Subject: AP: Witnesses recount horrors of Santa Cruz massacre

Witnesses recount horrors of Santa Cruz massacre

November 20, 2003 5:22am AP Online All

It was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration to mark the death of a fellow East Timorese activists.

Instead, Simplisio Celestino de Deus remembers how Indonesian troops indiscriminately opened fire on 3,000 unarmed protesters on Nov. 12, 1991. Troops then stormed into the Santa Cruz cemetery, bayonetted survivors and hauled off the dead bodies in trucks.

"When the vehicle began to move, there was someone among the bodies that still moved," de Deus told the East Timor Commission for Reception, Truth & Reconciliation Thursday. "He tried to get up and asked for water from the guys in charge. Rather than give him water, the soldier in charge sliced his throat with a bayonet."

De Deus' testimony is part of three-day hearing that ends Friday into some of the 120 massacres that occurred in East Timor just before and during the brutal 24-year Indonesian occupation of the half-island.

Some of them _ like the Santa Cruz massacre _ have been well documented and, in fact helped rally the international community to support country's independence in May 2002. More than 250 were killed and about 270 went missing in the Santa Cruz massacre.

The hearings _ aired on national television and radio _ aim to put these tragedies on the record and gather evidence that could be used prosecute those responsible. The Commission will hand a final report with recommendations for criminal prosecution to the president's office, parliament and the United Nations.

Max Stahl, a British cameraman whose undercover footage of the Santa Cruz massacre was seen around the world, told the Commission that the death toll was more likely 500 and that the killings continued for days around Dili and at military hospital where many victims were taken.

"It is clear that this was not the action of low level soldiers but of the commanders, police, hospital staff and the whole Indonesian state," Stahl said.

Two generals were dismissed and 10 police and military officers were sentenced to eight to 18 months in prison following the massacre.

Helen Todd, a New Zealander whose son was killed in the massacre and later successfully sued one of the Indonesian generals for US$21 million in an American court, told the Commission that she wanted authorities to bring those responsible to justice for his death.

"I have the names of the TNI members who killed Kamar," said a tearful Todd, referring to her son Kamal Bamadhaj, a Malaysian-born college student. "I won't give those names here in public. But I will give these reports to the commission."

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 and destroyed much of the half-island.

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 militant chief Gen. Wiranto _ for the violence, and convicted 35. Of those indicted, 280 remain at large in Indonesia.

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