Subject: The Age: Timor's 'Disappeared' Await Justice

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

The Age

Monday, September 15, 2003


Timor's 'Disappeared' Await Justice

By Russell Thirgood

Four years after the East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia, justice remains elusive for the victims of the violence that followed.

Among those killed in East Timor in 1999 was Ana Xavier da Conceio Lemos, a 34-year-old primary school teacher and mother of three children. Ana had been outspoken in her criticism of the Indonesian military and in her support for independence. On the day of the independence ballot she was beaten and interrogated by militiamen led by an Indonesian military officer. She was then reported to have been raped in detention before "disappearing". Her body was discovered in November 1999.

Ana was among the estimated 1300 East Timorese people murdered by the Indonesian security forces and pro-Indonesia militia in 1999. The victims included political activists, community leaders, students, priests and nuns.

The crimes committed were so widespread and systematic that they are considered to be crimes against humanity. However, four years on, most of the victims and their families are still waiting for justice.

Today, many Indonesian military and police officers who colluded in the violence remain in active service, some in senior posts in other parts of Indonesia where human rights violations are common - Papua and Aceh.

Trials of suspected perpetrators, which recently concluded in Indonesia, have been seriously flawed. Most defendants were acquitted, while six men who received short prison terms have been released pending appeal. They include several present members of the Indonesian military and police.

A parallel justice process in East Timor has made considerable progress in investigating the crimes. Indictments have been issued against more than 300 people, most for crimes against humanity.

But the persistent refusal of the Indonesian authorities to co-operate with the justice process in East Timor, and the failure of the Jakarta trials, means that the international community must now take action.

The UN should review the Jakarta trials with a view to recommending further measures to ensure that justice is achieved and the truth revealed.

Only then will there be a chance that the killers of Ana Lemos and many others will be brought to justice. Only then might the powerful individuals behind the killings be prevented from doing similar things to the people of Papua and Aceh.

Russell Thirgood is Amnesty International's Australian president.

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