The death toll of the Indonesian invasion/occupation of
East Timor is occasionally a matter of dispute in these
newsgroups, so I put together some information to help
readers compare the estimates of different sources.
Please not that these do not all cover the same time
period, etc. Some only cover the first few months of
invasion. You cannot simply take the numbers without
checking what is being estimated. If you have any more
sources worth citing, send the references on over.
The following chart can be found here:
27.East Timor (1975-99)
Conquest by Indonesia:
Compton's: 100,000 killed in the first year
[Compton's Encyclopedia Online v.2.0 (1997)]
Encarta: 100,000 ditto
[Microsoft Encarta '95.]
D.Smith: 100,000 ditto
[Unless otherwise noted, "Smith" means The State of War
and Peace Atlas (1997)]
War Annual 6: 100,000 killed in the first year, and
another 100,000 over the next decade or so
[A series of books by John Laffin. The full exact title
varies from year to year, but it's usually something
like The World in Conflict [year] War Annual [number].
The series so far goes 1986 (1), 1987 (2), 1989 (3),
1990 (4), 1991 (5), 1994 (6), 199? (7), 1997 (8), so
it's not strictly an annual. Each book is a very
detailed description of all the fighting which has
occured in the past year, worldwide, with maps and
background information as well.]
[Jacob Bercovitch and Richard Jackson, International
Conflict : A Chronological Encyclopedia of Conflicts
and Their Management 1945-1995 (1997)]
Eckhardt: 90,000 civ. + 10,000 mil. = 100,000 (1975-87)
[William Eckhardt is one of the most quoted but elusive
atrocity collectors around. I've seen his work
mentioned by many authorities, but I couldn't find any
of the cited journals in any of the 3 university
libraries in my hometown. Finally, I found a 3-page
table of his war statistics printed in World Military
and Social Expenditures 1987-88 (12th ed., 1987) by
Ruth Leger Sivard, which lists every war since 1700.]
Dunnigan: 90,000 to 200,000
[A Quick and Dirty Guide to War (1991)]
Rummel: 150,000 (1975-87)
CDI: 150,000 (1975-97)
[The Center for Defense Information, specifically, The
Defense Monitor, "The World At War: January 1, 1998".
[http://www.cdi.org/dm/issue1/index.html] The column in
the chart is labeled "casualties" (which semantically
should include wounded), but it's clear in the
introduction that only deaths are counted.]
Chomsky (1987): 200,000 to 300,000 by 1979
[The Chomsky Reader (1987)]
Our Times: 300,000
[Our Times: The Illustrated History of the 20th Century
(Turner Publishing 1995)]
FALINTIL (Timorese resistance group associated with
FRETILIN, the most popular political party in East
Timor): 300,000 to 350,000
The initial period of the invasion was one of
indiscriminate massacre. Indonesia admitted that 60,000
Timorese were killed between December 1975 and November
Between 1977 and 1979, Indonesia waged a fierce
campaign to gain military control of the country, using
high-tech counter-insurgency aircraft and armoured
vehicles from the US and Britain, as well as napalm and
defoliant herbicides similar to 'agent orange'.
Agriculture was completely disrupted and a severe
famine ensued, accompanied by epidemics of disease.
It is a conservative estimate that since the beginning
of the Indonesian occupation at least 200,000 to
250,000 Timorese -- a third of the pre-invasion
population -- have died. We believe the true figure may
lie within the range of 300,000 to 350,000.... half the
Xanana Gusmao (Timorese resistance leader): 250,000
Since 1975 and 1976 when East Timor was forcibly
annexed by Indonesia, Gusmao said some 250,000 have
been killed in the strife.
Carmel Budiardjo (Indonesian human-rights activist):
It is a bitter fact of history that the under-ending
sufferings of the people of East Timor which have
resulted in the deaths of more than 250,000 people, a
third of the population, were totally ignored by
western governments as they fostered business ties,
promoted investments and sold military equipment to a
government with an appalling human rights record, which
has defied ten UN Security Council and General Assembly
resolutions calling on it to withdraw from East
It was not a question of information about East Timor not
being available. True, from the moment of the invasion, the
territory was sealed off completely and the Indonesians even
managed to prevent an envoy of the UN secretary-general from
entering, under a Security Council resolution mandate,
without causing a stir at the UN. Two months after the
invasion, an East Timorese leader inside the country told
The Age that probably 50-60,000 people had already died. By
the end of the year, priests in East Timor who were asked
about the accuracy of that figure, said that already 100,000
Timorese had died, out of a population of around 700,000.
