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Maternus Bere indicted for Crimes Against Humanity in Suai Church Massacre and other Laksaur Militia activities

Arrested by PNTL, then released to Indonesia by Timor-Leste political leaders

Articles from media and elsewhere in English

6 December 2009

Click here for information about Bere's arrest and release, and the reaction to it.  Also Tetum

Click here for articles in Timor-Leste's local media.  Liga iha ne'e ba artigu ruma iha media lokal iha Tetum, Loron 1-20 fulan Setembru.

Click here for articles in Timor-Leste's local media.  Liga iha ne'e ba artigu ruma iha media lokal iha Tetum, Loron 21 fulan Setembru no tuir mai.

Below are the text of a sampling of English-language articles about the Bere case from the international media, in approximately chronological order. Most headlines below link to the original article on the internet. Embedded links added by La'o Hamutuk.

Skip below directly to September  5   10   15   20    October 1   10    20   30

Rift looms as Dili mourns dead

The Age, August 30, 2009, By Lindsay Murdoch, Dili

EAST Timor is under pressure to release an Indonesian citizen accused of leading one of the country's worst massacres, as hundreds of East Timorese attended a ceremony yesterday remembering those who died in the fight for independence.

The arrest of former militia leader Martenus Bere, an Indonesian provincial government official, has created a diplomatic headache for East Timor ahead of events today marking the 10th anniversary of the country's vote for independence.

Indonesian authorities are demanding the release of Bere, who allegedly led an attack on a church in the town of Suai in September 1999, in which three priests and dozens of people were killed.

Bere, a former commander of Laksuar, one of the most violent of militia groups behind a pro-Indonesian reign of terror in 1999, was arrested after he crossed into East Timor two weeks ago to attend a funeral ceremony for his father and pray at the same church where the killings took place.

Locals reportedly beat him severely before police intervened to save him.

Bere, who was indicted by a UN Serious Crimes Unit in 2003, would be the first Indonesian citizen to face a court in East Timor over the 1999 bloodshed that left 1500 people dead before and after the territory voted for independence. The case has the potential to cause a diplomatic rift between East Timor and its giant neighbour.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda is scheduled to attend anniversary ceremonies in Dili today.

Officials in West Timor cancelled a planned ministerial-level delegation from East Timor last week to protest against the arrest of Bere, who has been brought to a jail in Dili.

Jose Teixeira, spokesman for the Fretilin opposition party, said the government must not be influenced in by diplomatic pressure from Indonesia. "If Bere is allowed to return to Indonesia without facing trial, this would sound a death knell for justice in this country," he said.

The remains of 24 of those who died fighting for independence were buried at a ''heroes' cemetery'' at Metinaro near Dili yesterday. Family members wailed and hugged photographs of loved ones as the remains joined the graves of more than 400 other victims. Many of the bereaved said they wanted compensation from the Government and the perpetrators brought to justice.

Aquelinho Soares, whose uncle was killed fighting Indonesian soldiers in the 1980s, said most East Timorese believed "the actors behind these crimes must be held accountable".

President Jose Ramos-Horta told the gathering the Government would not give up the search for the remains of other victims.

More than 100,000 Timorese were killed or disappeared between 1974 and 1999.

But Mr Ramos-Horta made no mention of justice for the crimes.

Earlier, he dismissed calls for East Timor to support an international tribunal to put the accused on trial.

"If you went around with me, random around the country as I've done …¦ meeting barefoot people all over the country - thousands of them, not one - not one raised the issues of 1999, not one talked about putting Indonesia on trial," he said.

Mr Ramos-Horta said the Indonesians would, in their own time, put those responsible for crimes in East Timor and elsewhere on trial. He said only a small number of human rights activists were calling for an international trial.

"And unlike many of them - these so-called international human rights groups and Timorese activists - I lost almost half of my brothers and sisters, and even myself was almost killed," he said.

"So I know what being a victim is. I know what is the pain of a mother who lost her children."

Governor-General Quentin Bryce will represent Australia at today's ceremonies in Dili, where Mr Ramos-Horta will present a medal to retired major-general Peter Cosgrove, who led Australian forces into East Timor in 1999 to quell violence.

East Timor defends militia suspect's deportation

Radio Australia News, 1 September 2009

East Timor's Foreign Minister, Zacarias da Costa, has defended a decision to allow an Indonesian man accused of involvement in a massacre in 1999 to leave Dili's prison.

