Subject: Age: Timor witnesses tell commission of atrocities

The Age November 12, 2002

Timor witnesses tell commission of atrocities

By Jill Jolliffe Dili

Witnesses at East Timor's truth and reconciliation commission have described atrocities going back to 1975 involving Indonesian soldiers, militia groups - and the Fretilin Party that liberated the newly independent nation.

In special hearings marking the anniversary of the 1991 Santa Cruz massacres, the commission has opened "truth-telling" session where victims tell their stories.

Villagers from the 13 districts of the new republic gave what was often painful evidence. Madalena Pereira, of Letefoho, a petite woman in black, told how she was 12 in December, 1975, when Indonesian soldiers captured and raped her.

She was then held in sexual slavery for several years at the Koramil command post in her village. She bore two children from the rapes. One child died.

"Many people have said to me 'prostitute whose child has no father'," she told the meeting, "and to this day I live alone, suffering, with my child and no husband."

Teresinha da Silva of Aileu directed her accusations against Falintil, the Fretilin liberation army. She said that during the 1975 civil war Falintil imprisoned her in a camp where hungry people were punished if they sought food outside. She described the fatal stabbing of her husband and an old woman named Domingas.

She also described events surrounding the imprisonment of Fretilin's founding president, Francisco Xavier do Amaral, by his successor, Nicolau Lobato, in late 1976.

Ms da Silva described how during the purge "Fretilin forces shot dead six people whose identity I didn't know", adding that they were buried in a grave dug beforehand.

She said 23 members of her family died around this time.

Under legal precautions taken by the commission, names of those accused were deleted from her testimony.

Fretilin leaders, including Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, have publicly admitted to the torture of dissidents in the 1970s.

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