Subject: SMH: Justice must be done

The Age [Melbourne] and The Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 29 January 2000

News Feature

Justice must be done


The Stench of death went straight to the back of the throat, and instinctively the young woman put a cloth to her mouth. The InterFET soldier shook his head. It's worse, apparently, to try to smother the smell.

A razor-wire barricade and 20-odd InterFET troops held back scores of Timorese from the strip of grass leading to the beach. Just beyond, five empty graves lay open to a heavy sky. The exhumation was well under way. A high sheet of blue tarpaulin strung around some poles shielded three men in army camouflage and rubber gloves from the crowd. But, on the other side of the tarp, their makeshift mortuary was completely exposed. The pathologist held up a pair of rotting trousers, carefully examining the garment for holes. On the ground sheet sat a neat pile of bones with a skull. Beyond these sad remains, lay the next 11 graves, where diggers were still at work.

In the sweltering afternoon heat, a British police officer, one of the United Nations civilian investigators, was already briefing on the rudimentary examination. "They are able to tell us of stab wounds, puncture holes in clothing, skull trauma, bone trauma," said Detective-Sergeant Steve Minhinett, "so they can give us fairly accurately the cause of death."

Within minutes word came from behind the tarpaulin: the first three victims had died from multiple gunshot and stab wounds. "This will take our number through 100 in the Liquica region - that's 100 bodies," Minhinett said. "And we still have a considerable number after this."

An intense American woman in civilian clothes stepped forward. Sidney Jones, a long-time human rights activist, directs the human rights division for the UN's transitional authority in East Timor. She pointed to the empty graves. "The five bodies up here in front were buried as a result of killings on 6 April in the church compound of Pastor Rafael do Santos. The second group of bodies are 11 over here." She turned to the beach. "These were people killed in the attack on 17 April in Dili.

"We want to find out the cause of death and whether people can identify the victims and match up physical evidence with witness testimony which we now have.

"These bodies," Jones says, "make much of the evidence amassed so far so much more credible."

On this remote beach, an hour west of Dili, Jones is trying to corroborate allegations of horrific crimes, acts that may finally be classified as war crimes committed by Indonesian-backed militias, officers of the Indonesian army, the TNI, and Indonesian-led police.

Just how many Timorese died in last year's crisis and by whose order is a matter of intense debate at UN headquarters in New York, in Jakarta and Canberra. Before Christmas, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer tried to revise earlier wild estimates of tens of thousands slaughtered with a more sober figure in the hundreds. But already Canberra's revisionism is proving premature.

Here, on the north Timor coast, the methodical work of counting the dead continues. So does the investigation of who is responsible. "One thing is certain," says Jones, "the number of reports of people being killed and the number of reported grave sites is steadily increasing. As people are becoming more confident about coming forward, the number of cases is going up."

She insists it is far too early to give an accurate death toll, but says: "If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say somewhere between 1500 and 2000. That's based on very shaky data at this stage and... it's going to be a very long, slow, laborious process before we have an accurate count."

But Jones and others say the toll could go even higher. Tens of thousands of Timorese are still unaccounted for since September. While these figures are now thought to be the result of statistical errors, even InterFET's General Cosgrove says the numbers still trouble him.

Clearly, says Jones, the known body count, around 220, is no guide. She knows of almost 500 alleged killings still waiting to be investigated. The figures are confounding. But patterns are emerging. Certain regions of East Timor, such as Liquica, were hit hard. Pro-independence figures, members of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, or CNRT, were specifically targeted. Churches and priests who shielded independence supporters were attacked. In many cases, witnesses identify TNI soldiers and police as present at the killings. And, tellingly, bodies were often removed and attempts made to hide the death toll. These patterns will be vital in determining whether a war crimes tribunal will be established.

Inside the razor-wire barricade on the beach in Liquica stands a witness, Santiago de Santos Cencela. A few metres away, the body of his brother Raoul is being exhumed.

Santiago's eyes flit over to the makeshift mortuary as he talks about the day he saw his brother shot dead by militia in Dili at the house of a prominent independence figure, Manuel Carrascalao. With scores of other pro-independence supporters, Santiago sheltered at the Carrascalao home after fleeing militia attacks in the Liquica district. Hiding in the toilet, he watched about 100 "Thorn" militia besiege the house. He also saw TNI soldiers and police before he saw his brother shot.

The attack was reportedly ordered by Eurico Guterres, commander of the Dili militia and a vicious young criminal trained by the TNI. He is now sheltering in Indonesia. At least 12 unarmed civilians died in the attack, including Santiago's brother and Carrascalao's adopted son. The corpses were removed on trucks while Santiago, with the living, was taken to the police station. There, he recalls, he was told to sign a statement saying only one person died in the brutal attack. He refused and was held for three days. Later he traced the bodies of many victims to the mortuary and tracked them back to Liquica.

