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18 September 2008

East Timor - A Land of Graves: Bodies found near Dili airport

Transcript of ABC News Report 18/09/2008 - UN investigators in East Timor have uncovered a number of bodies near Dili's International Airport in East Timor.

Between the sky and the sea, for years, this coastline has hidden a grisly secret.

The first clues to be exposed along the fenceline of Dili's international airport were pieces of clothing - as these photographs obtained by the ABC show. It wasn't long before the remains of at least 5 people were exhumed from the site.

Juan Carlos Arevalo, Acting UN Police Commissioner: "From the initial report, the only thing that we assume is that those remains have been there for many years."

The cause of death was easier to establish - 2 bullets to the back of the head. Some of the victims were bound. Human rights campaigners blame the former Indonesian occupiers.

Jose Luis Oliveira, Human Rights Activist: "The whole world knows that Indonesia acted against human rights at this time. But the Indonesian government does not take responsbility for their crimes."

East Timor's President says the victims found next to Dili airport should be honoured. But Jose Ramos Horta has told the ABC that reconciliation with Indonesia is more important than dredging up its former crimes.

Jose Ramos Horta: "We must not allow ourselves to be hostage of the past - no matter how ugly that past was - in relation to Indonesian occupation".

The case is now in the hands of East Timor's Prosecutor General. Only he can order more exhumations and answer questions about whether more bodies lie under Dili's airport. But even the country's president acknowledges that the mystery is unlikely to be solved.

Jose Ramos-Horta: "He has 4000 cases of unresolved cases on his desk."

Dr. Soren Blau, Australian Forensic Pathologist: "I think for the families they've expresed frustration at the government's lack of support to, you know, progress the investigation."

East Timor is a land of graves. Almost every week more of the missing are found. But the discovery of these lost souls is no guarantee that their names will ever be known. Mark Willacy ABC News

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