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UN urged to hold Timor inquiry

Activists plead for justice on anniversary of massacre

Timorese hold banners urging fellow citizens to respect independence fighters Timorese hold banners urging fellow citizens to respect independence fighters
  • Thomas Ora, Dili
  • Timor Leste
  • November 13, 2012
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Human rights groups have again called for an inquiry by the United Nations and the government into thousands of killings blamed on Indonesian security forces ahead of Timorese independence in 1999.

Amnesty International joined the Timor Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal (ANTI) in a renewed plea for justice yesterday. The call was made during a ceremony at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, marking the 21st anniversary of the notorious Santa Cruz massacre when Indonesian soldiers reportedly opened fire on a peaceful procession.

An estimated 271 people died and close to 400 more Timorese were injured during the incident.

“Over 300 people were indicted for crimes against humanity before and after the 1999 referendum but no one has been arrested or jailed, either in Timor Leste or Indonesia,” said activist Gregorio Saldanha, reading out a joint statement.

Indonesian authorities have refused to cooperate with the UN-sponsored justice system in Timor Leste or to extradite their nationals suspected of crimes against humanity to stand trial in Dili, Saldanha said.

Alleged crimes include unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, rape and other crimes of sexual violence against women and girls, torture and other ill-treatment.

In Indonesia all 18 defendants originally tried for crimes committed in Timor Leste during 1999 by the ad hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta were acquitted by the court or later on appeal, said Saldanha.

Deputy Prime Minister Fernando La-Sama de Araujo said yesterday that over the past 10 years the government has been thinking on how to settle these issues.

“Resolving human rights violations requires much time in its process,” he said.

In September, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao told reporters in Dili that the government will not look back to the past but try to improve relations with Indonesia “to create peace and better friendship necessary for the development of Timor Leste.”

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