As he watches the UN police on the beach lay out body bags for his brother and the others, Santiago appears both depressed and gratified. "For a long time, without the UN, we could not prove a massacre," he says. Now he wants justice. A local militia man has been arrested in Dili, but Santiago wants the Indonesian army held accountable. "It is important for the Timorese to show to the world that Indonesia did something very wrong here."

Inside the razor wire, more Timorese are waiting. They hope to identify relatives from another massacre that took place 10 kilometres down the road at the church compound in Liquica town. UN police are investigating the deaths of about 60 refugees, many pro-independence supporters, who were slaughtered when they sought shelter in Pastor Rafael's church. The dead were taken away by truck, their relatives left to search for their remains. Since InterFET's arrival, scores of rotting corpses have been discovered on the shores of a nearby lake and now on this beach.

"Unfortunately," says one UN police officer, "it's impossible to say whether they have come from the church because there are so many other reported incidents of murder in the area."

The investigation into the Liquica church massacre is significant because many witnesses put Indonesian military and police at the scene. But Sidney Jones says proving a case against TNI officers will be difficult. "Certainly, there is lots of testimony of the TNI giving orders from behind the militias to advance on the people inside the pastor's compound. And there is some testimony suggesting there were planning meetings beforehand. But I'm not sure there are prosecutable cases against individual perpetrators."

ESTABLISHING this proof is critical to the case for a future war crimes tribunal. From these junior officers, investigators need to trace the chain of command to General Wiranto and his senior command, who still claim ignorance of the crimes. At least one UN investigator thinks Western intelligence information will be essential to prove the case against senior Indonesian generals. And some classified material does exist.

Two days after the Liquica massacre in April, Australia's Defence Intelligence Organisation, in a secret report, blamed the Indonesian military, then still called ABRI, for failing to prevent the massacre. "It is known that ABRI had fired tear gas into the church and apparently did not intervene when the pro-independence activists were attacked.

"BRIMOB (Indonesian police) were allegedly standing behind the attackers at the church and firing into the air... ABRI is culpable whether it actively took part in the violence, or simply let it occur."

Whether the intelligence material is sufficiently direct is debatable. Far more contentious for the Federal Government is what its intelligence services knew about Indonesian military planning for the mass deportation, destruction and killings that took place after the UN-sponsored ballot on 30 August.

In the two weeks after the vote, massacres on the scale of Liquica occurred across Timor. More than 200,000 people were transported to Indonesian West Timor, many forcibly; thousands of homes and businesses were looted and burnt to the ground and major infrastructure destroyed. By any definition, these were war crimes.

Jones makes a telling point. As Dili burnt and militias put the UN mission under siege, Wiranto declared martial law throughout Timor on 7September. Saying he had full confidence in his forces to stabilise the situation, he stalled the push for an international peace-keeping force to occupy the territory. A day later, two of the most chilling massacres were carried out, with apparent TNI complicity. One is only now coming to light, a mass killing in the far-western enclave of Oecussi, just a few hundred metres from the West Timor border.

In UNTAET's Dili headquarters, Superintendent Martin Davies peers over the top of his steel-rimmed glasses at the computer screen. The middle-aged British police officer with a greying beard taps away quietly, scutinising the Oecussi figures as the airconditioner blasts away the midday heat. Davies, the UN police chief, had just returned from the mass grave site in Oecussi. Although there were rumors about the site for weeks, it was mid-December before a witness could direct the UN to the area, which is only accessible by walking track.

It is impossible to know how many victims are buried there. Davies says figures are being bandied about of 52 to 54 bodies, but he cautions that much of the site is underground. "There are human bones and remains exposed on the surface at the moment that would given an indication there may be 10 or 12, but until the site's actually excavated we can't say."

The first allegations that "something massive has occurred" surfaced in October. Local CNRT people have given police a list of names, but it may be weeks before any bodies can be identified. But Davies is in no doubt there was mass murder at the site.

The same day as these killings, when Wiranto's troops were supposedly enforcing martial law, another massacre was under way in the mountain town of Maliana. An estimated 50 people were slaughtered in the police headquarters in a district then controlled by TNI's top ally in the militia, Joao Tavares. The witness statements, critically, put militia, police and TNI officers present at the killings, which took place inside the police station compound and in the grounds. The victims included pro-independence activists and refugees from surrounding towns. There are also allegations that some TNI officers had lists of names.

Jones is not sure about this evidence. "There were clearly a couple of people that were targets, more well-known pro-independence figures. But it also sounds as though it was a fairly mass killing.