Martenus Bere was recently arrested in East Timor and is accused of being a militia commander and of involvement in the Suai church massacre.

He was moved from Dili's prison to the Indonesian embassy on Sunday, as East Timor celebrated 10 years since its independence referendum.

Mr da Costa says Indonesia expects that Martenus Bere will be deported to Indonesia.

He said :"If we have a citizen in the same situation in Indonesia, I will immediately react and try to follow the situation and see how best we can support have him back to Timor Leste and be subjected to our own laws."

Bere's deportation imminent

September 2nd, 2009 by The Lost Boy

Former militia leader Martenus Bere is staying at the Indonesian Embassy in Dili awaiting his impending deportation back to Indonesia.

Today I spoke to Victor Sambuaga, an embassy official, and he confirmed that Bere will almost certainly be on his way home soon.

"We would like to transfer him as soon as possible, but we are waiting for the process of deportation," he said

Bere was released on Sunday morning, hours before thousands gathered in Dili to celebrate a decade since the people of Timor-Leste voted 78.5% in favour of independence, ending a vicious 24-year occupation by the Indonesian military, Sambuaga confirmed.

It remains unclear how long it will be before Bere is deported, said Sambuaga, adding that it is the embassy's obligation to protect an Indonesian citizen.

Bere was one of 14 people indicted in 2003 by the Special Panel for Serious Crimes for "crimes against humanity of murder extermination, enforced disappearance, torture, inhumane acts, rape, deportation and persecution", according to the original indictment document.

He stands accused of co-leading the Laksaur militia group in an attack on a church in Suai, Covalima district, on September 6, 1999, when up to 200 people were killed and many more were injured.

The former militia commander was last month apprehended in Timor-Leste while visiting family near the border with Indonesian West Timor.

He was transferred to a watchhouse in Dili and then moved to Becora prison before the Indonesian government through its embassy in Dili approached the government of Timor-Leste to request his release, said Sambuaga.

Sambuaga dismissed reports Bere had been mistreated in Becora prison and said he was physically and mentally fine.

Zacarias da Costa, Timor-Leste's foreign minister, told Radio Australia, "If we have a citizen in the same situation in Indonesia, I will immediately react and try to follow the situation and see how best we can support have him back to Timor Leste and be subjected to our own laws."

The United Nations earlier this week condemned Bere's release. "The UN's firm position is that there can be no amnesty or impunity for serious crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide," said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokeswoman Marie Okabe in a statement.

There's now a Facebook group called Dont Let Maternus Bere Escape Justice.

It looks very unlikely that anything can or will be done to keep Bere in Timor-Leste. I was told on Sunday that the order to release Bere was given orally from Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão and Minister of Justice Lucia Lobato, the only people who would have been able to green-light such a thing.

I also heard that some members of parliament yesterday tried to shift the blame to President Jose Ramos-Horta.

It looks as if the government of Timor-Leste has buckled under pressure from the Indonesian government to release Bere, while the United Nations and the international community have been vocal about the need for justice in Timor-Leste.

Massacre suspect's release draws warning from UN

The Sydney Morning Herald, September 7, 2009 by Lindsay Murdoch

THE United Nations's top human rights official says East Timor's release of an Indonesian accused of crimes against humanity violates the country's own constitution as well as UN Security Council resolutions rejecting impunity for genocide.

Joining growing condemnation of East Timor's leaders, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, said the release of Martenus Bere was ''extremely regrettable and has grave consequences'' for the prospects of accountability over bloodshed that left up to 1500 people dead following East Timor's vote to break away from Indonesia in 1999.

Ms Pillay has asked the East Timorese President, Jose Ramos-Horta, for more information on the release of Mr Bere, the former commander of a brutal pro-Indonesia militia who led an attack on a church during which about 200 people were killed.

''I appreciate your Government's desire to develop healthy relations with Indonesia and welcome the progress that has been made in that regard,'' Dr Pillay said in a letter written in Geneva.

''However, I trust that you will appreciate that your Government should not avoid its international obligations in the name of bilateral co-operation.''

Mr Bere, a government official in Indonesian West Timor, was arrested by police when he returned to East Timor for his father's funeral three weeks ago.

Detained on charges laid by the UN's serious crimes unit in Dili in 2003, he was secretly released from a Dili jail on August 30, the 10th anniversary of East Timor's independence vote, and handed over to Indonesian officials, who took him to the Indonesian embassy in Dili, where arrangements are being made to return him to West Timor.

