Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: SCU Indicts 16 for Suai Massacre and other crimes

Office of the Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes East Timor



The Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes filed a major crimes against humanity indictment with the Special Panel for Serious Crimes at Dili District Court in East Timor at 1400 on 8 April 2003.

The single indictment charges a total of 16 persons including 8 Indonesian Military (TNI) District and Sub-District Commanders, the former Indonesian District Civilian Administrator (also a TNI Officer), the former Indonesian District Chief of Police and 6 East Timorese TNI soldiers with crimes against humanity. The accused persons are charged with 31 counts of crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, enforced disappearance, torture, deportation and persecution committed against the civilian population of Covalima district between 27 January 1999 and 25 October 1999.

The following Covalima District Commanders and Officials are amongst those charged:

  • Colonel Herman Sedyono (former Covalima District Administrator and TNI officer)
  • Lt. Colonel Achmad Mas Agus (former Covalima District TNI Commander: pre-1999- 4 Sept 1999, 7 Sept- 25 Oct 1999)
  • Lt. Colonel Lilik Koeshardianto (former Covalima District TNI Commander: 4 - 7 September 1999)
  • Lt. Colonel (Police) Gatot Subiaktoro (former Covalima District Chief of Police)
  • Lt. Achmad Syamsuddin (former Covalima District TNI Chief of Staff)
  • Lt. Sugito (former Suai Sub-District TNI Commander)

The indictment includes the Suai Church massacre, which occurred on 6 September 1999. Between January 1999 and September 1999, hundreds of civilians had sought refuge at the Ave Maria Church in Suai in fear of the campaign of terror and violence by TNI soldiers, Police and militia. On 6 September 1999, TNI soldiers, Police officers and militia attacked unarmed civilians inside the Suai Church compound after militia had gathered at the Covalima TNI base.

An unknown number of people were killed in the attack including 3 priests, namely Father Hilario Mendonca, Father Dewanto and Father Francisco, women and children. Many others were injured in the attack. The bodies of the victims were taken to West Timor where they were disposed off by TNI soldiers, Police officers and militia. In November 1999, bodies of 31 victims of the attack, including the three Priests, were recovered from West Timor and returned to East Timor.

It is alleged that the former District Administrator -Colonel Sedyono met with militia commanders at his house before the attack and himself participated in the attack dressed in TNI uniform and armed with a rifle. The indictment alleges that Lt. Colonel Kushardianto and Lt. Colonel (Police) Gatot Subiaktoro, Lt. Sugito and Captain Achmad Syamsuddin were present and also participated in the attack on the church. The indictment charges those men and other TNI members with Crimes against Humanity (extermination) as individuals or superiors for the extermination of an unknown number of victims in the attack at Ave Maria Church on 6 September 1999.

The indictment alleges that in the months before the popular consultation, Colonel Sedyono (the former Covalima District Administrator) and Lt. Colonel Agus (the Covalima district TNI commander) assisted in the establishment, funding and support of the Laksaur militia. Further, Sedyono in his position as the District Administrator allegedly diverted funds from the social and development budget to fund the FPDK Pro-autonomy political group and make payments to over 500 militia members. It is alleged that the Covalima TNI Commander provided arms from the Covalima District TNI base to militia commanders which were then distributed to militia members.

In the widespread or systematic attack on the civilian population of Covalima district, the indictment documents over 35 incidents of torture, 4 cases of enforced disappearance and 10 cases of murder occurring between 27 January and 27 August 1999. It is alleged that the crimes were carried out by TNI soldiers and militia members operating together and, in some cases, using TNI facilities to detain civilians and carry out acts of torture.

In the period following the popular consultation, the indictment documents 36 incidents of murder allegedly perpetrated by TNI solders and militia members. The incidents include the Laktos massacre on 12 September 1999 when 14 villagers were shot dead by TNI solders and militia members.

The indictment further charges Colonel Sedyono (the former District Administrator) and Lt.Colonel Koeshardianto (the former TNI Commander) and other TNI Commanders and soldiers with crimes against humanity (deportation) for the forced transfer of thousands of civilians from Covalima district to West Timor following the results of the popular consultation on 4 September 1999.

All of the accused in this indictment are believed to be in the Republic of Indonesia. Arrest Warrants will be requested from Dili District Court which when received will be forwarded to the Attorney General of the Republic of Indonesia. The arrest warrants will also be forwarded to Interpol as Timor Leste joined the Interpol organisation in 2002.

The Covalima indictment is the second major SCU indictment to cover events in Covalima District. The first major Covalima indictment was filed at the Special Panel for Serious Crimes on 28 February 2003. In the first indictment 14 East Timorese Laksaur militia members including Egidio Manek, the Deputy Commander of the Laksaur militia based in Covalima District and four Sub-district Laksaur Militia Commanders were charged with crimes against humanity for murder, extermination, rape, torture and other crimes.

The Serious Crimes Unit has now filed 59 indictments at the Special Panel for Serious Crimes charging a total of 243 persons. Until now, more than 30 defendants have been convicted in trials at the Special Panel for Serious Crimes in Dili District Court.

see also SCU April updates

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