Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: MJ: The Indonesian Torture Industry
Date: Sat, 4 Sep 1999 03:09:41 EDT

also: Raping the Future: The Indonesian government's social policy toward East Timor has included the systematic violation of sexual and reproductive rights of East Timorese women.

MoJo News Wire [US] August 26, 1999

The Indonesian Torture Industry

Methods of torture include tying prisoners up and beating them, burning them with cigarettes, and forcing them to swallow metal rods.

Gruesome tactics have driven tens of thousands of East Timorese refugees into the hills; and they're the lucky ones.

by Lindsay Sobel

It was Constâncio Pinto's 28th birthday on Jan. 25, 1991 when the police arrested him for working in the movement to free East Timor from Indonesian occupation. At times that day, he thought it would also be the date of his death. That morning, Pinto had been running errands on his motorcycle when suddenly the police surrounded him and began to beat him in the street. His captors took him to the police station, where they demanded information about the resistance. When he refused, they hit him, twisted his arms, and kicked him in the stomach and the head. After many hours of torture, Pinto says, "My face was like a basketball."

Because he did not reveal certain information about the independence movement, Pinto believed his interrogators would beat him to death. One warned that later that evening he would throw Pinto in the ocean.

After seven days, the police released Pinto, and today he lives in New York as the representative of the National Council of East Timorese Resistance (CNRT) to the United Nations and North America. But many have not been so lucky.

The Indonesian military (TNI) and closely-tied police force have made torture and murder consistent weapons of control throughout the quarter century of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. They have committed atrocities with two primary goals: to extract information about the location and strategies of the East Timorese resistance, and to deter people from advocating for independence. In addition, the military's ability to torture Timorese until they agree to become informants has been "another way to spread suspicion and mistrust" and weaken the resistance, according to the East Timor Action Network's (ETAN) John Miller.

In addition to beatings like that suffered by Pinto, the military has used even more perverse methods. Nobel Peace Prize-winner José Ramos-Horta recently released smuggled photographs and a video of these and other atrocities to the public and to the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Human Rights. The photographs show what appear to be Indonesian soldiers hanging prisoners by chains, shoving steel poles down their throats, forcing them to eat dirt, applying electric shocks to their genitalia, and burying bodies in unmarked graves at night.

Among the military and militias' other favored methods of torture: pulling out finger and toenails, crushing people's fingers and toes under chair legs, dunking them under water, or temporarily suffocating them by putting bags over their heads. Within the past few years, the military beat resistance leaders around the head until they suffered brain damage, according to Miller. The military reasoned, said Miller, that having them alive but in need of constant care was a more potent warning than corpses to the pro-independence movement.

Human-rights workers and journalists have documented myriad examples of such torture, mostly from talking to those who escaped to tell their stories. But tallying the number who have suffered may be impossible. The Indonesian government has permitted few journalists into East Timor, so some have had to sneak onto the island posing as tourists.

Some soldiers have photographed their torture sessions to record their exploits. According to Ken Preston of Global Exchange, some human-rights workers have bribed the soldiers for their gruesome pictures. The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras) also operates in East Timor collecting such photographs and interviewing victims.

In addition to killing people with bullets, the military has also invented evermore dramatic methods of murder: dropping people -- in some cases from helicopters -- into the ocean with rocks tied to their bodies, rolling over them with bulldozers, and swinging babies around by their feet and slamming their heads into rocks. They have disembowelled people and beheaded them, frequently leaving bodies or heads in visible places to warn others of a similar fate.

Torture of women has frequently taken the form of rape and sexual assault. >From the very beginning of the occupation, Indonesian soldiers used the rape of women and girls as a weapon of war. Sometimes, they raped women in front of their husbands and children, according to a report by the East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) in Australia.

In addition to using rape and sexual assault to terrorize and subdue the population in general, soldiers target the wives and sisters of men suspected of participating in the resistance. Through this sexual torture, they seek information from women about the whereabouts of members of the resistance; they also hope it has the added effect of deterring the population from joining the independence movement.

In addition to single or repeated rapes, soldiers have forced some women to serve as their sex slaves or "local wives." Other women have turned to prostitution out of economic need or shame at having been raped, according to the ETHRC. Rape and sexual abuse have continued to be perpetrated by the pro-Indonesian militias operating in East Timor, according to human-rights workers.