As the release was taking place, Mr Ramos-Horta was making a speech declaring that his people must bury the past and not pursue the accused killers of hundreds of East Timorese, most of whom live in Indonesia.

Mr Ramos-Horta called for the disbanding of the serious crimes unit in Dili.

He claimed in interviews marking the anniversary of the independence vote that East Timorese did not want to see killers brought to justice.

But activists in Dili dispute that claim, pointing to an Asia Foundation survey of 1220 people across the nation last year in which 90 per cent of those asked said that murderers should not avoid punishment or paying compensation to victims.

Mr Bere's release has provoked deep emotions because the massacre, in the town of Suai, was the most brutal instance of the violence that erupted when East Timorese voted to break away from Indonesia.

Kirsty Sword-Gusmão, the wife of the East Timorese Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmão, who ordered Mr Bere's release, named her Alola Foundation, dedicated to helping the women and children of East Timor, after a 15-year-old girl who was abducted during the massacre.

Juliana dos Santos, known by the nickname Alola, was grabbed by Igidio Manek, a commander of the militia group, who declared her his ''trophy wife''.

Mrs Sword-Gusmão has campaigned for the release of Juliana, who was taken to West Timor and has given birth to four of Mr Manek's children while living with three of his wives. Juliana continues to live in West Timor.

Ten years on, no justice for ETimor's Suai massacre victims

SUAI, AFP, 6 Sept. 2009 — Hundreds of people lit candles and held prayers in East Timor on Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of one of the worst massacres in the country's history.

Sitting stoically outside an incomplete church in the southern East Timor city of Suai, where up to 200 civilians including priests were killed on September 6, 1999, Manuel Soares prayed silently for his dead son and kidnapped daughter Juliana dos Santos, or affectionately known as Alola.

Indonesian military group Laksaur vice-commander Egidio Manek had "taken" her away as a war trophy and forced her to marry him in neighbouring West Timor, he said.

"Every month, I send her some clothing for the three children she now has," he added.

East Timor's First Lady Kirsty Sword Gusmão had named her non-profit organisation Alola Foundation in her honour.

"The people who suffered in 1999, those families won't even come to the church," Soares said.

"For the victims, everything is ruined and broken. I came here today to get away from the feeling."

The Indonesian Army and paramilitaries went on the rampage after the 1999 referendum, killing around 1,400 people and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to other parts of Indonesia.

Australian-led United Nations peacekeepers restored order, ending an occupation that is estimated to have claimed around 100,000 lives through fighting, disease and starvation.

Soares said all he wanted was to see the perpetrators be tried for the human rights violations that happened between 1975 and 1999, but his patience was wearing thin.

"We want justice, but it never happens. They release all the criminals and all the people who were involved in the killings," he said.

The United Nations last Tuesday had condemned the release of Indonesian former militia leader Martenus Bere, who was detained in East Timor on August 8, five years after being indicted for his role in the 1999 Suai Church massacre.

East Timor's government has refused to confirm Bere's release but the Indonesian foreign ministry had said the man had already been moved from detention to Indonesia's embassy in Dili.

"If the government or the UN dared enough, they could go and arrest the militias," Soares said angrily.

"They are all liars. They just talk and make promises. All the organizations who claim they help victims, they are just talking and talking," he added.

The Silent Voices Longing for Justice
Is there a justice for the people…?

By Sarmento Wargas from Lautem, Los Palos, 7 September 2009.

SUAI: After ten years of independence, a celebration is held in memory of all victims of the 'Black September' massacre in Suai church where hundreds of people died, nothing significant is achieved by any family members in the District.

Suai is located in the southern part of Timor Leste, and it takes about eight hours to get there from Dili, the capital of Timor Leste. Besides the mountains and rivers along the way, there are a lot of panoramic views that will make you feel better after that long trip from Dili.

Surrounded by hills and rivers, right in middle of the Suai town, an unfinished church was once the witness of a cold blooded massacre that killed more than 200 people on September 6th, 1999. The attack happened in about nine o’clock in the morning. The military backed militias started shooting at the church where many people hid from the brutality of the militias around the town. Along with the victims, three priests were also murdered in the church.

After ten years, families of the victims remain silent and they keep their feeling of hatred and upset in their mind. Government, international and national NGOs have been visiting the place, making a lot of promises but none of them is actually done.