Budiadjo is also co-author with Liem Soei Liong of _The
War Against East Timor_, which gives the most detailed
population figures that I have found. The following is
from pp. 49-51:
The Death Toll
The first public estimate of the death-toll came from
Francisco Lopes da Cruz, a UDT leader who became
deputy-governor of Indonesia's first post-invasion
administration in East Timor. He said in February 1976
that sixty thousand people had died 'in six months of
civil war'. Since estimates of the death-toll during
the civil war (which in fact lasted only a couple of
weeks from 11 August 1975) were between 1,500 and
3,000, the da Cruz figure meant that some 57,000 had
died since the Indonesian invasion. Within days, he was
forced to retract in an attempt to repair the damage
caused by his statement; he claimed that he had been
referring to 'casualties' not all of which were deaths
and had also included Timorese who had taken refuge in
*A close associate of da Cruz later told Jim Dunn that
in his original statement, da Cruz had actually said
Later in 1976, Indonesian Catholic church circles
produced a document which reported that church visitors
to East Timor had questioned local priests about the
estimated 60,000 death-toll in the conviction that it
must be an exaggeration, only to be told that the
figure was, if anything, an under-estimation. The
figure was probably more like 100,000.
'50,000 or 80,000 people might have been killed during
the war in East Timor... It was war... Then what is the
big fuss?' [ellipses in original]
-- Adam Malik
quoted by _Sidney Morning Herald_, 5 April, 1977
The above estimates were made before the encirclement
and annihilation operations got under way in mid 1977.
That was the military campaign which caused the most
deaths of all. Since the late 1970s, the figure most
widely accepted as the death-toll is 200,000, a figure
that has been confirmed by Mgr Martinhu da Costa Lopes,
the former Bishop of Dili, who said recently:
'The population of East Timor has been reduced by
200,000 since the invasion. About 60,000 were killed
and about 140,000 died as a result of starvation caused
by economic disruption and inability to grow food.'
(_The Irish Times_, 8 September 1983.)
What do official statistics show?
There are good reasons to question the accuracy of
population statistics produced by the Portuguese
colonial administration and now by the Indonesian
colonial administration. The Portuguese figures, based
on a regular census, are widely believed to have been
too low as the census was related to tax assessment
which encourage people to evade registration. The
Catholic church had its own population figures which
tended to be higher than those produced by the census.
An Indonesian census was held in East Timor in 1980 as
part of a nationwide census, though no information is
available about the conditions under which it was
conducted. The Catholic church has continued to compile
its own population figures but by contrast with
Portuguese days, these are now far below the official
The following analysis compares Portuguese and
Indonesian figures, for what they are worth, and
incorporates church figures for purposes of comparison:
The last pre-invasion population figures:
1. The Portugues 1970 census: 609,477
2. The Catholic church 1974 figure: 688,711
1975 projections, based on an annual growth rate of 1.7%
1. 1975 projection of the official census: 663,000
2. 1975 projection of the church figure: 700,000
1980 projections of the above figures should take
account of an estimated 3,000 people who died in the
civil was (August 1975), and approximately 7,000 who
have gone into exile since August 1975. The following
projections make allowances for this decline of 10,000
1. 1980 projection of the official census: 713,000
2. 1980 projection of the church figure: 754,000
Compare these with:
1. 1980 Indonesian census result for East Timor: 555,000
2. The Catholic church estimate, published in: 425,000
UN Document A/AC.109/715, 13 August 1982
A straight comparison between the official Indonesian
and Portuguese figures produces a decline of 158,000.
Using the 1980 church figures as the basis for
comparison, the decline is anything between 199,000 and
[Remember that since population is normally increasing,
the decline would be lower than the actual death toll.
