|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
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
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
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
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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