"The problem is it took place in different rooms in the police station so you don't have anybody that can attest to seeing everybody killed. The testimonies we have are either from people who helped remove the bodies from the police station, or, in some cases, people who saw individuals murdered, but they were taken away from the rest of the crowd."

AGAIN, the disappearance of the victims is hindering investigators. "We haven't found any bodies, that's the problem," Davies says, "We've got witnesses there, and there's a figure of 53, but again..." He shrugs. Some villagers have put the toll at 100. This pattern of cover-up points to organisation that needed the complicity of TNI at a senior level.

Last May, when the UN ballot was agreed on, Indonesia resisted calls for international peacekeepers coming to Timor, insisting it would be solely responsible for security. Now there is mounting evidence that from the time former President Habibie first proposed the ballot in January, the top commanders of the TNI worked covertly with the militias to defeat independence through violence and intimidation.

In a rambling compound, back from the Dili waterfront, a team of East Timorese human rights investigators from the Yayasan Hak Foundation pore over documents, piecing together corroboration of the covert strategy by militias and the TNI . The foundation's headquarters was trashed during the Dili siege and a much of their work lost. But under the guidance of a respected lawyer, Aniceto Guterres, the foundation is re-building its files.

Even with limited evidence, Guterres is adamant that Wiranto and his commanders are responsible. "General Wiranto is involved because there is a military doctrine that says soldiers in the field have to follow orders from above. If what happened here from January to September happened without his knowledge, it meant that all these soldiers deserted from his army; it means 20,000 deserted from the army. That's impossible, The fact is, General Wiranto knew."

That view has won some support from an independent Indonesian commission of inquiry into the atrocities now being finalised in Jakarta. The inquiry has targeted Wiranto's senior commanders - specifically the man who oversaw the Timor operation from Bali, Major-General Adam Damiri, and the TNI commander in Dili, Brigadier-General Tono Suratman, promoted from the rank of colonel after the crisis.

The Indonesian inquiry has accused the generals of collusion in the atrocities. The generals are denying the claims and mounting a defence. But the inquiry's view is shared by Australia's Defence Intelligence Organisation, DIO. A 9September paper on the TNI policy states: "TNI embarked on a finely judged and carefully orchestrated strategy to retain East Timor as part of Indonesia. All necessary force was to be employed with maximum deniability..."

In Dili, two former key insiders say they have first-hand knowledge of the TNI's secret operation. Sitting in the back yard of his brother's house, Tomas Gonsalves lights a cigarette and begins his story. Just a year ago he was a leading pro-Indonesian figure in Dili, a veteran who had fought with the Indonesian special forces in 1975. Now his weatherbeaten face tells a story of betrayal and disillusionment.

In late 1998, he says, he met Major-General Adam Damiri and Colonel Tono Suratman at the Dili military headquarters for his first high-level meeting about the militias. Joining them was Yayat Sudrajat, the head of the SGI, the feared intelligence task force attached to Kopassus. The Indonesians discussed the rumored referendum in East Timor, and secret plans to step up the training and arming of pro-Indonesia militia. Soon after, says Gonsalves, the SGI was distributing weapons to militias, and he was pressured to organise the operation in his own town of Emera.

Last March, the SGI boss arrived in Emera with three pickups loaded with weapons for Gonsalves to distribute. Two days later, he was called to a meeting with the pro-Indonesian governor of Timor, Abilio Soares. That meeting, he says, was chilling. After discussing the security needs of the pro-autonomy front, Gonsalves says the Governor told him that "in the near future there will be an operation throughout East Timor". As part of that operation, he says, they were told to, "kill all CNRT leaders, their families, even their grandchildren. If they sought shelter in the churches, even the bishop's compound, we were told to kill them all".

Despite being shaken by this meeting, Gonsalves agreed. But soon after a rift emerged in the pro-Indonesian leadership. Some were baulking at the planned level of violence. In early April, Gonsalves and other pro-autonomy leaders were summoned to Jakarta for a meeting with a senior general from Wiranto's headquarters.

Gonsalves says that Major-General Kiki Syahnakri impressed on them the need to go ahead with the militias. The TNI, said the general, "was getting weaker and the only way for the pro-autonomy forces to defend themselves is by organising the militia. If there are any sons of Timorese who wanted to fight for the red-and-white flag, they would support them with guns and money."

Corroboration of Gonsalves's story comes from Rui Lopes, another veteran of the 1975 war, who fought alongside Kopassus. Lopes says that in late 1998, Major-General Damiri flew him to Bali to persuade him to work for the pro-autonomy cause. At first they wanted him to draw defectors from the independence ranks, but soon they stepped up arming and training militias. Like Gonsalves, Lopes is certain the weapons were distributed by Indonesian intelligence.

