Jakarta – The human rights violations that occurred in Timor Leste, formerly known as East Timor, during the period of 1974 to 1999, when the country was still a part of Indonesia, may no longer be in the spotlight, but the memories remain.
"Crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed in Timor Leste, mainly by the ABRI [Indonesian Armed Forces, now known as the Indonesian Military or TNI]. The resistance also committed crimes and war crimes, but far fewer than those committed by the Army," said Pat Walsh, adviser to the Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR) organization.
The 25-year armed conflict sparked by Indonesia's annexation of East Timor in 1974 ended with a 1999 referendum that resulted in the independent state of Timor Leste.
Indonesia established the Commission for Truth and Friendship (KKP) in 2005 to uncover the truth behind the violence that took place in the aftermath of the 1999 referendum in particular. The KKP was disbanded in 2008 after producing a report detailing gross human rights violations in Timor Leste.
Another body that took an in-depth look at the history of the conflict was Timor Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR). CAVR published a report titled Chega! about the human rights violations that took place over those 25 years. The post-CAVR Technical Secretariat also released a guide to the report.
The study confirmed that many atrocities occurred from 1974 until 1999 when Timor Leste was still the Indonesian province of East Timor, said Walsh, who was part of the post-CAVR team.
The study found that at least 102,800 civilians died during the conflict. Around 18,600 of them were unlawfully killed or disappeared and at least 84,200 people died from hunger and disease.
The highest number of unlawful killings and disappearances occurred in 1999. At least 1,400 and possibly as many as 2,600 people were killed unlawfully or disappeared at that time.