Exhumation in Passabe
Today, on the fifth day of the exhumation in Passabe (in the border area of Oekusi enclave), the team of investigators recovered, for the first time since the exhumation began, a body with gunshot wounds. The pathologist working on the gravesite said that the wounds on the victims' skull indicate an execution.
So far, the team of UNTAET CIVPOL and Interfet investigators, lead by two UNTAET forensic experts recovered 26 bodies and 6 incomplete sets of human remains. Further 15 bodies were expected to be exhumed today from six different gravesites.
They have identified 25 gravesites in a 400-meter area that runs along the border with West Timor. There are also four other gravesites very close or on the other side of the border with West Timor. The deepest gravesite is 1.5 meters deep.
Today, a group of journalists from international media visited the site. The forensic experts explained that the evidence gathered so far shows that most of the victims suffered several bodily injuries and scull fractures, most likely inflicted by machetes. The fractures indicated a tremendous use of force, said one of the experts.
The Passabe massacre may represent the worst single massacre of the post-referendum violence. Investigators more than 50 men from two nearby villages, which were considered pro-independence strongholds, were killed in the massacre.
The first report about the gravesites was received on 15 December 1999. Since then, UNTAET's Civilian Police and Human Rights Division are working together with INTERFET on the investigation of the matter. The exhumation began last Sunday, January 30.
The exhumation is due to finish tomorrow (Saturday). The bodies will be flown back to Dili for further exhumation to ascertain cause of death, to attempt to determine a rough age of the victims and look for any physical deformities or characteristics that can aid in identification. The clothing will be washed and photographed. The photographs will then be taken to the families to see if any can be identified. The bodies will be eventually returned to the villages for burial.
Family reunions at the border
Tomorrow, more than four thousand East Timorese are expected to meet at different points of the border between East and West Timor in a family reunion that is now becoming a regular weekly event.
These are not refugees, but Timorese who live in the East and West Timor and whose relatives are apart for various reasons, in many cases related to marriages.
So far, there have been gatherings at six border points. Two in Maliana, one in Suai and three in Oecussi. As for tomorrow, two venues have been confirmed - Batugade and Nanora, both in Maliana district.
The reunions started in early December with small groups of about 20 or 30 people in the enclave of Oekusi. However, over the time these groups started to grow. On Monday, in Motaain, Bobonaro district, one gathering had as many as four thousand people.
The initiative was of the population who, feeling unsafe to cross the border to visit their relatives, asked the UN Military Observers for help in the arrangements with the TNI command.
After an initial contact with TNI, the UNMO's, Interfet and the Indonesian officials set up a free zone around these border points where no weapons are allowed. Both Interfet and TNI officers screen everyone from each side before and after the meetings, and stay 200 meters away of the border.
People bring food and spend a few hours talking. Usually, they arrive around noon and go back to their houses before the sunset. SRSG briefs the Security Council On Monday, SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello briefed the Security Council on the situation in East Timor.
In his presentation, Mr. De Mello stated that the social and economic consequences of the devastation inflicted upon East Timor during the post-ballot violence are massive and that the state of East Timor since September 1999 has been "calamitous".
The UNTAET's objectives for the next six months aiming to achieve improvements in the lives of East Timorese include physical security of all East Timorese and their access to a fair judicial system within an environment of law and order. As an immediate measure to integrate local participation in police activities SRSG announced that UNTAET will over the next few weeks start a Police Assistance Program in which former East Timorese police officers of known quality are to serve as auxilliaries to CIVPOL.
"UNTAET must also support UNHCR in repatriation of all those refugees who wish to return from West Timor and elsewhere, and sufficient resources must be available to meet their shelter, health and sanitation needs during their reintegration, said Mr. De Mello. "Basic administrative structures must be established at both central and district levels, a civil service established, and east Timorese at all levels empowered to participate fully in the decisions made and implemented through these structures."
The first six-month plan requested by the donors at the Tokyo conference was submitted to a Donor Meeting in Washington last week. SRSG says that quick advance disbursements against the World Bank Trust Fund, flexibility in the use of assessed resources and generous bilateral contributions will be essential to prevent social unrest.