"The weapons came from (Colonel) Tono Suratman; he gave the green light. The Indonesians knew it was impossible to convince people to vote for autonomy even if there was a lot of money from the central government. By creating the militias, they wanted to make them scared to vote for us."

Lopes says he had direct dealings with Major-General Zacky Anwar, the one-time head of Indonesian military intelligence who was the TNI military liaison to the UN mission during the ballot. Lopes says that in August Anwar advised him to set up a home base in West Timor in case a guerrilla war was needed to hold on to East Timor.

The testimony of these two insiders is significant, but on its own not enough, Sidney Jones says. The key question is whether these meetings and plans can be tied to individual deaths. "My own feeling is that you do what you can with low-ranking TNI soldiers, bring those cases forward," she says. "I don't think you can start with the top and work down. I don't think you're going to get evidence that will stand up in court until you have some of these cases with lower-ranking officers actually prosecuted."

One case is the massacre in the western coastal town of Suai. On 6 September, at least 100 unarmed Timorese civilians were slaughtered in the Suai church compound in a militia attack. Again, TNI and police were present. Among the dead was a Timorese priest, Father Hilario Modeira, and two colleagues. For both UN and Indonesian investigators much is at stake in the case.

In a burnt-out building in the mountains, a young boy sits in a white plastic chair, his feet just touching the floor. Until last September Toto lived in Saui with his cousin, Father Hilario. Toto says he wants to talk about the day "Papa Saint" died.

It was about two in the afternoon when he first heard the shooting. All day Father Hilario had tried to telephone police and army headquarters but nobody would answer. The only person he could reach was Bishop Belo in Dili. Belo told his priest to pray.

Toto says people began running everywhere as the shooting continued. He hid in Father Francisco's bedroom. He wanted to see Father Hilario on the veranda, but others hiding with him warned him to stay down. Then he heard a shot and Father Hilario fell. "He lay down on the veranda, saying please, please, help me and called out Father Cico's name. Then he died."

The boy and six others huddled in the bedroom until the compound was set on fire. Men began searching the house so they fanned the smoke to screen themselves. When it was quiet, the frightened survivors escaped. "I had to walk over the dead bodies. I think there were a lot of people, but I didn't count them."

In Dili police headquarters, Sergeant Sue King, a federal police officer from Sydney, is piecing together evidence on the massacre. In the months before the ballot, the church compound was a refuge for thousands of pro-independence supporters driven from their homes. Father Hilario's courage in sheltering the refugees brought the attention of US senators and the international media, but angered the local TNI commander and militia.

On 4 September, when the UN announced the overwhelming vote for independence, the priests knew they were sitting targets. Father Hilario urged thousands of refugees to leave the compound, but some were too frightened to go.

From witness statements, King now thinks about 400 unarmed people were left in the compound when the militia surrounded them. Her best estimate is that 100 people were slaughtered. Others say the figure is much higher.

The wet season has hindered King's inquiries. "InterFET didn't investigate till much later and, with the rain, that crime scene was severely contaminated," she says.

But what evidence remained - blood stains and a pile of empty shells - spoke clearly of a massacre.

IT WAS the Indonesian human rights inquiry that announced the discovery of Father Hilario's body last November. Three graves were found 20 kilometres from Suai, on the Indonesian side of the border, that held the remains of the priests and 23 unidentified victims. All three priests were buried in a single grave.

The find was a breakthrough for the Indonesian inquiry, the first victims discovered on Indonesian soil. The discovery boosted the credibility of the inquiry, but East Timorese human rights activists and Sidney Jones remain sceptical. They doubt that the Jakarta inquiry - a fact-finding exercise with no power to prosecute - will lead to high-level convictions. Jones is sure the Wahid Government supported the inquiry to forestall an international tribunal.

The UN human rights panel has completed its investigation and is due to release its report on Monday. Jones, who has not seen the report, says the recommendations range from an international court with Timorese and Indonesian judges, to "border courts" set up under Indonesian law and Indonesian judges with some international participation. Despite the courage of the Indonesian inquiry, Jones doubts any Indonesian court will bring people to justice.

While most local observers say militia members should be tried in East Timor, the prosecution of the Indonesian command is the key issue. For the thousands of Timorese who lost homes, jobs, friends and family, the Indonesian commanders must stand trial.

In a ransacked office in his home town, Father Hilario's brother, Louis, fights back tears. His father and two brothers were killed under Indonesian occupation. His job is gone, his friends are dead, the local woman who worked for the UN raped and murdered. He steadies himself by lighting a cigarette.

He is prepared to wait if necessary, but says a war crimes tribunal must come. "We want justice in the end. It will break the hearts of the Timorese if there is no justice."

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