Letter: Victims' representatives excluded from human rights forum

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Sir: With the UN World Conference on Human Rights opening this week in Vienna, British Aerospace (BAe) could hardly have picked a worse time to announce its new pounds 500m order to supply Hawk military aircraft to Indonesia ('British jets 'may be used on Timor rebels' ', 11 June), a country with one of the world's least enviable human rights records. In the 18 years of its illegal occupation of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, the Indonesian military has been responsible for the deaths of nearly a third of the territory's original inhabitants (200,000 out of 688,000), a bloodletting that is unparalleled, even in Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

The sale of sophisticated weaponry by the West has been central to this tragedy. In 1977-78, US-supplied aircraft (OV-10 Broncos), ideally suited for counter-insurgency operations in East Timor's mountainous interior, enabled Indonesian pilots to drop napalm and fuel-air bombs on civilian areas. East Timorese survivors of those terrible onslaughts speak of scenes reminiscent of Dante's Inferno, with whole communities incinerated alive.

Given this history, reported Indonesian government assurances regarding the use of Hawk fighter/

trainers are less than convincing. What Jakarta is purchasing from BAe is a new generation of counter-insurgency aircraft ideally suited to its domestic security requirements. When those requirements include the retention of territory held in defiance of international law, the appropriateness of such deals demands the most stringent public scrutiny.

Yours sincerely,


Trinity College