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Plight Of Refugees Concerns ETHRC

The East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) is deeply concerned about the plight of the growing numbers of East Timorese refugees in West Timor.

On September 11, Australia's Minister for Defence, John Moore, estimated that 180,000 refugees had already arrived in West Timor. Between Monday and Wednesday, trucks filled with people arrived hourly, and on Wednesday, Hercules planes carrying Indonesian soldiers accompanied by women and children believed to be their families were arriving every fifteen minutes. Yesterday, Sunday September 12, another group of refugees arrived at Kupang airport from Lospalos, in the east of East Timor.

On September 12, approximately 16,000 refugees were in Kupang, in five different areas: Noelbaki village, Naibonak military complex, Kupang Sport Building (GOR), KONI Building and Golkar's building. Sources confirm that refugees are without adequate food, and are extremely thin and demoralised.

3 Refugees Killed in West Timor

Reliable sources have confirmed that in Atambua on Monday September 6, an East Timorese refugee was tied up and then repeatedly stabbed until he died, in the front of a large number of refugees. The perpetrators were Indonesian military and militia. In Kupang, a further two refugee men were first shot dead in front of their families and friends and then taken to an unknown place.

Indonesian military terrorises towns

Reliable sources confirm that there is a significant presence of Indonesian military, police and militia, and that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between these three forces. Indonesian military, police and militia are patrolling both Kupang and Atambua, and are carrying out operations, particularly at night, where they search for East Timorese men, including independence supporters. Between Monday September 6 and Thursday September 9, the streets were deserted, and the town extremely tense. Sources fear that East Timorese men and independence supporters are being rounded up to be assassinated. There are unconfirmed reports that on Friday morning all refugees in Atambua were forced to form a line and report their activities to Indonesian military and militia. An unconfirmed number of refugees were then taken to an unknown place using two trucks, where they were allegedly tortured and then killed.

As a result of military operations, anti-refugee sentiments are growing among local people in these towns. In addition, the pressure of the refugee influx has forced rice prices up from Rs 2200 per kilo to 4000, and there are fears that food will run out.

Senior militia leaders in West Timor, aid workers intimidated

ETHRC has confirmed that the militia Supreme Commander, Joao Tavares and his deputy, Aitarak Commander Eurico Guterres are in West Timor. Tavares is responsible for Atabai, Atambua and surrounding areas, and Guterres for Kupang and surrounds. On Friday, Guterres went to an international aid organisation in Kupang and threatened employees not to help the refugees or give information about the refugees' situation to the outside world.

The East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) is deeply disturbed at the presence of these senior militia leaders in West Timor, given their pivotal role in the widespread violence in East Timor.

International aid workers attacked

This intimidation is particularly concerning given the violent attacks on foreign aid workers in West Timor. Reliable sources have confirmed that four foreign aid workers sustained injuries after being stoned on Monday in Noelbake, Kupang. Two United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) staff were also attacked. The male staff member had his throat cut with a machete and his faced. The female staff member was stabbed in the left rib-cage. While it is unclear who the perpetrators of these violations were, there was obvious militia presence in the Nolebake refugee centre at the time of the Monday attack.

These human rights violations indicate both the heightened vulnerability of humanitarian organisations seeking to reach the refugees, and the isolation and lack of protection of refugees.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send faxes/telegrams/express/airmail letters in English, Bahasa Indonesia or your own language:

· calling for the immediate arrest of militia leaders Joao Tavares and Eurico Guterres for human rights violations; · expressing outrage at the ongoing killing of East Timorese refugees and the intimidation of the refugee population in West Timor; · expressing outrage at the violent attacks and intimidation of humanitarian aid agencies; · calling for humanitarian aid agencies to be guaranteed unrestricted access to the refugees in East Timor and in West Timor; · calling for immediate evacuation under the protection of the United Nations of any East Timorese wanting to leave East Timor or Indonesia, and the provision of temporary refuge in Australia or other safe countries; · calling for Peacekeeping forces to enter East Timor immediately, now that Indonesian President Habibie has acquiesced to their presence in East Timor; · calling for immediate and unrestricted access to be allowed to all areas of East and West Timor for UN human rights monitors, international and local human rights organisations, in order to provide ongoing human rights monitoring, and in particular to conduct a full and impartial investigation of the recent violations committed by military backed militia; and · calling for the immediate arrest and prosecution of those responsible for human rights violations against East Timorese civilians in East and West Timor.


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