International Federation for East Timor
Observer Project

Media Alert:
More on Militia Attack on Student Group and Refugees in Same; Militias Continue to Run Free in Same

For Immediate Release: Monday 9 August 1999

For further information contact either:

East Timor field office (Dili)
Joseph Nevins, Randall Garrison, or Mark Harris
Tel. 62-390-321969 fax:62-390-321264

International coordinator (New York)
Charles Scheiner
Tel:1-914-428-7299 fax:1-914-428-7383

Press Liason (New York)
John Miller

Dili, East Timor -- IFET-OP has acquired further information regarding the militia attack on students and refugees in Same, East Timor at approximately 11:00am on August 6, 1999. Unless otherwise noted, all information below is based on eyewitness reports of IFET-OP volunteers.

Wielding knives and machetes, militia members chased the students and refugees from the compound of the local Catholic church to a school building serving as a UNAMET registration site. The group of 11 militia members who had participated in the attack walked back toward the center of town twenty minutes later. A group of 15 Indonesian police officers made no effort to arrest them.

At 3:00pm the same day, about 50 militia members marched single file around the town and past the church and the UNAMET site where the students and refugees were sheltering. Two policemen on motorcycles followed closely behind the march as escorts, each carrying one militia member on the motorcycle.

While the Indonesian police did protect the students and refugees overnight (August 6-7), militia members continued to patrol the town. For some time, the militia blocked the entrance to the public telephone facility (Wartel), preventing people from calling Dili to report the incident.

Indonesian police have not yet arrested any of perpetrators of the attack. According to eyewitnesses, one of the men who stabbed a refugee was walking around town the day following the assault. Reportedly, the identity of the man is well known to the authorities.

On Saturday, August 7, two IFET-OP members traveled to Same to meet with the local team. On the way, the vehicle had to pass through two militia checkpoints (13 and 11 kilometers north of Same). About a dozen militia members were at one post (11 kilometers), and six of them armed with knives approached the IFET-OP vehicle as it passed.


An East Timorese student group, Dewan Solidaritas Mahasiswa, attempted to open an office in the Same area on Thursday, August 5. The group of 50 students was unable to open the office due to militia threats. In response, about 30 students took refuge in a church, along with a number of refugees fleeing paramilitary violence.

The following day (Friday, August 6), a militia named ABLAI attacked the students and the refugees. One of the refugees, a man of approximately 50 years of age, was seriously injured. The man was severely cut on the wrist and shoulder by a machete and a knife. The militia also cut a female student with a knife.

The students fled towards the UNAMET voter registration site at a nearby Catholic school, accompanied by two Catholic nuns and five IFET-OP members.

Polri, the Indonesian police force, was witness to the attack. According to IFET-OP observers present, the police walked slowly toward the disturbance. However, the police did nothing to prevent or stop the attack.

The International Federation for East Timor Observer Project (IFET- OP) is composed of trained volunteers from a variety of countries throughout the world. IFET-OP opened its office in Dili on June 22, and now has 23 observers in East Timor, with dozens more due to arrive in the next few weeks. It now has teams in Same and Baucau. By mid-August, IFET-OP intends to have teams of observers in each of East Timor's 13 districts. IFET-OP is accredited by UNAMET as a non-partisan observer mission. As such, IFET-OP carefully monitors the human rights situation as it relates to the UNAMET-run consultation process, voter registration, political campaigning, and the actual vote. IFET-OP publishes and distributes reports, and will release a final one evaluating the entire consultation process.  

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