Subject: UCAN: Former militia leader admits killing two nuns, priest

UCAN: Former militia leader admits killing two nuns, priest


DILI, East Timor (UCAN) – A former pro-Indonesian militia chief admits killing a priest and two nuns, among others, in 1999 after East Timor voted for independence, but he blames the Indonesian government and military for the bloodshed.

The Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), set up by Indonesia and East Timor to promote reconciliation between the neighboring nations, held final hearings Sept. 26-27 in Dili to try to establish the truth about the killings.

The CTF was set up in August 2005 to investigate human rights violations by Indonesia and its armed forces during the occupation of East Timor, including the turbulent aftermath of the independence referendum on Aug. 30, 1999.

At the hearing on Sept. 26, Joni Marquez confessed that he had killed Canossian Sisters Herminia Cazzaniga and Celeste de Carvalho and a Catholic priest, as well as a Japanese journalist, in Lautem district, 250 kilometers (about 155 miles) east of Dili, on Sept. 25, 1999. After killing them, he and other members of the Alpha militia he headed threw the bodies into a lake, he revealed.

Marquez, now in his 40s, told the hearing that at the time of the killings, he was under the influence of a drug an Indonesian military officer gave him.

Marquez said he was told the drug would relieve a headache, but he lost his sense of judgment after taking it. "It was like killing animals. I did not see the sisters, the priest and the journalist as human beings," he testified.

Marquez also said he ordered his men to attack the convoy in which the victims traveled. He is now serving a 33-year jail sentence in independent East Timor (Timor Leste in Portuguese) for his role in the violence.

He admitted that his men and other militiamen killed eight people in separate attacks, and that women also were sexually assaulted. However, he blamed Indonesia for the bloodshed surrounding the independence vote.

He specifically accused Indonesia's then President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie and General Feisal Tanjung, the chief security minister, as most responsible for what happened. "All policies were made by the central government and the military chief in Jakarta," the former militia chief told the commission.

Meanwhile, on the streets outside the hearing, an estimated 500 protesters demanded justice for the people killed in the violence. Claiming the CTF has ignored the sentiments of those who lost family members, they called for the dissolution of the commission. The CTF is powerless to punish persons found responsible for abuses, and the United Nations has refused to support it.

After the hearing, Father Martinho Gusmao, director of the Justice and Peace Commission of Baucau diocese, told journalists that the Catholic Church rejects the CTF for failing to value the rights of victims, and the Church regards the CTF hearings as providing impunity to those who committed crimes.

He asserted that Indonesian military personnel did not tell the truth during commission hearings in Indonesia, and said: "All of the Indonesian generals blame everything on the militia. Well then, who formed and armed the militia? If none of the Indonesian military claimed involvement, this is a lie."

He insisted that those responsible be tried in court before any amnesty is given, and warned that the justice and peace commissions of Dili and Baucau dioceses would accept amnesty only if it also includes justice. Otherwise, Father Gusmao pledged, the Church will not collaborate with the CTF.

Cisto dos Santos, a relative of one victim of an Indonesia-formed militia, told UCA News on Sept. 26 he is disappointed with the CTF because he feels it has ignored the rights of victims but protected people who committed crimes.

The victims' families will collaborate with civil society, dos Santos said, to tell the government of Timor Leste and the world that they want justice. "There is no peace without justice!" he declared.

Marquez is one of just a few people tried in court for involvement in the violence surrounding the referendum, when hundreds died and great damage was inflicted on East Timor's infrastructure.

East Timor became independent on May 20, 2002, after more than two years of transitional rule by the United Nations. The former Portuguese colony had been under Indonesian control from 1975 to 1999.

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Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News), the world's largest Asian church news agency

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