A Mounting Death Toll
The new offensive launched by Indonesia in August 1983
is bound to cause a new wave of killings, the
consequences of which are difficult to predict. There
can be no doubt that the 200,000 estimated death toll
will soon have to be revised upwards.
George Aditjondro (Indonesian scholar): more than
Keating's speech was made on the same day that a
distinguished Indonesian academic, George Aditjondro,
risked his livelihood and possibly his life to speak
out, to take "the veil of secrecy" off what was
happening in East Timor.
Aditjondro's two research papers have had no
substantial publicity in Australia. He quotes a figure
of 60,000 East Timorese (10% of the population) killed
in the first two months of the occupation. He writes,
"The death toll quickly escalated during the first
three years of the war. The population in the territory
fell from 688,000 in 1974 to 329,000 in October 1978.
What has happened to the shortfall of 359,000 people?
"About 4,000 went into exile, a large number were
forced to flee or went voluntarily into the forests,
but anecdotal accounts point to an exceedingly high
death toll." Aditjondro is saying that the figure of
200,000 is an under-estimate.
Constancio Dias Pinto (Timorese resistance leader):
Cited by: http://etan.org/etun/decol98/report4.htm
Constancio Dias Pinto, of the National Resistance of
East Timorese Students, said that more than 250,000
people had been killed as a direct result of
Since Indonesia's annexation of East Timor, which never
was recognized by the United Nations, some 250,000
people have died in fighting between Indonesian troops
and anti- Indonesian rebels.
Suharto regime: 200,000
In 1990 an Indonesian army intelligence official
confirmed that in the course of Indonesia's occupation
of East Timor, the Suharto regime has taken the lives
of at least 200,000 people.
(Note that the Suharto regime has also given 100,000 as
the figure, as several quotations below reveal.)
Amnesty International: 200,000
Text of an Amnesty International USA ad that appeared
in the New York Times, September 23, 1999, p. A21
Enough is enough.
Don’t resume arms sales to Indonesia until human rights
The scale of the human tragedy in East Timor defies
belied. Since Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975,
200,000 East Timorese have been killed by the
Indonesian military or have fallen victim to starvation
That’s a third of the total population.
Number of Deaths:
Total: Over 200,000.
According to a 1994 report by the international human
rights watchdog Amnesty International, ''two decades of
unpunished Indonesian genocide'' have cost the lives of
one third of East Timor's 650,000 inhabitants.
[InterPress Service, November 25, 1995]
The Indonesian occupation of East Timor -- a tiny
half-island a few hundred miles north of Australia --
as cost more than 200,000 lives since the Indonesian
military invaded in 1975, according to Amnesty
International (the Indonesian government put the number
Amnesty International estimates that over 200,000
people in East Timor (one third of the population) have
been killed since Indonesia began their occupation in
UN Commission on Human Rights: 200,000
The Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or
Arbitrary Executions notes that between 1975 and 1980 an
estimated 100,000 Timorese out of a population of 700,000
are alleged to have been killed by Indonesian armed forces9.
A further 100,000 are said to have been killed or died of
starvation or disease between 1980 and 198410 amid continued
guerrilla fighting, apart from a brief ceasefire in 1983.
9. UN Commission on Human Rights. Report by the Special
Rapporteur, Mr Bacre Waly Ndiaye, paragraph 17.
Since then, Amnesty International estimates that the
Indonesian military has killed 200,000 people: one
third of the population of East Timor. Amnesty also
reports that forced abortions, sterilization, torture
and mass executions of East Timorese by the Indonesian
military have been frequent.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International,
report over 200,000 deaths in East Timor since its 1975
invasion by Indonesia (over one third of the
* In December 1975, just nine days after declaring its
independence from Portugal, East Timor was invaded by
the armed forces of neighbouring Indonesia. An
estimated 100,000 Timorese were slaughtered within six
* Since the invasion, human rights groups and UN
agencies have documented massive human rights
violations, including rape, forced abortions and
sterilizations, mass executions, torture and the
napalm-bombing of whole villages.
* By the 1980s, the death toll had reached more than
200,000. Indonesian military authorities concealed the
genocide by closing the territory to foreign
journalists until 1990.
