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Speed Read: Unearthing Atrocities

2 minute read
Bryan Walsh

The violence of Indonesia’s 24-year rule over neighboring East Timor still haunts both nations. A new report by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR) documenting those atrocities in detail has proven explosive:

Why is the study making waves?
The 2,500-page report estimates that over 180,000 East Timorese were killed by Indonesian troops or died of starvation or illness, from the invasion up until Indonesia withdrew in 1999. Drawing on sources including Indonesian military data and more than 8,000 witnesses, the study documents executions, torture, mutilations and rape, concluding that such atrocities were “officially accepted.” Indonesia has rejected the report’s conclusions, with Vice-President Jusuf Kalla calling the death toll “exaggerated.”

Who else is blamed?
CAVR also accuses the U.S. and other nations of failing to stop Jakarta. The report says that American weaponry, supplied to Indonesia as an important Cold War ally, were crucial to the occupation. U.S. President Gerald Ford met with Indonesian President Suharto on the eve of the Dec. 7, 1975, invasion, andaccording to declassified U.S. security documentsgave his tacit acceptance of the operation.

What happens now?
Most likely, nothing. With a per-capita gdp of just $478, East Timor remains one of the world’s poorest nations, and wants to keep friendly ties with Indonesia, its largest trading partner. East Timor President Xanana Gusmo has rejected CAVR’s call for reparations and a war-crimes tribunal, saying he wants South African-style truth and reconciliation rather than punishment. “It’s not so important to look at the figures [in the study],” he said. “It is important to look at the lessons.”

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