UN Commission on Human Rights - Special Session on East Timor: Statement by Aniceto Guterres Lopes


International Service for Human Rights
UN Commission on Human Rights
Special Session on East Timor, 23-24 September 1999

Statement by Aniceto Guterres Lopes

Your Excellency,

My name is Aniceto Guterres Lopes. I am an East Timorese lawyer. I was eight years old when Indonesian armed forces invaded my homeland, East Timor in 1975. Since then my people have been subjected to gross human rights abuses. I myself have been a victim of the Indonesian regime. I am here today to offer my testimony not to embarrass the Indonesian government but to impress upon the United Nations and the international community the full horror experienced by the entire East Timorese population.

I am the Executive Director of Yayasan HAK, an East Timorese human rights organisation, based in Dili since 1997. Our primary function is to document human rights violations and to provide legal assistance to victims of human rights abuses.

Since the beginning of this year, our organisation and other local NGOs have been targeted by both the Indonesian military and by the so-called ‘militias’ who, from our observations, have always enjoyed the support and cooperation of the Indonesian military. This targeting has included acts of violence, the destruction of property, and intimidation. My own house was completely destroyed by the Indonesian backed militia on Saturday September 4.

The following day, my office was destroyed by Indonesian backed militiamen, during a two hour rampage. There was automatic rifle fire into the building and also loud explosions heard nearby. During this whole rampage it took the Indonesian police, the sole authority responsible for law and order in East Timor, two hours to get to our office. Exactly the same time which it took the militia to destroy our building!

I was taken to the POLDA police headquarters and, while there, I noticed the same militiamen who had attacked our office, walking freely in and out of the police station. I believe that this attack was well planned because all the streetlights were out in the immediate vicinity, which was quite unusual. I managed to make my way to the airport, where I was stopped several times by militia who didn’t know my face but they all knew my name. In Bali I was helped by Indonesian friends. I shaved my moustache and cut my hair so as not to be recognised.

Although I didn’t want to leave East Timor, I realised after the attack on Bishop Belo’s home that no one was safe! Also, I had been receiving death threats for the past few months because of my role as a defender of human rights. I had to leave East Timor because I knew my presence was endangering the lives of my colleagues, my family and friends. I fled alone and was forced to leave behind my wife and three young children.

My case is not an isolated incident. During the last few months, many East Timorese human rights organisations have documented an ever-increasing number of human rights violations. They themselves, and other East Timorese groups and individuals have been subject to a systematic, organised campaign of harassment and terror by the Indonesian military, Indonesian police and the Indonesian backed militia. I give you just a few examples:

  • One of the most disturbing atrocities documented, was the April massacre in Liquica. At least 46 civilians were executed and another 56 were seriously injured. This was the first time that such massive killings happened within a parish Church.
  • More recently, early September, there has been the attack on Bishop Belo’s residence and the ICRC compound where thousands of refugees were seeking sanctuary and subsequently have been either forcibly moved to West Timor or have disappeared.
  • In Suai, 3 priests and 3 nuns were killed and over 100 murdered in the church grounds.
  • Even this week we have reports of the murder of over 200 East Timorese in Oecusse, East Timor’s forgotten enclave.

The overwhelming evidence of the systematic and state-orchestrated campaign of terror, torture and murder has resulted in the forced displacement of over 400,000 people. Half the population of my country. Almost 200,000 have been forced, at gun-point, into West Timor where to this day they are subject to the terror of the same military and militia who have killed their husbands, their fathers, their brothers - all pro-Independence, East Timorese males have been systematically targeted.They are in fact in concentration camps with little water, scarce, if any food and little shelter and are surrounded by Indonesian troops and militiamen.

The Indonesian Government has not only failed to provide security and safety to civilians, UN personnel, journalists and humanitarian aid workers but has in fact contributed to this alarming escalation of violence. The Indonesian authorities through both their inability and/or unwillingness to comply with their international obligations, as specified in the May 5 accords, are exclusively responsible for the destruction of East Timor which resulted in the introduction of International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) to secure the population of my homeland.

I come here to inform you of the murder of my people and the destruction of my homeland at the hands of the Indonesian authorities with the compliance of the Indonesian State.

On August 30 this year, after 24 years of Indonesian rule, during which time more than 250,000 of my people lost their lives, the courageous East Timorese population voted overwhelmingly to reject a place within the Indonesian state. Almost 80% of the East Timorese voted for Independence. The United Nations and the international community have both a legal and moral responsibility to ensure that this vote for Independence is respected and implemented. This we owe to those who have lost their lives, those who have been displaced and those who have lost everything in their action for freedom.

The East Timorese people have been victims of crimes against humanity. While thousands of my fellow East Timorese have suffered and continue to suffer, those responsible for this organised campaign of human rights atrocities, enjoy impunity - they should be identified, arrested and brought to justice. To date this has not been done! The United Nations and the international community must ensure that in this day and age, the organisers and the perpetrators of mass murder and terror must not be allowed to get away with such horrendous crimes against humanity.

The UN Commission on Human Rights must stand firm against the perpetrators of such wide scale horrendous violations and condemn them unconditionally. It must endorse the strongest and most rapid action to thoroughly investigate and document these gross human rights abuses and ensure that those responsible for these crimes are held to account by the international community whose universal principles and standards the UNCHR has responsibility to uphold on all our behalf.

Thank you, your Excellency for your time and attention.