Some observers say Indonesia has also used rape as a way to "depurify" the Timorese population by forcing women to bear children of Indonesian soldiers. In addition, the Indonesian government instituted a transmigration program, ostensibly to relieve overcrowding in other provinces. Some suspect the program's other goal is to thin the Timorese culture and ethnicity with Indonesian blood. The program lured Indonesians from the overpopulated islands of Java and Bali to East Timor with inflated salaries, bonuses, and the promise of accelerated promotions. This colonization program operated hand-in-hand with the systematic sterilization of East Timorese women to extend Jakarta's control over East Timor.

On top of unceasing torture of members of the resistance and those suspected to be affiliated with them, East Timor's history is peppered with military actions that have lead to the death of more than 200,000 East Timorese -- about a third of the pre-invasion population, according to Amnesty International. Lynn Fredriksson, Washington representative of ETAN, says "No family is untouched by some form of physical injury, beating, or killing."

In 1977, the Indonesian military used a new tactic to inflict suffering upon the East Timorese and weaken the resistance movement. It began a saturation bombing campaign to destroy forests and used chemical sprays to kill crops and livestock. In addition, East Timorese have said the invaders dropped napalm, killing people and turning everything in the area to ash.

Meanwhile, the military herded thousands of people into "resettlement" camps. Far from their farms and crowded in close quarters, people in the camps died in huge numbers of starvation and disease. The Indonesian government forced people into labor and threatened them with death if they tried to leave the camps. The military created these camps as an attempt to resettle people in more populated areas and closer to roads so that it could monitor them more easily.

In 1981, the Indonesians conducted an operation they called the "fence of legs" campaign. In an attempt to smoke resistance fighters out of hiding, the military made East Timorese walk in lines from the perimeter of the half-island, heading towards the center. The military followed behind, using them as shields against resistance fighters. The military killed resistance fighters unable to escape the circle that surrounded them. When the circle was small enough, Indonesians bombarded its center.

Eighty thousand East Timorese men were forced to participate in the "fence of legs," according to journalist Matthew Jardine. During the month-long operation, many walkers starved to death and, because it disrupted farming, the operation caused widespread food shortages.

In 1991, a massacre at Santa Cruz Cemetery in East Timor's capital, Dili, killed as many as 270 or more. After the massacre, human-rights groups report, arbitrary arrests and torture escalated as the military sought the organizers of the Santa Cruz protest. That same year, Indonesia became a member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. In 1998, Indonesia also ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

After President B. J. Habibie's January 1999 announcement that the government would "consider" granting East Timor autonomy, a number of new pro-integration militias were formed. Paramilitary groups are now threatening, torturing, and killing pro-independence activists to ensure that the East Timorese do not vote for independence from Indonesia. Militias control most of the border region between West and East Timor, and their violent tactics have forced thousands of East Timorese from their homes.

Militias and the Indonesian military have been spreading rumors that if the East Timorese vote for independence, a bloodbath will ensue.

MoJo Wire Aug. 26, 1999

Raping the Future

The Indonesian government's social policy toward East Timor has included the systematic violation of sexual and reproductive rights of East Timorese women.

by Tim Eaton

Since their homeland was invaded in 1975, the women of East Timor have felt the brunt of some of the Indonesian military's most egregious human-rights violations: They have been raped in the presence of family members, forced to marry Indonesian soldiers, subjected to torture by electric shock, sexually abused, and forcibly sterilized.

East Timorese women have been forced to bear much of the load of what many believe is an Indonesian government plan to eliminate the East Timorese culture.

Limiting population growth has been a policy that applied to all of Indonesia's provinces, but there is evidence that the Indonesian government used it selectively in East Timor. After the Indonesian military killed an estimated 100,000 East Timorese during the first year of its 1975 invasion, the government continued to pare down the population by limiting the reproductive rights of women in the territory.

However, evidence -- including eyewitness reports -- indicates that the government has targeted the indigenous Timorese in particular. If true (there is not yet enough evidence to be certain), that fact would constitute a breach of the international Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which prohibits intentional limitation of births within a specific national, ethnic, religious, or racial group.

