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Investigation team forced to return to Dili

Tapol - December 3, 1998

A team of students which planned to visit Alas to conduct investigations into the human rights violations there was forced to return to Dili after being subjected to intimidatory actions by troops in Same to the north west of Alas. A separate team composed of members of Kontras, the Commission for the Missing and Victims of Violence, was also turned back in Same after being refused permission to continue their journey to Alas.

The students travelled to Same on 1 December together with representatives from the CNRT office in Dili, following an agreement reached last week with the authorities in Dili allowing them to form a joint team to investigate conditions in Alas. On the way to Same, the group was repeatedly subjected to security checks. After reaching Same, troops in the vicinity started shooting in the air, making it clear that their presence was not welcome. In a press release issued in Dili on 3 December, the students said they deeply regretted that their plan to send a mission to Alas had failed. They were now seeking an explanation from the governor in Dili who had originally given approval for the mission to go ahead.

It appears that the only agency being allowed access to areas in which abuses have been reported is the International Red Cross. As is widely recognised, the ICRC is always very cautious about reporting its findings which are rarely made public anyway, for fear of upsetting the authorities.

In the meanwhile, TAPOL has been informed from Dili that a similar situation to that which has prevailed in Alas has now developed in Cailaco, a sub-district in Maliana district. The area has been sealed off by the military following the death of two Indonesian soldiers in the area last week. Kontras made a request to be allowed to visit Cailaco but was refused permission.

A group of forty people, mostly youths, have fled from Cailaco to Dili, fearing for their safety and are now under the protection of Kontras.

From the same source, TAPOL has been informed that a catechist was shot dead on 2 December in Uatolari, near Viqueque, while he was giving instructions. Efforts are being made to obtain information about the man's identity.

The general situation throughout the territory is described as being extremely tense with local troops apparently free to do what they like with the population.