World Council of Churches: 200,000
On 11th August 1975 the UDT staged a coup resulting in a
civil war in which over fifteen hundred people lost their
lives. Indonesia, with the backing and support of USA and
Australia, worried about a UDT Marxist led government in
East Timor, sent troops to the territory. In the invasion
around two hundred thousand people were killed. In May 1976,
after a so called act of self-determination, East Timor was
declared the 27th province of Indonesia.
World Council of Churches with Christian Conference of
In 1975 a civil war broke out and Indonesia,
apprehensive of the Timorese Democratic Union's
communist leanings, with the support of the USA and
Australia, occupied the territory. 200,000 people were
killed in the process and, in May 1976, after a
so-called act of self-determination, East Timor was
declared a province of Indonesia.
Roman Catholic Church: 200,000
The elderly residents of the former Portuguese colony
can still remember the bloody years of World War II,
during which 65,000 Timorese—over 10 percent of the
population at that time—were killed by the Japanese
occupiers, despite the fact that the island was neutral
territory. The adult children of those World War II
survivors have still more vivid memories of the
Indonesian invasion in 1975, and the brutal decade of
political oppression and economic devastation that
followed, costing the lives of 200,000 Timorese—a
staggering 30 percent of the population. Now yet
another Timorese generation is paying in blood for the
desire to preserve a separate culture.
Cited by: http://mprofaca.cro.net/news058.html
According to human rights groups and the Catholic
Church more than 200,000 people -- one-third of the
pre-invasion population – have been killed by the
Indonesian occupation forces.
International Rescue Committee (IRC): 200,000
In 1975, following Portuguese colonization, the
Indonesian Army invaded East Timor and annexed it by
force. Some 200,000 East Timorese were killed during
Foreign Affairs Committee of the Australian Parliament:
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Australian
Parliament has judged that "at least" 200,000 East
Timorese have died under Jakarta's illegal occupation.
ABC News: 200,000
Indonesia then invaded, asserting it had to stabilize
the region. Its soldiers have since killed some
1975: Portugal withdraws from East Timor amid turmoil
at home. Indonesian troops enter amid fighting among
Timorese political groups.
1976: Indonesia declares East Timor its 27th province.
As much as one-third of the 650,000 population may have
been killed in fighting. U.N. maintains that Portugal
is administrating power.
Associated Press: 200,000
Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East
Timor in 1975 and has held it in an iron grip ever
since. It is estimated that 200,000 or more civilians
were killed in the last 25 years.
Fox News: 200,000
Aug 27 - Portuguese governor and administration
withdraw from East Timor capital Dili to offshore
island of Atauro.
Nov 28 - After brief civil war, Fretilin party declares
East Timor independent.
Nov 29 - Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik signs
declaration integrating the territory into Indonesia.
Dec 7 - Indonesian troops invade East Timor. Estimated
200,000 people — a quarter of the population — die
during the military crackdown and famine that follow.
Federation of American Scientists: 200,000 (100,000 to
As many as 60,000 Timorese were killed in the initial
assault [out of a total population of about 600,000].
The slaughter of East Timorese during the 1975 invasion
emphasized the ruthlessness of Indonesia's
incorporation of the former Portuguese colony
Indonesian military operations culminated in 1978, with
the effective destruction of FRETELIN's fighting
strength, a campaign helped by new arms provided by the
Carter administration. The death toll to date is
estimated as high as 200,000. The human cost of the
civil war--Indonesian military actions and the famine
that followed--was heavy. Estimates of Timorese deaths
because of the conflict between 1975 and 1979 range
from 100,000 to 250,000.
Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
"It's a political statement -- or, rather, an
*anti*-political statement. The symbol for *anarchy*!"
-- Batman, explaining the circle-A graffiti, in
_Detective Comics_ #608
Rights body alleges AGO-TNI 'deals' in E. Timor cases
A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The landmark human rights trial for atrocities in East Timor more than
two years ago has commenced, but disappointment persists as the
Attorney General's Office fails to prosecute the top leaders
implicated by the commission of inquiry into the crimes against
Secretary general of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas
HAM) Asmara Nababan said the Attorney General's Office was tarnishing
any sense of justice here in the human rights violations cases for its
continued failure to heed the inquiry's recommendations that former
Indonesia Military chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto and several other top
officers in power when the crimes against humanity took place be
"Failure to further investigate the role of the military's top brass
in the high profile cases will tarnish the image of Attorney General's
Office before the public," he said.
