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The National Commission of Human Rights' capability is in question

MateBEAN - November 26, 1997 (posted by East Timor International Support Centre)

Dili – The credibility and capability of the National Commission of Human Rights (KOMNAS HAM) to find out ABRI's brutality in the University of East Timor late November 14, was in question. The uncertainty rose when Marzuki Darusman, the Commission's Vice-chairman acting as the Team Leader in a fact-finding mission, declared its findings. There was no death toll at all, the Report said. Anyway, the report rejected the armed forces accusation that there were rebels (GPK) sneaking into the university campus.

On Sunday 23 November, Marzuki Darusman met the press in Hotel Turismo Dili and confessed that the armed forces were still using force and violence in dealing with East Timor cases. "There are no development at all in the military side. They always use force," he said bitterly.

Many are in doubt to the accuracy of Komnasham's findings. They did not have enough resource persons who knew the case very well. The right people eligible for questioning were either afraid to testify or did not trust the agency because they are still doubting the objectivity of Komnasham

"Many of Komnasham's findings are the prove. Remember Komnasham's findings on the 27 July 1996 case? To cover their weakness, Komnasham used the word "disappeared" for the deaths. Another weakness is the way Komnasham works. They use a formal approach in contrary to undercover actions and not trained to make a human rights violation investigation. Sadly enough, Komnasham was also used by the government for human rights campaign in international forums," said an East Timor informal leader to MateBEAN.

Many of MateBEAN's resource persons regretted Marzuki's statement that the rumor of one student killed on the incident was made by certain foreign parties to discredit Indonesian Government. "As a member of a human rights fact-finding organization, Marzuki must only reveal facts without making political judgement. It seems now he is eligible for Ali Alatas's aide. It is a public secret that ABRI's best work is their ability to disguise the whereabouts of dead human bodies," said an UNTIM student sarcastically.

Accompanied by other team members, BN Marbun, Clementino dos Reis Amaral and Sugiri, Marzuki claimed that they had found human rights abuses in Untim Incident. Some students were wounded by rifle shots, hard objects hit other students. The Team also found students in bad condition; they found smashed or swollen faces with broken teeth, and wounded knees. Except the wounded students, another proof of human rights abuse was the bullet-ridden whiteboards, smashed glass windowpanes and bullet holes on the walls of Untim buildings.

Actually, The Team had made a strong and harsh statement against the way ABRI dealt with the students. They stressed a bitter fact in East Timor. "We can restore all material damages in a few days, but not the psychological impacts," the statement said. The hurt will linger in the hearts of East Timorese for a long time. It is also difficult to bring back the trust of people to the military and the local government. Many human rights abuses, mostly bloody, ignited a hate and grievance. It kept burning within the people's heart by other abuses. The trauma has made the students feel uncomfortable when they deal with the military.

"We can see political activities in campuses, but in dealing with this kind of activity in UNTIM, the military was always using force. Suspicion and alertness is always present among the students and the military. It will easily break into a chaotic situation. UNTIM Case is so insignificant but illogically the authorities mobilized heavy-equipped troops from many different security units. A forceful handling will always lead into human rights abuse. This is a trauma for the students and it creates hate. When the students retaliate, the military will accuse them as GPKs.

He went through with his statement by stressing the need to use historical backgrounds to judge the incident. UNTIM Incident exploded because there are a sphere of suspicion among ABRI soldiers and the students. "We must not forget the facts; former incidents where ABRI used violence against the people of East Timor made the students suspicious to the military and hated them so much."

"Not a single death was found, but near-dead victims, yes," said him. "No GPKs sneaking into the campus. They are only students. During the shootings, two non-student civilians run for cover in the UNTIM complex. And now, these two civilians had been released by the authorities," Darusman added. Marzuki also said that political mechanism in East Timor is not yet functioning normally. UNTIM Incident was simple so simple in nature but it went off into a big explosion within a short time.

Clementino dos Reis Amaral, the Commission's secretary for field monitoring commission suggested the authorities to Relocate University of East Timor's campus from the present site. He considered that the campus buildings are too near to the military barracks of the 744th Army Battalion. Suspicion among the students and the soldiers will grow bigger and it will hamper academic activities.

According to a source, up to this moment, sixteen students still in custody, three students reported missing and six others would be taken for trial.