Subject: SMH: Indon Army 'Supervised' Timor Killing Frenzy

Also: Bodies blessed before forsenic exam

The Age [Melbourne] and Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 8 February 2000

Army `supervised' Timor massacre


Victims in what could have been East Timor's worst massacre last year were registered by Indonesian officials before being hacked to death, according to UN officials.

The killings, in the Oecussi enclave which is almost surrounded by Indonesian territory, were supervised by Indonesian troops and police, officials said.

The remains of up to 45 people killed in Oecussi on 8 September were exhumed at the weekend and taken to a morgue in Dili where they were blessed by a Catholic priest.

UN officials said those selected for execution were first registered by Indonesian officials before being marched, hands bound, a short distance to where they were hacked to death by machete-wielding members of a militia death squad.

The head of the UN human rights office in Dili, Ms Sidney Jones, said 36 bodies had been exhumed, along with nine sets of incomplete remains, from shallow graves on a sandy river bank marking the border with Indonesian West Timor.

At least two other bodies were unable to be recovered because they lay in quicksand, while another eight are buried on the Indonesian side of the border.

Those killed were first forced into West Timor, were officials took their names.

"There was some form of registration process. They were taken into a government building and forced to register their names," Ms Jones said.

Evidence indicated the victims were mostly men taken on 8 September from villages near Passabe identified by Indonesian authorities as pro-independence strongholds.

According to accounts from the pro-independence CNRT group, between 52 and 56 men were marched across the border into West Timor for registration. Their hands were then bound with palm twine and they were marched a short distance back into East Timor where they were killed, Ms Jones said.

"It is the worst massacre of the post-referendum violence that we know of. We don't know exactly how many died at Liquica and Suai (other alleged massacre sites). This one, we know exactly," she said.

Ms Jones said there were survivors of the massacre but she refused to say how many. A number of victims were "very young" and the identity of the perpetrators was also known, she said.

UN officials said the executions were supervised by Indonesian soldiers and police.

According to UN and East Timorese human rights officials, some 1000 men, women and children were murdered after the 30 August ballot on self-determination.

The remains of the Oecussi victims were blessed at Dili morgue in a ceremony designed to reassure the Timorese working there.

"It's always difficult when you are dealing with death and we'll be dealing with death in large numbers," said Ms Jones.

"Show compassion for the East Timorese in this time of sorrow. We ask this, Oh Christ our Lord," said Father Edmundo Barreta, before he entered the darkened freezer holding the bodies.

He sprinkled holy water on the bodies, each individually wrapped in blue plastic sheeting.

The commander of InterFET forces, Major-General Peter Cosgrove, said an arrest warrant had been issued against pro-Jakarta militia leader Laurantinio "Moko" Soares for the Oecussi killings.

He said Indonesian officers yesterday assured InterFET they were eager to produce "Moko" Soares for a joint investigation.

General Cosgrove announced he would formally hand over military authority to UN peacekeepers on 23 February before leaving for Darwin.

PHOTO: Father Edmundo Barreta blesses the container holding the remains of massacre victims. Picture: AFP

Agence France Presse February 7, 2000, Monday

A blessing for East Timor massacre dead 

Ian Timberlake
DILI, East Timor, Feb 7

The sky-blue body bags and the chill of the refrigerated trailer could not mask the smell of death Monday as Father Edmundo Barreta blessed 46 victims of a massacre.

The dead were bound and marched to their deaths in the East Timor enclave of Oecussi in September.

United Nations officials invited Barreta to their new morgue and forensic investigation center here to bless the bodies, the facility and its staff before investigators begin their analysis of the victims flown to Dili Sunday night from Oecussi after being exhumed by a UN-led team.

It will be the first major case handled at the morgue in a former Indonesian agriculture training facility.

"It's always difficult when you're dealing with death and we're going to be dealing with death in large numbers here," said Sidney Jones, director of the human rights division of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

Jones told AFP the priest's blessing was to provide comfort to about 10 East Timorese who work at the site as security guards and construction workers, and four international staff who will conduct examinations.

Barreta sprinkled holy water on the refrigerated trailer and then stood in the doorway of the autopsy room where silver trays the length of a human body rested on wooden supports atop a white-tiled floor.

He asked God to help the workers "give justice to these dead brothers and sisters."

Jones said the forensic team will try to determine the ages of the victims and try to identify them using UNTAET lists of people missing from Oecussi.

"Apparently, there were some very young people," she said.

"Most of the dead appeared to be male, but analysis will try to confirm the sex," she said.

The 37 complete and nine partial sets of remains were found in numerous graves near the southern Oecussi village of Passabe, close to the border with Indonesian West Timor.

"All of these people were from villages that were seen as pro-independence strongholds," she said.

"It's the worst massacre of the post-referendum violence that we know about so far."

Militias and their backers in the Indonesian armed forces conducted a campaign of murder, looting, arson and forced deportation after the East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia in an August 30 UN-supervised ballot.

Jones said there are "very strong" indications of complicity by Indonesian national police and the armed forces in the Oecussi massacre, but she did not elaborate.

The tragedy began on September 8 when the victims were marched from Oecussi into West Timor.

"They were taken into a government building and forced to register their names. But it's not clear for what purpose," Jones said.

From there, they were marched back into East Timor and murdered between midnight and 1:00 a.m September 9.

At least some victims had been tied up.

"Also in the graves we found the palm rope that had bound them," Jones said.

Preliminary analysis of the bones showed one skull with an apparent bullet wound. Others looked as though they were hacked to death.

"It's pretty clear in most of the cases where there were skulls there were severe machete marks on the skulls," Jones said.

Forensic analysis is expected to take about one month, and the bodies will then be returned to their families, said UNTAET spokesman Manoel de Almeide e Silva.

Another eight victims remain in West Timor and discussions continue about how UN investigators can get access to them.

"One possibility is to seek the help of the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, as was done in the case of Suai," Jones said.

An Indonesian human rights team helped recover the bodies of three priests and about two dozen other people buried in West Timor after being murdered during an early September attack on a church compound in the south coastal East Timorese town of Suai.

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