Subject: Timorese try to save atrocity evidence from wet season

Australian Broadcasting Corporation PM News Monday, October 18, 1999 6:46

Timorese try to save atrocity evidence from wet season

MARK COLVIN: Human Rights Groups in East Timor say they're collecting evidence of atrocities in the province because they're worried that clues will soon be washed away when the wet season sets in.

The Executive Director of the Australian Centre for East Timorese Human Rights has just returned from the province. Anna Noronhe told Rachel Mealey that her colleagues in Dili had uncovered more than 130 bodies in the course of their work.

ANNA NORONHE: At this stage they actually just covered Dili. I mean they were established on the 1st of October and because they don't have any conditions at all to work or to do the work, they don't have transportations or anything like that, they actually just concentrated in Dili at this stage.

The day that I left they were actually planning, or they actually left to Ermera and the following day they were planning to go to Suai, Los Palos and other areas.

RACHEL MEALEY: What have they found in the course of their work?

ANNA NORONHE: Er, of two weeks of work and further documentation they found something like 136 bodies just in Timor. And we are not talking about those that were found in houses that were burnt. This is just graves of two to three bodies, five to six bodies together.

RACHEL MEALEY: And they were just in shallow graves. In what sorts of areas?

ANNA NORONHE: Em, there's ... it's suburbs of Dili like Akanano, Taborer, Glahoon, which is very close to Dili, the city itself. So, they actually didn't go out of Dili but it's just different suburbs.

RACHEL MEALEY: Do they feel that they're filling the role of the United Nations there in some respects?

ANNA NORONHE: They are just doing pretty much the work that they've been doing all this time in terms of documenting violations of human rights in East Timor. The point is that when I was sitting down with - they were saying no-one is doing the work, obviously. I mean, something has to be done about it. The wet season will start pretty soon. They fear that some of the evidence and some of the bodies is going to be washed out by the rivers and everything.

RACHEL MEALEY: So they feel that if the evidence isn't collected by then, it won't be collected at all before the wet season sets in?

ANNA NORONHE: They just feel that it's urgent to start and since no-one is doing it they will have to go and do it.

MARK COLVIN: Anna Noronhe of the Australian Centre for East Timorese Human Rights talking to Rachel Mealey.

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