Manuel Soares “Babalai”, father of a murdered son and a kidnapped daughter told us that he doesn’t trust the government or any other organizations who are trying to provide helps. His daughter ALOLA is now in West Timor and her name has been used as the name of a famous organization based in Dili, The ALOLA FOUNDATION which is led by Kristy Sword Gusmão, wife of the recent Prime Minister Mr. Xanana Gusmão.

“They use our names to get money, but no one cares about what happen to us. They said that they are going to build our houses but as you can see there is nothing here. They only promise and promise but they do nothing” Manuel said.

After this long time, they are still expecting that all the militias would be brought to justice but until now most of them are still free like animals at large and cannot be caught. They also insist the government to strengthen law and justice in the country. According to Manuel, the law in Timor Leste is only created for the poor people and not for the betrayers.

"A few weeks ago, police had made an arrest to a former militia leader his name is Marternus Berek, but why do they let him free again? If we make a mistake police will come and arrest us and we will imprisoned, but what happens to them? They are the killers," said Babalai.

Prime minister defends government pardon of brutal militia leader

By Sahil Nagpal, DPA (German Press Agency), September 8, 2009

Covalima, East Timor - East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão on Tuesday visited victims of a 1999 massacre to explain the government's decision to free a militia leader involved in the carnage that left about 400 dead.

Gusmão visited Covalima, 170 kilometres south of Dili, to justify the state's decision to release former deputy militia leader Maternus Bere on the 10th anniversary of the Covalima September Massacre.

"The state position is, we have to give our respect to the victims by creating a culture of tolerance and living in peace," Gusmão told relatives of those who died in the brutal attack. "The decision was based on the interests of all people."

Maternus Bere, vice commander of the pro-Indonesian Laksaur militia, has been serving a prison term after being found guilty of homicide, committing sexual violence and torture in the church of Nossa Senhora de Fatima Suai-Covalima on September 6, 1999, one of the worst atrocities in East Timor's bloody struggle for independence from Indonesia.

The government last week decided to free the former militia leader.

The decision has irked victims and relatives, and is raising questions about East Timor's judicial system.

"I don't want to talk about the concrete case of a militia leader but I just want to say that, we are all preoccupied with the legality of Timorese justice," Prosecutor General Ana Pesoa said.

The pardon has also drawn criticism from the head of the opposition Fretilin party, Aniceto Guterres. "We condemn government policy and interference into judicial system. Tens of thousands of victims are waiting for justice and the government must not ignore victims suffering," he said.

In August 1999, 78.5 per cent of the population voted in favour of splitting from Indonesia in a referendum. Indonesia had invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

The occupation caused around at least 100,000 deaths among the 1.1 million East Timorese, caused by killings, diseases and starvation a UN-established truth commission found.

In the referendum's aftermath, Indonesian soldiers and pro-Jakarta militias killed about 1,400 people and injured and maimed many more.

United Nations peace troops, led by Australia, restored order and East Timor became formally independent in 2002.

Gusmão attends massacre memorial

By Jill Jolliffe, Australian Associated Press, September 8, 2009

East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão has confounded critics of his freeing of indicted war criminal Maternus Bere by attending a memorial Mass for Bere's victims.

The country's two Catholic bishops presided at the Mass in the south coast city of Suai on Tuesday, which was attended by an impressive line-up of Gusmao's cabinet, along with several thousand Suai residents.

The prime minister later laid a cross on a monument to three priests who were hacked to death by members of Bere's Laksaur militia unit, run covertly by the Indonesian army.

In February 2003, Bere was indicted by the UN's Serious Crimes Unit on 51 counts of crimes against humanity for murders, enforced disappearances, rapes and torture.

An Interpol warrant is current for his arrest.

After enjoying sanctuary in Indonesian Timor for six years, he was arrested by East Timorese police on August 8 after slipping into Suai to visit relatives.

The controversy began during East Timor's celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the UN-supervised referendum for independence in which voters rejected Indonesia by an overwhelming 78 per cent.

Informed sources said that early on August 30, Indonesian foreign minister Hasan Wirayuda, an invited guest, phoned President Jose Ramos Horta to say he would not come unless Bere was freed into his custody during the visit.

Ramos Horta then contacted Gusmão to effect the release, and the prime minister ordered Dili's prison governor to free him after other officials refused to do so without a judge's order.

Wirayuda flew in to Dili in his private plane to attend the independence celebrations, with Bere being delivered to Dili's Indonesian embassy.

However, it is not clear whether Bere was taken back to Indonesia or is still holed up in the building.

