Subject: ETO: SE03: Internally Displaced People in East Timor
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 21:08:39 +0200
From: Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere <>

East Timor Observatory / Observatório Timor Leste / Observatoire Timor-Oriental
All peoples have the right to self-determination... all armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence. (Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples - UN Gen.Ass. Resolution 1514, 14/12/1960)

Ref: SE03- 1999/08/12eng

Subject: Internally Displaced People in East Timor

To escape the violence of the Indonesian army and/or militiamen armed by the Indonesian military, thousands of Timorese have fled from their villages since late in 1998 to seek refuge in the mountains, in churches or in cities. Many people have been forced to "take refuge" in the camps, controlled by Indonesian soldiers, that have been set up mainly around the border areas. The immediate aim behind this large-scale dis-placement of civilians (IDPs - internally displaced persons) appears to be to restrict people’s participation in the UN organised popular consultation on the territory's political status. UNAMET believes it has managed to register most IDPs, but the very fact that the situation persists is, in itself, proof that the Indonesian police are ineffective in guaranteeing the security necessary for the vote. In addition to this disruption of the popular consultation, an alarming humanitarian situation has developed.

· Under the terms of the 5 May Agreement reached in New York between Indonesia and Portugal, a popular consultation is to be held through which the Timorese will have the opportunity of expressing their acceptance or rejection of East Timor's integration in the Indonesian Republic. The Agreement stipulates that the UN is responsible for organising the consultation process, while the Indonesian police are responsible for ensuring security.
· In early 1999, pro-Indonesian (pro-integration) militias emerged. Most observers attest that the militias are sponsored and armed by the Indonesian army or factions within it.

