Chega! Dili Reviews
Ex prison now centre for Human Rights Aug 18, 2009
In 2007 President Ramos-Horta said, “The CAVR report is an encyclopaedia of our history, rich in both teachings and suffering. We must utilise its great teachings to better understand today’s crisis and to help prevent future crises”.
He was speaking about the report entitled “Chega!” which is Portuguese for “no more, stop, enough!
The CAVR (Timor-Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation) put together the 3000 page report in 7 volumes after an investigation into the Human Rights violations committed by the Indonesian occupying force as they tried to quell Timorese resistance 1974-1999.
During this time there were also atrocities caused by others; the Fretilin Political supporters, UDT and others within the struggle. It is reported that between 102 800 and 183 000 civilians died during the period.
Chega! Is also the name given to the exhibition site which was one of many prisons in the country used by the Indonesian Army to hold and torture Timorese suspected of being or supporting the resistance.
The prison buildings were all destroyed as the Indonesians withdrew from the country in 1999 but they have been restored to house the CAVR offices and archives. Several of the features of the prison have been retained to remind the public of its history.
As you move through the complex the layout takes you through the political history of the country and the rest of the world during this period of the 70s. The obvious sadness is that many countries who would have been expected to support the Timorese were siding with the Indonesians due to their fear of the spread of Communism through the Asia-Pacific rim.
From the political rooms we were led to the library where several parts of the Chega! Report were summarised and displayed on the walls.
We were then led to the black cells. These rooms were the first cells new arrivals would know. Only about 2x3m square the pitch black rooms would often hold 10-20 prisoners, one might also be filled with water and have a crocodile introduced.
The interrogation cells would see regular instances of torture, rape or killings and prisoners would be held in these dark cells until they provided satisfactory information to their captors about “other” resistance supporters. This could be weeks or months.
If they lived through life in these cells they would be transferred out to the regular dormitory cell blocks around the compound.
After the dark cells we enter into the Garden of Reflection where students are often asked by lecturers to provide the answer to the question painted high on the wall by those who restored the site.
Within the compound is a lovely café surrounded by paintings of what freedom means to the artists and I’m sure, to the rest of us.
Many years ago I visited Dachau Concentration Camp site. This is Timor Leste’s equivalent and deserves the same recognition.
Part of the Coffee and Crocodiles travel blog
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