Gusmão travelled to Suai two days before the memorial service, convincing the church to postpone it from September 6, the real anniversary of the day when 200 people were slaughtered at Suai cathedral, to allow him time to explain himself to victims' families.

The apparent result was the absence of any reference to the Bere affair by either church speakers or the prime minister during Tuesday's Mass.

Julio Alves Amaral, 49, a family member, said he was saddened to learn of Bere's release and "a bit angry, but anger doesn't get us anywhere".

His 11-year-old nephew Carlos Soares was killed at Suai cathedral, his body never found, and his daughter Juliana dos Santos (Alola) is the teenage girl kidnapped by a Laksaur commander whose cause has been championed by the prime minister's wife Kirsty Sword.

"I don't agree with Bere's release, but what can we do? The common people can't say anything," he said.

He said the prime minister had told families that Bere was back in Indonesia.

The affair has angered the UN, with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay reminding Ramos Horta that Bere's release violated key UN Security Council resolutions as well as his own country's laws.

"I appreciate your government's desire to develop healthy relations with Indonesia," she said. "However, I trust that you will appreciate that your government should not avoid its international obligations in the name of bilateral cooperation."

Suai Commemorates Massacre, no Justice Achieved

By Sarmento Wargas from Lautem, Los Palos, 8 September 2009

Suai – The 10th Celebration of the ‘Black September’ Massacre in Suai is attended by approximately 1000 people including prime minister of Timor Leste, government members, parliament members, ambassadors and some other internationals, on Tuesday morning (8/9/09).

Francisco da Costa, a survivor of the massacre ten years ago who saw the killing of the three priests and other civilians, is also in attendance. He said that as a victim and family of the victims, he is happy because the ceremony is successfully done, but also unsatisfied because he couldn’t hear anything important about justice from the leaders during the ceremony.

Justice has been the main concern of the people in Suai. They have been pursuing the justice for all the victims’ families, but everything seems to have no hint.

“We will always fight for justice. Back in the days we said, Death or Alive, Independence. But now we say death or alive, we will struggle for justice,” Francisco said.

The decision to release Marternus Bere, former commander of Indonesian army-backed Laksaur militia, by the ministry of justice upon the order of the prime minister is believed to be due to pressure placed on the Timorese leaders by the Indonesian government, according to the press release of the National Union Party on Monday (7/9/09).

“You also know, for me, this is a tough decision to make but just because of my concern about the future of the nation, the future of its people, I think that the decision has to be made,” said Lucia Lobato, Minister of Justice.

The decision has become a hot topic for many people in the country. Arsenio Bano, a parliament member from the opposition party said, “It looks like there is no rule of law, there is no respect for the victims and respect for the constitution of this country.”

Timor parliament stops president's travel plans

ABC Radio Australia, September 9, 2009

Members of parliament in East Timor have voted against a request from the president Jose Ramos Horta to travel to the United States - to attend the United Nations general assembly - and then Europe. The East Timorese parliament is required to approve foreign trips by high officials. It's thought the result from this parliamentary vote was a show of opposition to Jose Ramos Horta's stance on certain questions of human rights, including the recent release to Indonesian authorities of Martenus Bere, who is accused of abuses in 1999.

Presenter: Zulfikar Abbany Speaker: Charlie Scheiner, East Timor Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis, La'o Hamutuk

SCHEINER: The real issue is that a week ago, on Sunday August 30th as people here were celebrating the 10th anniversary of the referendum for independence, the president and the prime minister, but I think at the president's initiative, arranged for an indicted criminal, a man who has been accused of crimes against humanity, including involvement in the massacre at Suai church which killed more than 30 people and three priests ten years ago last Saturday.

ABBANY: That's Martenus Bere, isn't it?

SCHEINER: Martenus Bere had been arrested by Timor Leste police when he came across the border from Indonesia in the beginning of August, yes, a few days after he came across the border. But because people in Suai recognised him, and they knew that he was responsible for murdering many people in Suai ten years ago. He had been indicted actually in 2003 by the serious crimes unit and there had been a warrant out for his arrest. But along with about 300 other people who were indicted for crimes against humanity and other very serious crimes, he had been protected by the Indonesian Government and was living very publicly in West Timor and when he came across the border, he was arrested. President Ramos Horta for whatever reason decided to violate Timor Leste's Constitution and rule of law and arrange to have him sprung from prison and turned over to the Indonesian ambassador here.

ABBANY: And some people have said that this has come directly through pressure from Indonesia, from Jakarta, is that correct do you think?

