the militias, although it was unclear what methods were being used.

Amnesty also said six men had been taken at gunpoint by militia from a camp at Nenuk, near Atambua on the West Timor border, on Monday and have not been seen since. [...]

Keith B. Richburg,
"U.N. Finds Evidence of Atrocity in E. Timor"
The Washington Post, 30 September 1999

[Note: No evidence yet that these were gender-selective atrocities; provided for context.]

DILI, East Timor, Sept. 29—One day after the United Nations agreed to launch a formal inquiry into human rights abuses committed by Indonesian troops and their militia proxies in East Timor, the first physical evidence of atrocities has been discovered--the charred remains of at least nine people in the back of a burned-out pickup truck.

Australian troops attached to the U.N. mission here visited the site today and photographed the remains for what they said could be evidence in the U.N. inquiry. [...]

There have been other accounts of mass executions here, but until today large numbers of bodies had not been discovered--raising questions about the actual number of people killed during a two-week rampage by Indonesian troops and militiamen following the independence referendum. Residents who survived the attacks in Dili, the East Timor capital, have described how bodies were burned in an attempt to dispose of them quickly and how others were dumped at sea, but none of those accounts has been independently confirmed.

Local residents led reporters to the remains of the bodies found today--in a vehicle junkyard at the edge of a main highway about two miles west of Dili. The first sign was an overpowering stench coming from a white pickup truck. In the cargo bed of the truck, at least nine skulls were visible, along with a few scorched limbs, a torso and some charred bones. One small skull appeared to be that of a child.

There was no clear evidence of how the victims died. One area resident said they had been hacked to death with machetes and their corpses brought to the junkyard and set on fire.

Earlier this week, one decomposing body was discovered in a well behind the home of Manuel Carrascalao, an independence leader. Local people had said the well contained other bodies, but none have been recovered.

Some military officials said today that the peacekeepers are still spread thin 10 days after their arrival and have been unable to follow up on reports of suspected massacre sites. Just over half of the 8,000 troops earmarked for the mission are in place, and they still have not ventured farther west than the town of Liquica, outside Dili, to the western districts of East Timor, where the militia groups were strongest and where some of the bloodiest violence occurred around the time of the Aug. 30 referendum.

The area between Dili and Atambua--in neighboring western Timor, part of a separate Indonesian province--is "a black hole," said Lynn Arnold, chief executive officer of World Vision Australia, a relief organization. "Nobody knows what it's like."

Sanjay Sojwal of World Vision International accompanied U.N. officials on an aerial tour of the western district and said he found the destruction to be greater than in Dili. "Nothing prepared me for the extent of the damage," he said. "City after city, town after town." [...]

The western portion of East Timor is said to have been largely depopulated as militia groups and government troops swept through, herding tens of thousands of people across the border into western Timor, where aid agencies and human rights groups say they are being held as virtual hostages. [...]

David Watts,
"Charred Bodies Found in Timor"
The Times (UK), 30 September 1999

<[...] So far, there has been little evidence of mass killing, but experts said that, in the past, the Indonesians have been expert at covering their tracks. Since the invasion of East Timor in 1975, bodies have been dumped in the sea or burnt and the ashes buried. [...]

"70,000 Refugees Have Returned to Dili: UNHCR"
Agence France-Presse dispatch, 30 September 1999

[...] The agency [UNHCR] has drawn up an initial register of those separated from their families by questioning about 500 people.

These people named 1,335 people from 176 families, who they said they had not been able to find since violence broke out at the beginning of September. [...]

Source Unknown

[...] Since the international force arrived last week, tens of butchered bodies have been discovered and there are fears the final death toll will run into hundreds. Three more bodies, two of them charred and mutilated, were found in Dili on Friday.

Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said late Thursday she would complete a report on the killings by the end of the year.

Robinson was asked by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to set up an investigative panel including Asian experts to work in cooperation with Indonesia's national commision on human rights, Komnas HAM.

Robinson said a Komnas HAM fact-finding commission would be welcome but not as a replacement for an international probe. [...]

Indonesia's commission, she said, could help by going immediately to West Timor, where some 250,000 refugees from the East Timor violence are crowded into makeshift camps.

"I have heard very alarming allegations -- I stress that at this stage these are allegations -- that even on the boats taking (refugees) to West Timor, women were raped constantly and frequently and that in three camps this continued," Robinson said.

[Comment: Is there anything else of concern going on aboard the boats and in the camps, Ms. Robinson?]

[Note: Agence France-Presse provides a fuller version of Robinson's comments on sexual assaults of Timorese women: "I heard very alarming allegations -- I stress that at this stage these are allegations -- that even on the boats taking them to West Timor, women were raped constantly and frequently and that in three camps this continued to be was [sic] a pattern of rape and sexual assault. This was repeated to me in Jakarta." In Robert Holloway, "Robinson Expects Much Evidence of Atrocities in East Timor," Agence France-Presse dispatch, 30 September 1999.]

[Meanwhile, in Chechnya ...]
"Chechen Refugee Flight Into Ingushetia Hits 78,000 Mark"
Agence France-Presse dispatch, 30 September 1999

[...] Ingushetia is the only way out for civilians fleeing Russian bombing of Chechnya, which started on September 5.

Chechen officials said Tuesday that 400 civilians had died in the bombing so far.

Women and children have been fleeing across the border, but Russian officials have turned back most of the Chechen men. [...]

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Created by Adam Jones, 1999.
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