Subject: The Age: Tragic Tale of a Timorese Life Stolen

The Age [Melbourne] Thursday 28 December 2000

Tragic tale of a Timorese life stolen


Somewhere in Indonesian West Timor, in a camp controlled by some of the most notorious militia thugs who fled East Timor after its people voted for independence in August, 1999, there is a 16-year-old girl called Juliana dos Santos.

She has just delivered a baby and may be pregnant again. United Nations human rights officials desperately want to hear from her. So do her frantic East Timorese parents.

These are the facts in one of the most horrifying accounts to emerge from the mayhem that followed East Timor's vote for independence last year: Juliana dos Santos is believed to have been kidnapped as a war prize by Igidio Mnanek, the deputy leader of the notorious Laksaur militia.

Juliana was one of several hundred people sheltering in the grounds of Ave Maria Roman Catholic church in Suai when it was attacked by Indonesian security forces and their Laksaur militia proxies in an unprovoked assault on September 6, 1999, that left as many as 200 people dead, including three priests.

Juliana's younger brother Carlos was among those killed. She may have witnessed his murder.

The Indonesian Government's human rights watchdog, Komnas HAM, in a report published on January 31, described what happened at the Suai church as indiscriminate killing, with the victims including men, women and children aged between five and 40.

In the chaos that followed the worst recorded atrocity after the UN-organised self-determination plebiscite in East Timor, Juliana was separated from her mother and taken to the district military headquarters.

It was there that the Laksaur militia deputy leader, Igidio Mnanek, seized the girl and proclaimed her as his "war prize". He had achieved earlier notoriety by stamping on the body of one of the priests murdered in the church.

Within days, Juliana was taken across the border, along with tens of thousands of other East Timorese, many of them against their will. She was next heard of at Raihanek refugee camp in Betun, West Timor.

Juliana's mother and her aunt were among the East Timorese herded like cattle across the border in September, 1999. Learning of her daughter's whereabouts, the distraught mother tried to arrange a meeting. But Mr Mnanek insisted on being present.

"Igidio Mnanek was there with four of his goons," said Galuh Wandita, a senior UN human rights official closely involved with the case. "Juliana didn't say anything but was in tears."

By April, Mrs dos Santos had returned to East Timor. She tried again for a meeting with Juliana at the Motaain border checkpoint but was not successful.

In June events took an ominous turn. In a letter received by the family, Juliana referred to Mnanek as "her husband" despite his acquisition of at least three wives.

"Obviously this is traumatic for her," Ms Wandita said. "She has borne him one child and may even be pregnant again. Perhaps she has forged a psychological dependency on Mnanek. She could also have written the letter under duress - we just don't know."

Fate has not been kind to the dos Santos family. They have lost all three children. The first son died young from illness, the second was murdered in the Suai church massacre and now their only daughter has been kidnapped, raped and is living as a wife of one of the leaders of a militia gang responsible for the killing of her brother.

The recent news is that Mr Mnanek has disappeared. He was last seen more than a month ago boarding a plane in West Timor, bound for Jakarta. He had been summoned for questioning by Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman in relation to war crimes in East Timor - a move opposed by the Indonesian military. Fears are held for Juliana's safety, as she knows so much.

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