Subject: AFP: Human rights groups call for action on East Timor's missing

Human rights groups call for action on East Timor's missing

DILI, East Timor Aug. 31 (AFP) - Human rights groups here are urging East Timor's transitional government to begin a search for people who disappeared during violence that surrounded last year's independence referendum.

The search should be the start of a wider effort to find East Timorese who went missing throughout Indonesia's 24-year occupation of the territory, the groups say.

United Nations officials estimate more than 1,000 East Timorese died at the hands of Indonesian-backed militias before and after last year's August 30 referendum. East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to separate from Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

The fate of some East Timorese remains unclear because nobody saw them killed, Joaquim Fonseca, of the Yayasan Hak human rights group, told AFP Thursday.

"Also there were some kids that were separated from their families and taken by the Indonesian army or the militia," Fonseca said.

His organization was one of five that signed a statement on Wednesday calling for the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) to take "concrete steps to discover the fate of those who disappeared."

A victims' representative endorsed their call. Wednesday was the International Day for the Disappeared as well being the first anniversary of East Timor's vote for freedom.

"We still have homework to do, which is to try to find our fellows who are not here with us in this commemoration," Fonseca said.

"The families are confused. If they died, where? And if they are alive, also where?"

He said it was impossible to say how many people went missing during last year's reign of terror or the 24 years of Indonesian repression that preceeded it.

"That is a question that we can only answer if we start to do something," Fonseca said.

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