Subject: Indon's Embassy Site in E Timor Has a Tortured Past

Deutsche Presse-Agentur Wednesday, February 28, 2000

Indonesia's embassy site in East Timor has a tortured past

Dili, East Timor

Indonesia's choice of a former torture and interrogation centre as the site for its future embassy to East Timor could embarrass reformist President Abdurrahman Wahid during his brief visit to Dili on Tuesday, according to human rights activists in the devastated future national capital.

The three-hour presidential visit, aimed at normalising relations with East Timor after 24 years of Jakarta's military occupation, includes laying a foundation stone at the site selected for the Indonesian Interests Section and future embassy in Dili.

Yayasan Hak, a local Timorese human rights group, had applied to the U.N. Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) to use the same building that was formerly used by the SGI (Indonesian Intelligence Unit) as an interrogation centre, for human rights education and as a museum.

Sidney Jones, from UNTAET's human rights component, observed that "there is no doubt that many people were detained there, electric shocks were used, and objections were raised from several quarters in UNTAET" to its selection as Jakarta's embassy.

A few weeks ago an advance mission of Indonesian officials from three ministries - foreign affairs, defence and interior - selected this building with a notorious past as the one that could provide the best security for their diplomatic mission.

Yayasak Hak's Joaquin Fonseca condemned the choice. "It demonstrates their insensitivity about the violence inflicted on Indonesian people. It should not be used as an Indonesian mission because it is a symbol of the hostile operations planned against East Timorese people."

One of the stated purposes of President Wahid's brief visit is to turn over a new leaf and usher in a new chapter in Jakarta's relations with East Timor.

His itinerary includes laying a wreath at the site of the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre carried out by Indonesian troops.

UNTAET's spokesman Manuel De Silva agreed that "we have no doubt that human rights violations occurred in that building and other buildings were considered."

But he added, "The Indonesian government requested the building, and with all the destruction, it is very difficult to find any other building that responded to Indonesian security concerns."

The former intelligence and communications centre, surrounded by high walls and barbed wire, is located in the diplomatic zone of the capital.

Indonesian officials are deeply concerned about the security issue, given that Jakarta had fought a 24-year war with East Timor in an unsuccessful effort to crush the independence struggle.

"It will be very difficult for ordinary people to understand there is a new democratic government in Jakarta if they conduct their new relations out of the old building with such bad associations," Fonseca said.

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