[Part 2 of 4] United Nations A/AC.109/2111

General Assembly Distr.: General 1 June 1998

Original: English

Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples

East Timor Working paper prepared by the Secretariat

III. Human rights situation

23. A member of the Commission on Human Rights since 1991, Indonesia has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to international human rights principles.

24. The United States Department of State, in its 1997 annual report on human rights released on 30 January 1998, stated that during 1997, the Government of Indonesia "continued to commit serious human rights abuses". Following the massive December 1996 demonstrations in Dili in support of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Bishop Belo, an early 1997 campaign of harassment and detention by the security forces in East Timor raised tension to a high level. During the Indonesian parliamentary elections in May and its aftermath, East Timor's low-level insurgency intensified with guerrilla attacks that inflicted the highest number of deaths in years on security personnel and civilians. These attacks were followed by the capture and death of a prominent guerrilla commander and widespread detentions, accompanied by reports of killings, disappearances, torture and excessive use of force on the part of the authorities. In November, at least five students were injured when a large number of security personnel entered the University of East Timor campus and opened fire. Authorities said that security forces had used only rubber bullets, but, according to independent human rights organizations, several of the injured students were reportedly shot and two suffered from bayonet wounds. ICRC was permitted to visit the wounded students.

25. According to the same report no significant progress was made in accounting for persons missing following the 1991 Dili incident or others who disappeared in recent years. The report indicated that troop levels remained unjustifiably high, totalling more than 16,000 personnel. The Government was accused of relying on bands of youths, organized and directed by the military, to intimidate its opponents. Such a civilian paramilitary group, known as the gada paksi, was said to have been frequently involved in night-time raids in Dili. Their activities abated in the latter half of 1997. The Government granted limited access to East Timor for foreign journalists but banned travel by all foreign human rights non-governmental organizations except ICRC. Increased efforts of the Catholic Church and others, along with better understanding of the international humanitarian norms among senior military officers, improved the overall quality of human rights monitoring in East Timor. Young East Timorese mounted further intrusions into various embassies in Jakarta, seeking asylum or publicity for their cause. Credible sources confirmed several deaths in detention during 1997. In June, an individual known as "Januario" was detained in Baucau and severely beaten. He died while being transported to Dili. There were also credible reports that detainees in East Timor were shot to death while allegedly attempting to escape. Military units regularly detain civilians for interrogation, most are held in extralegal military detention centres, often with no notification of relatives. All 32 people detained following a demonstration at the Makhota Hotel in Dili in March suffered beatings at the hands of the police. On 4 April, four residents of Lavateri village near Baucau, detained by an intelligence team, were reportedly beaten with rifle butts. On 26 February, six East Timorese detained by the Joint Intelligence Unit in Liquica, were reportedly tortured with electric shocks and immersion in ice water. Legal action is being pursued in the case of a woman allegedly the victim of repeated rapes by military personnel in November 1996 while in military custody. Many prisoners are serving sentences for subversion. On 17 August, Juvencio de Jesus Martins was released under normal remission procedures.

26. The United States Department of State report points out that the Indonesian Government revived its transmigration programme, this time with private corporate support. Some critics claim that the programme has been used as a political tool to inject non-indigenous people into certain areas to "Indonesianize" these areas, in part to preclude pro-independence movements. Indigenous groups have complained about receiving less government support and funding than transmigrants. Transmigrants complain about inadequate infrastructure to support them and less than desirable land. On 12 September, an NGO-sponsored seminar on East Timor was held in Jakarta without government interference. On 8 September, a public dialogue between the military, the Government and NGOs was held. The Government reiterated its position that it considered outside investigations or foreign-based criticism of alleged human rights violations to be interference in its internal affairs. Although it experienced serious delays, ICRC was able to visit the vast majority of detainees in East Timor. However, it periodically faced difficulty in implementing its humanitarian programme. The government-appointed National Human Rights Commission, in its fourth year of operation, continued to be active in examining reported human rights violations and continued to show independence. However, the Government has moved slowly in responding to the Commission's findings, including the October 1996 report on the 1996 "27 July incident". The report listed 23 missing, 149 injured and 5 dead. Two government ministers publicly declared the case closed in August and said that there should be no more public discussion of the incident. The Commission's opening of an East Timor office in June 1996 was regarded as a positive step in the effort to address human rights abuses. However, observers have doubts about its effectiveness, owing to the office's proximity to the local military headquarters, its reliance on government-provided staffing, and the fact that it can only receive complaints and report them to Jakarta. The office has also limited itself to non-political cases, therefore making little impact with regard to more serious human rights problems in East Timor.34

27. In September 1997, Human Rights Watch issued a report on Indonesia/East Timor. The following are excerpts from the summary and conclusion of that report.

"The months of May, June, and July 1997 seemed to mark an intensification of the conflict in East Timor, with guerrilla attacks on both Indonesian military targets and civilians in Dili, Baucau, Ermera, and Los Palos, and intensive operations by the Indonesian army to find and punish those responsible. The timing of the attacks was linked to the 29 May national elections in Indonesia in which Foreign Minister Ali Alatas ran representing East Timor on the list of the ruling party, Golkar. Both Mr. Alatas and Transmigration Minister Siswono Yudohusodo made highly publicized campaign visits to East Timor in mid-May, with Mr. Alatas challenged by students at the University of East Timor for Indonesia's refusal to hold a referendum on the Territory. Mr. Siswono's presence [is] serving to underscore the highly sensitive issue of how government-sponsored migration is changing the demographics of East Timor. The outcome of the election was never in doubt – Golkar won in East Timor by more than 80 per cent of the vote as opposed to its 74 per cent overall victory in Indonesia – but guerrillas targeted polling places, election officials, and, in some cases, voters to highlight their rejection of Indonesian rule. Some thirty people died in these attacks, including at least ten civilians, whose deaths Human Rights Watch condemned as a clear violation of international law.

