Komnas HAM – AJAR – KONTRAS – IKOHI – ELSAM
Bringing Them Home:
Urgent Need to Implement Key Recommendations of the CAVR and CTF (1) on the Disappeared and Separated Children
From May 18-23, 2015, 14 “child transfers” (2) taken between the ages of five and fifteen during the conflict in Timor-Leste were reunited with their families after two or three decades of separation. The 14 child transfers (now adults, two women and twelve men) were taken from Viqueque, Los Palos, Manatuto, and Ainaro, between 1979 and 1994.
The six-day visit was moving for all those involved. Family members who had assumed that their brother or sister were long deceased received them with open arms and tears of joy. Some already had gravestones with their names engraved, after decades of no information on their whereabouts. The visit included trips back home to their villages, a tour around Dili to better understand the recent history and developments in the country, as well as meetings with civil society and government officials, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of Social Solidarity, members of Provedor for Human Rights and Justice, and the Indonesian Ambassador.
For the fourteen separated children, the reunion was unimaginable. As children, a few of them were lucky enough to be cared for by loving families, raised and educated as Indonesians. However for most of them, their expectations of finding security and opportunities for education were quickly dashed. As children, many of them had had to fend for themselves, surviving on the streets through their wits and luck. Many of them were vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. As Mr. Muhammad Legibere said, “A life without love is like a bird without wings.”
The visit was a cooperation between two initiatives. Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR), working with KontraS, Elsam, IKOHI, and HAK Association, led efforts to find the child transfers, working closely with other child transfers who have been reunited with their families. For AJAR, this is the second visit that it facilitated since 2013.. The second initiative is between Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) and its counterpart, Provedor for Human Rights and Justice (PDHJ). An MoU was signed in 2013 to follow up on the recommendations of the Commission for Truth and Friendship. In February 2014, KomnasHAM established a Data Gathering Team on Children Transferred from Timor-Leste to Indonesia between 1975-1999, and conducted the joint investigation with civil society organizations mentioned above. The two state institutions coordinated their efforts to facilitate this visit.
Timor-Leste’s truth commission (CAVR, 2005) estimated that at least 4000 children were transferred during the conflict. Both CAVR and the bilateral Indonesia & Timor-Leste truth commission (Commission for Truth and Friendship, 2008) made recommendations to urgently find those still disappeared and reunite the separated families.
Since the handover of the CTF report to the two presidents in 2008, talks between the two countries on the implementation of the CTF’s recommendations remain on-going. In July 2009, Timor-Leste submitted a short proposal to Indonesia to consider the establishment of a sub-working group on disappeared persons. But until now there has been no concrete action.
In October 2011, the Indonesian government issued a Presidential Decree for the implementation of an action plan based on the CTF’s recommendations. However, on the recommendation to establish a commission on disappearances, the decree only mentions the issue of separated children. Any substantive issues on the disappeared have been altogether excluded. To date, there has been no concrete progress on this effort.
Our Joint Team urges the Indonesian government to take immediate concrete action to restore the rights of these separated “children,” and for their families to know the fate of their children who were separated. The Indonesian government must support efforts to reunite the children who were separated with their relatives in Timor-Leste. This includes searching for the separated children, supporting the provision of passports, and supporting the travel costs for these children to visit their families. The government of Timor-Leste should provide visa-free status for these children, and support family reunification efforts, including assistance in conducting traditional rituals.
Friendship between Indonesia and Timor Leste is important for both countries and peoples. The process of searching for the disappeared should continue, and involve the families of the victims as well as civil society. The MoU between KOMNASHAM and PDHJ should be renewed and enhanced to include concrete efforts to search for the separated children and disappeared. Both governments should immediately disclose information on separated children and the disappeared, ensuring the participation of the victims’ families and civil society in all decisions.
Jakarta, 26 May 2015
Komnas HAM: Sandra Moniaga – 0811896379
AJAR: Galuh Wandita – 081382761997
Kontras: Yati Andriyani – 081586664599
(1) CAVR is the name of Timor-Leste’s truth and reconciliation commission (2002-2005); CTF is the name of a bilateral commission of Indonesia and Timor-Leste (2005-2008).
(2) See Chega! Volume III, Part 7.8: Violation of the Rights of the Child, par. 344-391, and par. 439 for findings on this issue. The report can be downloaded from www.chegareport.net.