Subject: AFP: Anger as rights worker recalls police role in Timor crimes

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Agence France-Presse August 15, 2002

Anger as human rights worker recalls police complicity in Timor crimes

Joaquim Fonseca's anger is clear as he recalls the massacre at a police station in the East Timor town of Maliana and the cold-blooded shooting of a young man by police in the capital, Dili.

He has no hesitation recalling other police failings, too, in the months leading up to East Timor's 1999 referendum on independence from Indonesia -- failings an Indonesian court ignored when it acquitted on Thursday the former East Timor police chief, Timbul Silaen, of gross human rights violations.

"How many militia have they arrested for killing people in Dili? They did not arrest anyone. They did not do their job," Fonseca, of the leading East Timor human rights organization, Yayasan Hak, told AFP from Melbourne, Australia, where he is visiting.

Under the May 5, 1999 international agreement that laid the framework for East Timor's August 30 referendum, Indonesian police -- not the military -- had sole responsibility for ensuring security.

On the surface, the police took their job seriously, dispatching boatloads of extra officers who wore smart-looking shoulder flashes that identified them as part of a contingent to ensure calm in the months leading up to the ballot.

Those and other Indonesian officers worked with unarmed international United Nations police advisers, who expressed quiet frustration at the inability of their Indonesian colleagues to conduct proper investigations and ensure security -- the job they were assigned to do.

Armed militiamen were free to roam the streets of Dili and other East Timor towns killing at will without police intervention.

At times, the police themselves even became the killers.

In front of foreign journalists shortly before the referendum, police in Dili shot dead a young man armed only with stones.

After the ballot, a police station in the border town of Maliana became the scene of one of the worst post-referendum massacres. According to a Yayasan Hak report, thousands of refugees had sought shelter at the police station when militia went through the camp with death lists. The report said 47 people died.

"Where were police standing at that point?" Fonseca asked.

"What about the destruction of my own office?. How long did I have to stay on the phone to get the police to come to my office?" he said.

By the time police arrived, almost three hours later, the Yayasan headquarters had been destroyed, he said.

Manuel Carrascalao, an East Timorese independence leader, disagreed with Fonseca's criticism, saying former police chief Silaen was justly acquitted.

"I feel it's appropriate because he's one of the men that helped to protect people," Carrascalao said from Dili, recalling that before the vote, police allowed about 200 East Timorese to seek shelter from violence in a large hall at police headquarters.

Carrascalao did not testify during Silaen's trial but has given testimony in three other human rights cases.

A separate panel of judges Thursday found one police officer and four army officers not guilty of charges related to a massacre in a church in the East Timor town of Suai in Covalima district in 1999.

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