"But violations of humanitarian law by the guerrillas, (...) cannot justify violations in return by the Indonesian Government and armed forces: the months following the attacks have been characterized by widespread arbitrary detention, torture, and at least one high-profile death in custody that needs further investigation. (...) Military teams have been systematically rounding up large numbers of people, detaining them for days or weeks at a time without a warrant or detention order, and intimidating or torturing them so that the army can get information about possible suspects. Hundreds of East Timorese, men and women, were arrested in this manner in June and July 1997, a continuation of a long-established pattern in East Timor.

"Torture, particularly with electric shocks but also with a variety of instruments such as rattan, metal pipes, and electric cable, is a standard method of interrogation used by police and army personnel alike. Torture is carried out primarily in police stations and military posts or intelligence safe houses immediately after arrests, but Human Rights Watch has also received reports of arresting officers taking suspects from their homes into forest areas in the vicinity and torturing them for information there, where there may be less danger of word filtering back to local human rights monitors or the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Torture has even apparently become a source of income for individual officers in East Timor who are selling photographs and even videotapes of interrogation sessions to the highest bidder, with the price rising as more details (such as where and when the interrogation took place) are included.

"It is important to note that the conflict did not suddenly erupt again in May after a long period of dormancy. Rather, tensions have escalated steadily in recent years as the army has tried to "Timorize" the security forces, with a heavy reliance on unemployed young people as informers, and as socio-economic problems (a high unemployment rate; development policies seen as favouring non-Timorese; and an increasing number of Indonesian migrants) have fuelled resentment of the Indonesian presence. The attacks in May were preceded by a series of violent outbreaks, each of which led to mass arrests and accompanying human rights violations.

"The human rights situation in East Timor has worsened. Despite some high-profile prosecutions, such as the arrest in 1996 of officers accused of summary executions in Liquica, East Timor, there appears to have been no progress on the part of the Indonesian military command in East Timor in curbing torture and arbitrary arrests. This is not to suggest that no arrests in East Timor are ever justified. The Indonesian Government is, after all, fighting an armed insurgency. But East Timorese civilians and non-combatants need protection from human rights violations by the Indonesian army, and instead of taking steps to prevent abuses, Indonesian officers uniformly put the blame on guerrillas and their supporters. Almost twenty-two years since the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, no end to the political violence is in sight."35

28. A March 1998 report of Amnesty International focused on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions (E/CN.4/1995/61/Add.1) after a visit to the Territory from 3 to 13 July 1994. It stated that, with the exception of the recommendation on the establishment of a human rights commission, the Government of Indonesia had so far not acted on the other recommendations contained in that report. It noted that the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), which was established by Presidential Decree in 1993, had become an important mechanism for the protection of human rights in East Timor. Its findings had resulted in some members of the military facing prosecution for violations of human rights. However, Komnas HAM had limited resources and legal powers and the Indonesian Government often ignored its findings or implemented them only partially. Its Dili office had not operated effectively as it conducted few if any investigations into recent violations of human rights, leaving East Timorese without even this limited mechanism for seeking justice and redress for human rights violations. Its operations were subject to intensive military surveillance. With regard to the violence which intensified during general elections held in East Timor, the report indicated that the Falintil (East Timorese National Liberation Army) attacked military and civilian targets and that resistance sources admitted to some of the civilian deaths. It condemned Falintil's attacks on civilians but stated that investigations on subsequent similar allegations had not been possible because of restrictions on access to East Timor imposed by the Indonesian Government. The unwillingness, or the inability of the Indonesian Government to implement recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur and other United Nations mechanisms and experts reflected a general reluctance by the authorities to address the fundamental causes of human rights violations in East Timor, including the impunity enjoyed by the security forces.36

29. On 6 November 1997, five members of the United States Congress addressed a letter to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, urging the withdrawal of United States support for the International Monetary Fund-led aid package to Indonesia unless Indonesia "stops its oppressive practices and shows respect for the people of East Timor".37 On 10 June 1997, United States Congressman Patrick Kennedy introduced an amendment to the Foreign Relations Reform Act, which was unanimously approved by the United States House of Representatives. According to a press release, the amendment would express "a sense of Congress in condemning the human rights abuses committed against the people of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor by the Indonesian Government".38

34 United States Department of State, Indonesia Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997, Washington, D.C., 30 January 1998.

35 Human Rights Watch, Indonesia/East Timor: Deteriorating Human Rights in East Timor, Vol. 9, No. 9 (c), September 1997.

36 Amnesty International. East Timor: Broken Promises – Implementation of the Recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Following a Visit to Indonesia and East Timor in 1994. ASA 21/24/98, March 1998.

37 Letter dated 6 November 1997 addressed to the Honourable Robert E. Rubin, Secretary of the Department of The Treasury, United States, from Representatives Barney Frank, Tony P. Hall, Patrick J. Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and Joseph P. Kennedy.

38 Press Release, Office of the Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, First District, Rhode Island, 10 June 1997.

[part 2 of 4]
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