October 20, 2008
AUSTRALIAN forensic experts are in East Timor to help solve one of the enduring mysteries of the Indonesian occupation — the location of mass graves from the 1991 Dili cemetery massacre.
Forensic anthropologists from Victoria and Argentina have gone to the country to look for the graves of those killed in the 1991 massacre, believed to have numbered between 100 and 400.
The Indonesian military opened fire on pro-independence supporters during a peaceful demonstration in Dili in 1991.
Footage captured by a foreign filmmaker brought the suffering of the East Timorese to the eyes of the world.
The footage marked a turning point in East Timor's struggle for independence. East Timor voted for independence in a 1999 referendum and was declared independent in 2002.
But Indonesia has never revealed where the cemetery victims were buried.
The only known grave, where 19 massacre victims lie, is in the hills surrounding the capital Dili, and members of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine are preparing to excavate another site close by in the hope of finding more remains.
Victorian forensic anthropologist Soren Blau said: "We are using very simple archaeological techniques to look at the changes in stratigraphy (of the sites)."
Dr Blau said part of the process was to interview survivors and witnesses to glean clues about the number and locations of buried bodies.