Mandated by Komnas HAM to investigate the mayhem in East Timor after
its independence vote in September 1999, the inquiry listed 30
military and civilians as persons held responsible for the violence.
Wiranto was among those questioned, but excluded from the list.
There have been no exact figures of casualties, some sources say more
than 1,000 dead, but at least 250,000 East Timorese were forced to
flee the territory by military transport in September 1999. The
massive logistical operation was expected by the military, according
to former East Timor military commander Col. Noer Muis, one of the
suspects in the case.
After its investigation led by then Deputy Attorney General for
General Crimes M. Rachman, the Attorney General's Office announced
last year 18 suspects in the case, with former Udayana Military
commander Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, former East Timor governor Abilio
Soares and former East Timor Police chief Brig. Gen. Timbul Silaen
heading the roster.
The trials of Abilio, Timbul, four middle-ranking military officers
and a police officer are underway, with the remaining suspects in the
on deck circle as their dossiers await completion.
Asmara said Wiranto, former military intelligence body chief Maj. Gen.
Zacky Makarim and former Army deputy chief Lt. Gen. Johny Lumintang
should also stand trial for their alleged involvement in the gross
human rights abuses.
TNI leaders have questioned the legitimacy of the ongoing human rights
trial on grounds that a recent constitutional amendment rules out any
trial of rights cases that took place before the human rights court
The amendment of Article 28I of the constitution made in November 2000
protects anyone from being prosecuted retroactively under newly
Asmara said the processing of the dossiers for the exempted military
officers, including the three generals, was a must.
"Should the state prosecutors fail to process the dossiers, the public
will start to question whether there are some back-room deals going on
between the suspects and the Attorney General's Office," he stated.
Asmara conceded that Komnas HAM had no intention of summoning the
attorney general over his office's sluggish works, however.
"It is the public, including the House of Representatives (DPR), that
should summon members of the Attorney General's Office, since this
case is a public case. We want to avoid public perception that the
case merely involves the Komnas HAM and the attorney general," he
East Timor trial farce lets real killers stay free
John Aglionby in Jakarta
Friday March 15, 2002
Allegations of how senior Indonesian generals waged a brutal campaign
to sabotage East Timor's independence referendum in August 1999
emerged yesterday as Jakarta began the first trials of 18 army
officers and civilian officials accused of gross human rights
After six months of procedural delays and procrastination, Indonesia's
civilian governor of East Timor in 1999, Abilio Soares, and the
provincial police chief, Brigadier General Timbul Silaen, stood in the
dock yesterday at separate sessions of an ad hoc court in Jakarta
created specially to hear the East Timor cases.
Hours earlier, Australia's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper published
detailed and damning extracts from communications between Jakarta and
East Timor in 1999, intercepted by the Australian intelligence agency,
the defence signals directorate, confirming the widely held belief
that the true masterminds of the carnage will escape justice.
The conversations reveal that several current and former senior
generals, led by the then chief security minister, General Feisal
Tanjung, orchestrated a clinical operation involving military special
forces and locally recruited militias to coerce the East Timorese into
voting against independence.
When that failed they sought revenge by killing about 1,000
pro-independence supporters, destroying up to 80% of the former
Portuguese colony that Jakarta had occupied since a 1975 invasion, and
forcing about 260,000 East Timorese over the border into Indonesian
Among Gen Tanjung's alleged henchmen were the then information
minister, Lieutenant General Yunus Yosfiah, held responsible for
killing British and Australian reporters in the town of Balibao in
1975; the then trans-migration minister, Lieutenant General AM
Hendropriyono, now the intelligence chief; and Major General Sjafrie
Sjamsuddin, the Jakarta military commander during the massive riots in
1998 and currently the chief military spokesman.
The latter two are among those expected to meet the FBI director,
Robert Mueller, today when he visits Jakarta to discuss combating
terrorism. None of the above officers is among the 18 indicted.
