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UN investigators watch alleged Timor torture film

Reuters - April 7, 1997

Geneva – The camera zooms in to show a man's blood-covered wrist, nailed to his prison plank. Men in khakis torture inmates with sticks, chair legs, electric shocks and metal chains. A corpse wrapped in rags lies in a corner.

These and other graphic images purporting to show torture of East Timorese youths by Indonesia's army were presented on Monday to the United Nations by the island's exiled independence leader, Jose Ramos Horta, for investigation.

The 1996 Nobel Peace laureate said the still pictures in a video film, presented during the U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva, were taken in East Timor prisons in 1996 and recently smuggled out of the Indonesian-ruled island.

Horta called for a full U.N. investigation on torture on the former Portuguese territory, which Indonesia invaded in 1975 and annexed unilaterally the next year with tacit Western support.

He also urged the West to stop sending arms to Indonesia.

"This is one of the most horrific pieces of evidence of what has been the practice of Indonesian forces in East Timor for many years," the exiled former foreign minister told Reuters.

"What we see here is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a very urgent need for the governments of United States, Britain and France to stop all arms deliveries to Indonesia."

The pictures could not be independently authenticated.

Horta, who won the Nobel peace prize last year jointly with respected East Timorese Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo, said he believed the pictures were genuine, but Indonesia dismissed them as "a lot of nonsense" and said they were false.

"This is in comformity with Horta's propaganda...using lies and distortion to discredit Indonesia, especially since he received the Nobel Prize," the foreign ministry in Jakarta said.

One picture appeared to show two youths tied to a tree and hit with a shovel. Another appeared to show bodies being buried in a shallow grave under leaves and before beind burned.

A third purportedly showed youths who were arrested on their way from eastern part of the island to the capital Dili to welcome the return of Bishop Belo being tortured and killed. "If anyone has doubts about the brutality of the Indonesian army in East Timor and the unwillingness of Indonesian authorities to put an end to the attrocities, this photographic evidence will dispel any remaining doubts," Horta said.

East Timorese sources said they believed the pictures had been taken in or around the northeastern town of Baucau between October 1995 and December 1996.

The video was presented to U.N. special human rights investigator on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, and to Dato Param Cumaraswamy, the investigator on the independence of judges and lawyers.

"The situation continues to be extremely serious in East Timor. Torture is continuing. People are being tortured with electric shocks, being put into water tanks," Horta said.

"With this evidence, I hope the U.N. Human Rights Commission this time will take real firm action in condemning the attrocities in East Timor."

Diplomats said it was unclear whether the Commission would adopt a resolution condemning Indonesia's rights abuses.

Rights groups say the body is becoming irrelevant, with big powers working hard backstage to ensure allies do not come under full scrutiny and many countries refraining from criticising others for fear of being criticised themselves.