Amnesty International, Indonesia (East Timor): As violence descended: Testimonies from East Timorese refugees, ASA 21/190/1999, 1 October 1999, https://www.refworld.org/reference/countryrep/amnesty/1999/en/32285 [accessed 24 February 2024]
The following accounts from East Timorese refugees - presented in a combination of verbatim testimony and shorter and longer narratives - represent a small selection of the testimonies gathered by Amnesty International in interviews conducted in Darwin, Australia, in September 1999.
These eyewitness accounts convey something of the horror and scale of human rights abuses visited on the East Timorese population before and in the aftermath of the announcement of the result of the independence ballot on 4 September 1999. They contain details of alleged killings, beatings, indiscriminate shootings and the forcible displacement of East Timorese civilians, and tell of a landscape laid waste by marauding militias and complicit Indonesian security forces. Many of the accounts allege instances of direct collusion between military or the police and the militias, and of instances in which the police failed or refused to intervene to protect civilian life.
Even so, these testimonies - from witnesses who were in Dili and were fortunate enough to find sanctuary in the UNAMET (UN Assistance Mission to East Timor) compound before being evacuated to Australia in the days that followed - are only fragments of a larger story. The experiences of the vast majority of East Timorese, of those in other districts where massive forced relocation is known to have to taken place and even of those in Dili who did not reach the UNAMET compound, are still largely unknown. These are voices that have yet to be heard.
Even as East Timor looks forward to independence, these testimonies give some indication of the enormous cost that this human rights tragedy has inflicted on its survivors; of divided and grieving families, uncertain futures, and of the physical and psychological scars that many now bear. Amnesty International also believes that what resonates clearly from these accounts is the need for truth, justice and reparation, as East Timor begins to reconstruct itself out of the violence.
This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.