The one noticeable omission from the Australian list is General
Wiranto, the Indonesian military commander and defence minister in
1999 who was thought to have planned the carnage. It now appears that
he was a fall guy, either unaware of or apathetic to the plotting.
Intercepts quoted in the newspaper show that two squads of undercover
special forces, named Tribuana and Venus, were operating in East Timor
with the local militias within a fortnight of President BJ Habibie's
surprise announcement in January 1999 that he would give the East
Timorese the chance to vote on their future.
During the following six months the recorded communications detail a
catalogue of orders and discussions that paint a compelling account of
desperate officers determined to avert independence at any cost.
The Australian embassy in Jakarta refused to comment on the
revelations, and the Indonesian government said it did not give the
report "much credence".
"We can't base our policies on what's written in the Sydney Morning
Herald," said a foreign ministry spokesman, Marty Natlegawa. "We need
to have clear references or documents if we want to make any
Western diplomats said the article was unlikely to make any difference
to the barely credible tribunal. "Timbul Silaen and [Brig Gen] Tono
Suratman were identified as the fall guys on this over a year ago and
they'll stick with it," one said.
Both trials yesterday were adjourned for one week.
Diplomats and human rights activists watching the legal proceedings
said that things would have to improve significantly if Jakarta wanted
the hearings to be taken seriously.
"It's like a play," one person said. "It's very short on substance,
but it's the only option for justice we have."
Top brass supports E Timor suspects
By Don Greenlees
INDONESIA'S top military commanders put on a show of solidarity
yesterday with soldiers implicated in the massacre of civilians in
East Timor by attending the opening of a human rights trial and
declaring the men had been doing their "duty for the country". Five
defendants accused over a massacre in the Catholic Church in Suai, in
southwest East Timor, in September 1999, appeared before a newly
created human rights tribunal charged with an abrogation of command
responsibility by permitting the killings to occur.
But in a gesture that has disturbed human rights groups in Indonesia,
members of the armed forces top brass turned up in the Jakarta
They included armed forces commander Admiral Widodo Adisucipto, army
commander General Endriartono Sutarto, and armed forces spokesman
Major-General Syafrie Syamsuddin, himself accused of playing a role in
the mayhem in East Timor.
At the end of the two-hour hearing of the indictments, Admiral Widodo
told reporters the existence of the trial was proof of the commitment
of the armed forces (TNI) to respecting the law.
But he added: "The presence of TNI leaders is a materialisation of our
support from a moral and legal point of view."
The secretary-general of the National Human Rights Commission, Asmara
Nababan, said he feared the presence in court of the senior military
commanders was intended to intimidate the judges.
"Their presence can be interpreted as putting pressure on the court,"
he said. "Even if the suspects were doing their duty it does not mean
their actions, which are gross violations of human rights, can be
legitimised -- it's the old argument by the military that they are
doing their state duty."
Indonesia's ambivalence of the judicial process was underscored on
Monday when Defence Minister Matori Abdul Jalil held a meeting at his
office with some of the most important suspects named by prosecutors.
Two of those who attended the meeting were civilians with no official
connection to the Defence Department -- former East Timor governor
Abilio Soares and militia leader Eurico Guterres.
During yesterday's hearing, prosecutors accused four mid-ranking
military officers and a police officer of being aware militiamen were
"engaging in criminal acts that were part of widespread attacks on the
civilian population" and failing to intervene.
Those charged include the former mayor Colonel Herman Sedyono,
district military commander Colonel Lilik Kushardianto, and Suai town
commander Captain Sugito. Since the massacre Colonel Kushardianto and
Captain Sugito have been promoted.
The Suai massacre occurred on September 6, 1999, two days after the UN
announced the East Timorese had voted to separate from Indonesia in a
referendum. Investigators have estimated the death toll was at least
100, although the remains of only 27 bodies have been recovered.
Witnesses to the massacre told UN and Indonesian investigators that
they saw Captain Sugito participate in the attack, along with other
military and police personnel. He was later seen by three policemen in
West Timor disposing of 27 bodies, including those of three priests
and a number of women and children
I notice today's SMH has a related gas/oil article:
2002/03/26: Sydney Herald: Timor gas billions all at sea
"My God, what have we done?" -Captain Robert Lewis (Enola Gay logbook)
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