E. Timor Leader Looks to Quash Massacre Report

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A truth and reconciliation commission in the island nation of East Timor has completed a report on alleged massacres and other crimes against humanity committed during 24 years of occupation by Indonesia. However, East Timor's president doesn't want the report made public, fearing it might damage relations with Indonesia and the United States, which supported the occupation.


And elsewhere in the world now, human rights groups are calling on East Timor's government to release a report on Indonesia's 24-year occupation of the former Portuguese colony. This report is said to reveal decades of US support for the occupation, during which Indonesia was accused of massive human rights violations. NPR's Corey Flintoff has the story.


For the past three years, East Timor has been conducting an investigation into killings and alleged atrocities during the Indonesian occupation, which began after East Timor declared its independence from Portugal in 1975. East Timor's president, Xanana Gusmao, presented the results of the investigation to Parliament. Paul van Zyl is with the International Center for Transitional Justice, which worked with East Timor's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Mr. PAUL VAN ZYL (International Center for Transitional Justice): It is very likely that the report will find that tens of thousands of people died as a direct or indirect result of Indonesian occupation.

FLINTOFF: Some estimates say as many as 250,000 people may have been killed as Indonesia's military tried to crush East Timorese rebels. In 1999, East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-sponsored referendum. Pro-Indonesian militias, backed by the Indonesian military, went on a rampage after the vote, killing hundreds of people and wrecking the country's infrastructure. Again, Paul van Zyl.

Mr. VAN ZYL: Again, the report is likely to conclude--and I think this is indisputable and uncontroversial--that there has been no justice for the crimes that occurred throughout the Indonesian occupation.

FLINTOFF: Brad Simpson of the National Security Archive says his organization provided East Timor's Truth and Reconciliation Commission with more than a thousand documents obtained from the US government under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr. BRAD SIMPSON (National Security Archive): The documents reveal a consistent pattern of the United States not just supporting, but going out of its way to support Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor, increasing military supplies in a timely manner at a time when massive atrocities were taking place.

FLINTOFF: The National Security Archive is a private, non-profit organization based at George Washington University. Simpson says the US supported Indonesia because the giant Southeast Asian nation was considered a bulwark against communism after the Vietnam War.

Mr. SIMPSON: For lack of a more eloquent way of putting it, East Timor simply didn't matter.

FLINTOFF: When he presented the report to East Timor's Parliament, President Gusmao said its recommendations should not be made public because they could damage the tiny nation's relations with Indonesia and important donor countries such as the United States. Gusmao fought Indonesian forces during the occupation and spent years in Indonesian prisons, but he's known as a practical politician who believes his country's future will always be bound up with that of its powerful neighbor. Aderito Soares says that doesn't mean that East Timor should have to bury its painful history. Soares, a Timorese human rights lawyer, says Americans should also know about the US role.

Mr. ADERITO SOARES (Timorese Human Rights Lawyer): The US has to know the truth that comes from this report and also to take some responsibility. Let's talk about reparation and other alternatives.

FLINTOFF: Just last month, the Bush administration lifted an arms embargo against Indonesia that was imposed after the violence of 1999. The move was seen as a reward for the Indonesian government's cooperation in the war on terrorism. But human rights groups say Indonesia has done little to reform its military. The Indonesian Embassy in Washington declined to comment for this story on the grounds that the report has not yet been made public. President Gusmao has said he hopes to present the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report in some form to the United Nations in January, but it's not clear how strong that version will be. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Washington.

CHADWICK: NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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