Subject: Statement on the International Day for the Disappeared

This is a Statement we issue with the Families of Victims and other organizations on the International day for Disappeared persons 30 August.

Statement on the International Day for the Disappeared

August 30 of last year is a historical day for the people of East Timor. After a struggle of more than a quarter of a century, the people of East Timor had the opportunity to exercise the right to self-determination in an official process under the auspices of the international community. The referendum has brought the people of East Timor to our liberation as a peoples and a country.

However, we cannot deny that the process to this transition did not occur in a peaceful way in which our security was guaranteed. Instead, the road was paved with violence and gross human rights violations. These human rights violations occurred throughout the history of the Indonesian occupation, since the invasion of 1975 until their departure at the end of the referendum.

All forms of torture, kidnapping, unlawful detention and imprisonment, rape, killings were the everyday reality that we experienced under the Indonesian occupation. To date, we still do not know how many were victims of these acts of violence. We still do not know the whereabouts of many of those who were detained or abducted by the Indonesian military. Many people disappeared in these incidents of violence perpetrated by the Indonesian military. Many people still do not know the whereabouts of their family members who were kidnapped, detained, or who simply never returned home after an incident of violence. They still do not know whether their loved ones are still alive or already dead. Those whose whereabouts remain unknown are "the disappeared."

All forms of violence are gross human rights violations that could not be identified or brought to justice during the occupation. The suffering of these people must be given utmost attention in our preparation to reaching our freedom. In our joy of living in our newfound freedom and peace, we must not forget the suffering of the people. We must not forget for the sake of the future of East Timor.

A people who forgets the violence of the past will be cursed to repeat the past. A people who ignore justice will be cursed to sustain injustice, exacerbate violence, and strengthen impunity of perpetrators of violence and injustice.

Bringing forth the truth and justice to those who committed gross human rights violations in the past means that we give respect to the victims of these violations -which is all the people of East Timor. In so doing, we will break the cycle of revenge that is the basis for true reconciliation in East Timor. It will be too costly for the people of East Timor to continue this violence.

Therefore, the exposure of these human rights violations and bringing justice to those responsible for these violations must be a priority agenda for the government of East Timor, both in this time of transition and the future.

Today marks the first anniversary of the referendum for the liberation of the people to East Timor. Today is also the International Day for the Disappeared. Those whose loved ones disappeared have the non-derrogable right to justice. They have the right to know what happened to their loved ones. Their right to justice will only be fulfilled if they receive compensation for these disappearances and those responsible are punished accordingly.

We, the family members of the disappeared, together with human rights NGOs in East Timor:

1. Urge the transitional government and our own future government to take concrete steps to discover the fate of those who disappeared during the Indonesian occupation;

2. Urge the transitional government and our own future government to take concrete steps to bring to justice those responsible for these disappearances during the Indonesian occupation;

3. Call on the family members of the disappeared in East Timor and the world to continue their struggle for truth and justice in solidarity with each other;

4. Call on the leaders of political parties and civil society to pressure the government to take action and to support the efforts of family members and human rights NGOs to discover what happened to these people;

5. Call on the international community to support these efforts;

6. Call on the leaders of the world to stop human rights violations, particularly forced disappearance in their own countries, and to convince other leaders to follow suit.

Dili, 30 August 2000

…………………………. …………………………. …………………………. Representative of Victims' Families ASSEPOL Yayasan HAK FOKUPERS TALITAKUM Magazine Sahe Institute

NB: ASSEPOL = Associacao dos ex-prisoneiros e detidos politicos de Timor Leste 
FOKUPERS = Communication Forum for East Timor Women 
Yayasan HAK = Foundation for Law, Human Rights and Justice


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