Subject: AP: Witnesses recount 25 years of massacres

The Age

Witnesses recount 25 years of massacres

By Guido Guillart Dili November 20, 2003

Felismina da Conceicao told how her brother died in her arms, wounded in the neck by Indonesian soldiers who invaded the tiny nation of East Timor in 1975.

Ilidio Maria de Jesus told the East Timor Commission for Reception, Truth & Reconciliation how a pro-Indonesian political party captured and killed his father and 10 others just before Indonesia invaded.

Their emotional testimonies - aired live on national television and radio - marked the start yesterday of a three-day hearing in East Timor on massacres and executions from 1974 until Indonesia's brutal occupation ended in 1999.

The United Nations has documented more than 120 massacres during that time.

Witnesses were expected to recount the November 12, 1991 killings of more than 200 people at the Santa Cruz cemetery in the capital, Dili, and the 1999 killing of 22 refugees in a Liquica church by Indonesian troops and their proxy militias.

There will also be testimony on lesser known tragedies, including the 1983 Kraras massacre, in which Indonesian troops killed up to 400 Timorese.

"This hearing offers recognition to survivors and family members of the many terrible massacres that happened across East Timor," said Kieran Dwyer, an adviser to the commission, which has held hearings on issues from forced displacement to violence against women.

"The first step is to speak the truth and acknowledge the massacres, which hasn't been done before," Dwyer said. "We're trying to use the truth to ensure that these terrible violations never happen again."

Conceicao, who was only 11 at the time, recalled the day Indonesian troops invaded on December 7, 1975. She said she was separated from her father and brother, then heard shooting and ran to find her father covered with blood. Her wounded brother lay nearby and died later, she said.

"When (my brother's) head rested on my lap, I gave him the water," she told a crowd gathered in a building that held political prisoners during Indonesia's rule.

"Then I realised that the water I was giving my brother came out of his neck, because his neck had been seriously wounded by a grenade or maybe a bullet," she said.

De Jesus said his father and 10 others were taken prisoner in August 1975 by members of the United Democratic Party of East Timor, which supported the Indonesian invasion. His family ran to the hills, and later returned to a horrifying scene.

"We arrived at the massacre site near Meti-Oan beach and found 10 of the bodies," de Jesus said. "My father has been shot so his intestines came out and (another victim) had his hand cut off."

After the hearings, the Commission will prepare a report that includes recommendations for criminal prosecutions and give it to the president's office, parliament and the United Nations.

Since East Timor's independence in May 2002, former officials and army officers in East Timor have been tried in both Indonesian and East Timorese courts for crimes against humanity that took place before and after a 1999 referendum, in which East Timorese voted for independence. Indonesian troops and their proxy militias killed more than 1,000 people in the chaos that followed.

A special Indonesian rights court was dismissed as a sham because it convicted only six of 18 Indonesian military and government officials. All remain free pending their appeals.

East Timorese courts have charged 367 people - including at least 32 Indonesian commanders and the country's former military chief General Wiranto - for the violence, and convicted 35. Of those indicted, 280 remain at large in Indonesia.

- AP

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