The Facts:
1. In late October 1998, 300 of the 340 families living in the village of Ueberek (Alas, district of Same) fled their homes to escape reprisals from the Indonesian army (Clementino Amaral, Novas, Dili, 3.12.98). In November, 140 people took refuge in the church in Alas (AFP, Jakarta, 23.11.99). 100 villagers from Turiscai left for Dili, carrying the body of a young women killed by soldiers (Joao Carrascalao, UDT, 21.11.98). In December, 2,000 people took shelter in the church of Maliana. Hundreds more fled to Dili to escape the Indonesian army's military operations in the Cailaco area, near the border (Report of the Committee for a Free and Fair Consultation, 23.6.99).
2. In January 1999, in the wake of the massacres perpetrated by the Mahidi militia, 6,000 people from the Zumalai area sought the shelter and protection of the church in Suai (idem). Also in January, 10,000 people fled in terror from the violence of the Besih Merah Putih militia (BMP) in the Liquica area (ABC, Austrália, 7.5.99). The militias pursued the refugees to the places in which they had sheltered: 25 were killed at the church in Liquica on 4.4.99 by the BMP militia; 12 more were murdered by the Aitarak militia on 17.4.99, as they sheltered in the house of pro/independence leader Manuel Carrascalao in Dili.
3. In May, foreign journalists accompanying a pro-integration militia gang discovered the existence of camps, into which people in favour of independence had been herded and were being held under guard. In appalling living conditions (food shortages, poor sanitation/hygiene, etc.), these refugees are forced to attend daily ceremonies in which the Indonesian flag is hoisted and its national anthem sung. «They have warned us: you vote for autonomy, otherwise we will kill you», says a man taken from Vatoboro to Liquica (Sidney Morning Herald, 7.5.99; Irish Times, 16.6.99). · The Indonesian "National Commission Against Violence Against Women" visited some of the camps between 1 and 9 May, and estimated that there were 35,000 displaced people, 98% of whom are women and children (Indonesian Observer, 18.5.99). · «The areas in which the numbers of displaced people are highest are Covalima (Suai), Bobonaro and Liquica [the three border districts] . They are controlled by the militias» (letter from the UN Secretary General to the UN Security Council, 14.7.99).
4. Col. Suratman, military commander of East Timor, declined to comment on the camps: «I cannot say anything about that … it is the responsibility of the police» (Sidney Morning Herald, 7.5.99). Contrary to all the evidence, Suratman suggests that the refugee situation is a result of the CNRT's activities, and that news about army and militia attacks that lead people to flee their villages, is, in reality, merely rumour spread by those wishing to destabilise the climate of peace (Kompas, 28.6.99). Indonesian authorities refer to 6,000 Timorese refugees on the Indonesian side of the border (Jakarta Post, 29.7.99), although «in the case of Atambua, most of them have been there for many years» (UNAMET, Briefing, 28.7.99). · On 24 May, the (governmental) Department for Social Affairs in East Timor put the figure for refugees at 14,236 while, at the same time, Caritas reported that the number had reached 44,388 (Tapol, London, 29.5.99).
5. Along a 1 km stretch of road between Liquica and Maubara, people's homes have been burned to the ground or otherwise destroyed. A church source says that the BMP militia attacked the area in January and February, and that the people living there never came back (AFPO, Liquica, 17.6.99). In Faulara there are 3,500 refugees - about 100 of them have died (UNAMET, Briefing, 28.7.99). In Asulau there are 4,200 (Sidney Morning Herald, 15.7.99). In Ermera and Liquica there are 7,700 in extremely precarious state of health due to shortages of food and medical supplies (Fortilos, Indonesian NGO, 7.7.99). · In July, Caritas registered 85,231 refugees - almost double the figure it had reported in May (AFP, Dili, 13.7.99). · «There are tens of thousands of them. The extent of the problem is such that the exact number is not known», says Ian Martin, UNAMET's head (Washington Post, 20.7.99).
6. Humanitarian aid is «urgent», according to Janet Hunt, director of an Australian aid organisation. «There is no access to food or medical assistance, there is a shortage of adequate shelters, and lack of sanitary conditions and water ». However, aid is not reaching those who most need it: «The problem is not money. The problem is access. It is a political issue» (The Australian, 25.6.99). «Many of them are in areas to which we have no access because the militias simply block the roads», says Caritas chief Stanislau Martins (Dili, AOP, 27.5.99). · In early July, Timorese and international aid agencies organise a convoy to transport food and medical aid to the camp in Sare (Liquica), where there are about 3,800 refugees. Five refugees have been killed by the militias, and 70 have died since February (Fortilos, 6.7.99). On the way back, militiamen attacked the humanitarian aid convoy. The Indonesian police did nothing to stop the attack (AFP, Jakarta, 5.7.99).
7. A mechanism, involving an aid agency platform consisting of UNICEF, the ICRC and UNHCR, was set up to ensure humanitarian aid reaches refugees. «Requests for security escorts may be submitted to the police. If an escort is not necessary, the donor will have to sign a document releasing the police from all responsibility should something happen», says Soedarto, President of the Provincial Directorate for Development (Bappeda) (Antara, Dili, 14.7.99). · It was not until August that «the first convoy of aid – food, medicines and tents - from the UNHCR reached areas outside the capital, Dili. According to the UNHCR, the convoy travelled with a heavy police escort and arrived at its destination without problems» (UN information department, 3.8.99).
8. In David Wimhurst’s view, the best way to conduct registration of the displaced people for the consultation would be for them to return to their villages - if their safety could be guaranteed. However, certain villages have been destroyed and they have to be rebuilt (UNAMET, Briefing, 19.7.99). «We cannot go back to the village. If we did they would kill me», said one refugee from Liquica (Irish Times, 16.6.99). A group of people that had, at first, fled into the mountains, took refuge in a church in Suai once UNAMET had set up a centre there. However, they are refusing to return to their villages because they are still terrified of militia violence (AFP, Suai, 25.7.99). A group of 690 refugees in Dili did return to the Same district on 27 July to register for the vote, but still insisted that they would do everything possible to get back to Dili if security conditions continued to be uncertain (BBC, 28.7.99).
9. «Dili is full of refugees, and they are going to keep coming as long as the militias are not disarmed», says a humanitarian aid worker (The Australian, 22.7.99). Caritas reports over 3,000 new refugees in just the past few days, and says that the problem will not go away as long as the militias are not disarmed and detained. Indonesian police spokesman Captain Widodo claims this cannot be done: «We cannot arrest people just because they belong to a pro-integration militia. We have to be neutral» (Straits Times, Banguecoque, 28.7.99). On 5 August, 30 students who had received threats from the ABLAI militia, sought safety in the Same church, where there were already other refugees sheltering (IFET, Media Alert, 9.8.99).
10. Kofi Annan has recognised the seriousness of the refugee problem, and the fact that it is directly linked to lack of security: «a considerable number of potential voters have been displaced from their homes and are under the control of the militias…» (there being) « clear intention to influence the political decision» (Reuters, United Nations, 22.7.99).

· Refugees/IDPs fall into 2 main categories: people who managed to escape the violence of the militias and military by leaving their villages and taking refuge in safer places, and those who were forced out of their homes and into Indonesian controlled camps and who are, therefore, being subjected to political pressure.
· In spite of the UN’s presence, it is still unsafe for these people to return to their villages.
· This situation proves that, contrary to the provisions of the 5 May Agreement, the Indonesian police are ineffective in guaranteeing security in East Timor, and that the need for a UN Peacekeeping Force is, therefore, justified.

Observatory for the monitoring of East Timor’s transition process a programme by the ‘Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere’ and the ecumenical group ‘A Paz é Possível em Timor Leste’ Coordinator: Cristina Cruz ----------------------- Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE - 1069-069 Lisboa - Portugal ph.: 351 1 317 28 60 - fax: 351 1 317 28 70 - e-mail:

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