Rights Violations in East Timor
The Portuguese first colonized the island
of Timor, of which East Timor is part of along with West Timor, in 1520.
The next three centuries marked attempts by the Spanish, the Dutch, and
the British to colonize the island. These attempts were successful,
but Portuguese sovereignty over East Timor was finalized due to treaties
signed in 1860 and 1893. Later, during World War I, Timor became under
the control of the Japanese, until the Portuguese once again regained possession.
However, in 1975, political movements and civil war broke out causing so-called”disappearances,” executions, violence, crimes against humanity, and other
Twenty-five years later, in 1999, atrocities still exist in
Portugal ruled the colony with a ruthless
and brutal regime during the years before WWI. Despite attempts to
bring peace to the island by breaking up the local kingdoms, the people
did not change their lifestyles. Though people attempted to rebel
against Portuguese rule, their attempts were crushed.
The Japanese took over the island in 1941.
Following the takeover, a small group of Allied troops with support from
the natives waged guerilla warfare against the occupiers.
successes of the Allies were great, over 60,000 natives, almost 13% of
their population, lost their lives. ( easttimor.com)
After the War, the Portuguese fascist regime
ruled the island as before. However, in 1974, the fall of the dictatorship
completely changed the mentality on the island. Three main political
parties emerged, each having its own goals. The UDT (pro Portugal)
and the ASDT (pro Independence) formed a coalition and the ASDT became
what is called as Fretilin.
The other party, Adopedti (pro Indonesia)
had little support in East Timor, but was backed by the military regime
of General Suharto in Indonesia. Soon after, the UDT withdrew from
the ASDT, and they staged a coup against the ASDT and Fretilin in the capital
city of Dili. Fretilin opposed the coup, conquered the UDT forces,
and set up their own government. The Indonesian army invaded the
town of Batugade in December of 1975, causing more conflict. After
the fall of Batugade, Fretilin declared independence, and the Indonesian
army invaded Dili on the 7th December. This takeover was violent
and the Indonesian Army executed thousands of civilians.
10% of the population of Dili were killed in the first four months, with
a death toll nearing between 60,000 – 100,000 lives. ( easttimor.com )
During the invasion of Dili in December
1975, the Indonesian army committed horrible acts towards civilians.
Apparently, according to Amnesty International, there are dozens of reports
that tell of indiscriminate killings as the soldiers came into Dili.
Civilians were rounded up like cattle as most were shot execution style,
while others were apparently tied to poles and thrown into the ocean.
Estimates of the death toll report that at least 10% of the capital’s population
Once the United States, Europe, and Australia
gave backing to Indonesia, any resistance to them was crushed. The
atrocities never stopped from there. Entire villages were enclosed
and the population was either executed or transported to camps. These
camps were like prisons, the people couldn’t even grow their own food,
which is what they have relied on their entire lives. Thousands of
people starved in these camps. Villages were even subjected to chemical
weapons that destroyed their crops and poisoned their water.
On November of 1991, a massacre by the
army of peaceful protesters in Dili was videotaped and broadcast around
the world. This massacre soon became known as the Santa Cruz Massacre,
after the cemetery where the massacre took place. Ensuing investigations
revealed that at least 270 people, most of whom were children, were killed
and that many others were imprisoned, tortured, and executed in the following
weeks. The Santa Cruz massacre caught the attention of the
world and brought up questions of the human rights situation in East Timor.
In 1993, the UN Human Rights Commission passed a decree condemning Indonesia.
After this decree, numerous organizations visited the country and decided
that the human rights situation was intolerable.
However, these were
short-lived and basically accomplished nothing. Since 1991, killings
have continued, while harassment, torture, and imprisonment of suspected
opponents of Indonesian rule occurs everyday. The last few years
have seen a growing amount of tension between the people of East Timor
and the thousands of Indonesian migrants living there. These tensions
have resulted in occasional outbreaks of violence between the two groups.
Within two months ago, according to the
East Timor homepage, twelve pregnant East Timorese women, seeking shelter
in refugee camps, had their throats .