Global Policy Forum

Ex-Timor Militia Leader Guterres Jailed


Australian Associated Press
May 4, 2006

Former pro-Jakarta East Timor militia leader Eurico Guterres, convicted of gross human rights violations in 1999, was picked up in Indonesia's West Timor to serve a 10-year jail term in Jakarta. Prosecutor Carlos de Fatima took Guterres away from a relative's home in the town of Kupang, following a March 13 ruling by the Jakarta-based Supreme Court to send him to prison. Guterres will be brought to the Cipinang Penitentiary in Jakarta to serve his term.

Before being picked up, a Catholic mass and a traditional farewell for the former Aitarak militia group leader were held amid tears from his supporters and relatives. Kissing his tearful mother, Guterres said the government has treated him "unfairly and discriminatorily for only sending me to jail and letting military and police officers, who have greater responsibility than I do, go free from punishment."

"But as a warrior, I'm ready to be sent to jail for fighting for the red and white," he told reporters, referring to Indonesia's national flag. So please let me go because I'm sure that one day, the truth will be revealed."

Last month, the Supreme Court overturned an August 2004 ruling by the Ad Hoc Human Rights Appeal Tribunal that had halved the prison term for Guterres. It restored the original 10-year term set by the Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal, saying mitigation of the sentence did not reflect justice.

The Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal, set up to try those who allegedly committed crimes against humanity before, during and after East Timor's bloody vote for independence, had handed down the 10-year sentence to Guterres in November 2002, but he had been free since then on appeal.

The tribunal found that Guterres failed to control his men on April 17, 1999, when they attacked 136 pro-independence refugees taking shelter at the residence of pro-independence leader Manuel Viegas Carrascalao, killing 12 people, including Carrascalao's son. Guterres' men also attacked and damaged the residence of Leandro Isaac, another pro-independence leader, later the same day.

Militia groups, allegedly armed and supported by the Indonesian military, in April 1999 began escalating their acts of violence and intimidation against pro-independence East Timorese in the run-up to the UN-organized referendum on independence held on August 30 that year. Soon after the results of the vote were announced September 4 that year, the militia groups launched a campaign of violence and destruction across East Timor, which was a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years before being invaded by Indonesia in 1975. Hundreds of people were killed, hundred thousands more forcibly displaced and 70 per cent of buildings and houses were destroyed.

The tiny half-island became fully independent on May 2002 after more than 24 years under Indonesian occupation and two-and-a-half years under UN transitional administration. Indonesia, under pressure from the international community, implicated 18 individuals, mostly military and police officers, in the 1999 violence, but acquitted all of them, except Guterres.

A report delivered by East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao to the United Nations in January reportedly states that more than 102,800 people were killed or disappeared during Indonesia's 24-year occupation.

The 2,500-page report, compiled by the UN-sponsored Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, said many were subjected to human rights violations, including torture, starvation, sexual violence and napalm attacks.

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