23 July 2021 – In Indonesia, thousands of children from Timor-Leste (now already adults) are still separated from their families for decades due to being taken by force during the East Timor conflict in 1975-1999. Parents in Timor-Leste are still searching for their children in Indonesia. This incident is recorded in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR) Timor-Leste and the Truth and Friendship Commission (KKP) between the governments of Indonesia and Timor-Leste.
In 2005, both governments formed the Truth and Friendship Commission with the mandate to search for conclusive truth about human rights abuses that happened before and during the 1999 referendum in Timor-Leste. The commission finished the mandate in 2008 and submitted their report to the two governments. 13 years later, there are still many recommendations from the report that haven’t been implemented by both governments, one of them being to form a Missing Persons Commission with the mandate to reunite separated children with their families. There is no reason for the Indonesian government to delay this, given that the UN Human Rights Council through the Committee on Civil and Political Rights in 2020 inquired about the progress of the KKP recommendations to reunite the stolen children from 1975-1999.
Since 2013, AJAR together with civil rights groups in Indonesia and Timor-Leste under the Kelompok Kerja Labarik Lakon work to reunite the stolen children across Indonesia. Up to 2019, Kelompok Kerja managed to identify 160 people and reunite 80 stolen children with their families. This event became a good beginning for the search and reunification of thousands of stolen children.
Spread across all of Indonesia, the search and information gathering process is often easier to obtain from social media. Many East-Timorese families are active in spreading information about their stolen relatives. Some of them have been reunited through Facebook. AJAR then recognised that these circumstances are essential to be taken into account in the search strategy for the stolen children that will continue. Therefore, to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the Indonesia-Timor-Leste Truth and Friendship Commission and International Children’s Day, AJAR hosted a discussion on the importance of digital media in the search and reunification of stolen children as well as digital campaigns for increasing public awareness regarding the stolen children issue.
Watch the full discussion below!