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Indonesian rights body to probe Timor rape allegation

Kyodo - February 7, 1997

Jakarta – The government-appointed National Commission on Human Rights will investigate allegations that military personnel raped an East Timorese woman last year, an English-language newspaper said Friday.

"The investigators (from Jakarta) are due here for a two-day visit after the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, possibly Feb. 11," Alex Rifialy, head of the East Timor commission branch, told the Jakarta Post.

According to the Commission for Justice and Peace, an independent Catholic group in the East Timor capital of Dili, the 23-year-old woman was raped twice by soldiers in the district of Ermera, about 70 kilometers southwest of Dili, after being arrested on suspicion of helping East Timorese independence fighters.

In a letter sent to East Timor's Wira Dharma military command Dec. 28, the commission reported the woman, along with seven of her relatives, was arrested Nov. 5 on charges of helping separatist rebels and taken to the Ermera military police, where she was beaten up and raped.

She was beaten and raped again after she had been moved to a nearby military post, the letter said.

According to Indonesian women activists in Jakarta, the woman is now in the care of the Immaculada Conceicao Catholic parish in Ermera, after a village catechist found out about the unwarranted detention and asked the military post commandant to release her.

Col. Soekotjo, an official at the Dili military command, has denied the reported rape, saying a "field check" found the rape had never happened.

Soekotjo said the woman was picked up by the authorities to help persuade separatist rebels to come down the mountain and voluntarily surrender.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year, calling the former Portuguese colony its 27th province. The U.N. Security Council has passed resolutions demanding the immediate withdrawal of all Indonesian troops from the region.