The reproductive oppression in East Timor is criticized in a report published by the East Timor Human Rights Centre in Australia. The report examines the sexual and reproductive violations suffered by East Timorese women. It divides the history of such violations into two phases.

The first phase began from the time of the Indonesian invasion and extended through the mid-1980s. The report alleges that Indonesian soldiers raped and impregnated East Timorese women and girls, mutilated pregnant women, and covertly sterilized them. The second phase, which extended to the late 1990s, saw further covert sterilization and coerced contraception of East Timorese women through the World Bank-funded population control program, Programa Keluarga Berencana (commonly known as the KB program). Given the opportunity to comment, the World Bank did not return calls to the MoJo Wire.

A favorite recruitment tactic for the KB program is referred to as a "safari." Reports exist of safaris in which the police and military forcibly or deceptively recruit women into KB and insert IUDs and Norplant contraceptives without offering the women sufficient information about the contraceptives' purpose, care, or removal.

Miranda Sissons, author of the East Timor Human Rights Centre's report, writes, "Strong tactics, including military recruitment, are used to sign up eligible women, and the contraceptive measures chosen are often long-lasting and irreversible. Women who are recruited via safaris often receive little or no information on the contraceptive methods they receive, and lack any means of follow-up care."

Western nations have routinely ignored the plight of the East Timorese women. In fact, President Suharto received a United Nations award in June 1990 for his "family planning" program. "The UN should be ashamed for giving that criminal one of the highest awards of their organization without investigating the process and implementation [of the KB program]," said Maria Soares, an East Timorese woman living in Australia.

Despite the fact that the KB program is no longer officially funded by the Indonesian government, many human-rights activists, including Soares, suspect that the program continues in East Timor, especially in smaller communities. Not only does such a program violate a number of UN declarations on human rights, it often also violates the women's religious freedoms. East Timor is 91 percent Catholic, and many women oppose contraception on religious grounds.

"Their goal is to reduce the population of East Timor," said Soares. "It's an example of genocide [that has been] practiced over 24 years."

One technique used by Indonesian "health workers" (who are often accompanied by military personnel) is administering hormonal contraceptives under the guise that the women are receiving vaccinations. "These women were injected without being told. They were told it was vitamins or antimalaria [drugs]," says Soares.

According to Sissons, teenage girls -- usually Timorese -- would often receive these "vaccinations" at school in the presence of Indonesian soldiers. Sissons reports that "the doors were locked to prevent escape."

Anita Simone (not her real name) is an East Timorese woman who confirmed reports that the injections were given on days when Indonesian girls did not attend school, but their Timorese peers did. "They were targeting East Timorese girls," she said. "And the military was at the school controlling it."

Sissons also documented several cases of women who entered Indonesian health clinics in East Timor for emergency or routine surgeries, like caesarian section births or appendectomies, only to realize later that they were unable to conceive -- victims of tubal ligations. "I believe they were very much destroying the sense of being a woman and a Timorese," said Simone. "Not being able to reproduce and have child -- it's ... destroying the Timorese family."

According to Sissons, Indonesia's KB program (as well as its more covert sterilization practices) was in blatant violation of international standards set in United Nation's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Fourth World Conference on Women. The standards outlined at these conferences demanded women's rights to informed family planning, adequate maternal and reproductive health services, and the right to reproduce freely.

The most common contraceptive used in East Timor is the injectable form of Depo-Provera, which is a long-term hormonal contraceptive that prevents the user's ovaries from producing mature eggs for about three months. The drug has been approved in the US by the FDA, but it has significant side effects, including blood clots, irregular menstruation, depression, and shock. If Depo-Provera is administered to pregnant women, or if a woman happens to become pregnant while taking the drug, the fetus and mother may experience life-threatening complications. And according to the Physician's Desk Reference, the drug must be administered only during the first five days of a normal menstrual cycle. In East Timor, such details are largely, if not entirely, disregarded.

"In Timor, women have had still births, miscarriages as a result of [Depo-Provera injections], and some women became sterile because of it," Soares said. "The main point is -- no information. The people are not informed of the policies."

Reports of covert sterilization and contraception have made many East Timorese women extremely fearful of Indonesian health clinics and schools, and much less likely to receive the health care and education they need. "Most of the Timorese will not use the public hospital. There are cases where [other women] got there, and they end up dying," said Simone.

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