SCHEINER: Well, what I've heard, and of course I am not privy to these kinds of diplomatic communications, is that the foreign minister of Indonesia said he would not come to the party for the referendum if Bere was not released. I am not quite sure why it matters if the foreign minister comes to the party or not. But what I hear from many Timorese people, not of course from the president, is that, why did we lose 183,000 lives? Why did we fight for 24 years to be an independent country if our president and our leaders are just going to ignore our law and our constitution and do whatever Indonesia asks?

ABBANY: This is what Ramos Horta said himself, he wants action to take place, for East Timor to become a better country. Why did so many people fight for freedom if nothing has been done about the state of the country, whether it is human rights or corruption. So is he backtracking on his own words?

SCHEINER: Well, he's the president. I mean am not sure what releasing an indicted war criminal does in terms of improving the state of people's lives in the country. Ramos Horta claims or he says he's also a victim, because one of his sisters and two of his brothers were killed by Indonesian troops, which is true. He was not living here at the time, but of course neither was I, so I am not one to judge him for that. But I think he has a capacity for compassion, maybe as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, that most people don't have here and people that lived through 24 years of suffering and almost every family had family killed or tortured or raped. They are not as able to forgive as the president and there is a feeling among many people, especially in Suai, where Martenus Bere was active and where I think the prime minister went today to try to explain things, that there needs to be justice and accountability not just for crimes committed during the Indonesian occupation, but for crimes that still go on today. Until the law is applied to powerful people and political people and people with connections to the Indonesian military, this is not going to be a democratic, peaceful ,stable country. The president does not agree with that, and I think parliament was showing him that they are more in line with the people than they are with the president.

ABBANY: But this could be seen as just another act of the Opposition using whatever opportunity it can find to unsettle the government or do you think this perhaps could actually cross borders and harm Jose Ramos Horta's reputation internationally even?

SCHEINER: Well, I think he harmed his reputation when he interfered with the judicial system here. But in terms of the Opposition, the Opposition Party Fretilin does not have a majority of votes in parliament, so there must have been at least some members of the government's party's that joined in its vote to deny him permission to travel. But I think this is political debate and it's healthy that there is a political discussion using peaceful means and means of dialogue to try to resolve these kinds of differences. It's not the way it was done ten years ago.

ETimor militia leader's release a 'political decision': minister

Sept 8 (AFP) -- The release of an Indonesian former militia leader accused of taking part in a massacre of civilians in East Timor in 1999 was a "political decision", Justice Minister Lucia Lobato said Tuesday.

"It is a political decision that must be taken by the government to resolve this issue because it is related to our country's problems," she said without giving details.

East Timor's government had previously refused to confirm Martenus Bere's release but Indonesian embassy officials in Dili said the former militia leader had been in their custody since the end of August.

Bere was detained in East Timor on August 8, five years after being indicted for his role in the 1999 Suai church massacre in which up to 200 people were killed.

"As we all know, Martenus Bere has been given to Indonesia and we ask Indonesia to process him according to their court and justice system," Lobato told reporters after a church ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the massacre in Suai city in southern East Timor.

"It's the decision of the state and everyone has to obey the decision, although we realise that people sometimes might not agree or accept," she said.

The Indonesian army and paramilitaries went on the rampage after East Timor voted for independence in a UN-backed referendum in 1999, killing around 1,400 people and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to other parts of Indonesia.

East Timor's leadership has been criticised for opposing prosecution of those responsible for abuses during Indonesia's bloody 1975-1999 occupation which killed around 100,000 people.

Lawmakers Tuesday protested at Bere's release by refusing to approve President Jose Ramos-Horta's work trips to New York, Denmark and Germany, opposition Fretilin party spokesman Jose Teixeira said.

Fretilin lawmaker Arsenio Bano said the East Timorese demanded justice for gross human rights abuses committed during the Indonesian occupation.

"This country needs a referendum to ask us directly, the people of East Timor, the victims and the people of Suai, what they want with justice," he told AFP after the ceremony.

"It looks like there is no rule of law, there is no respect for victims and respect for the constitution of this country," he added.

Ramos-Horta says restoring good relations with Indonesia is more important than "prosecutorial justice".

Maternus Bere page on Facebook
In The Shadows Of East Timor's Independence Celebrations

By Charles Scheiner, New Matilda, 9 September 2009  [Adapted from a page on this web site.]

Articles in the Indonesian media

http://beritasore.com/2009/08/31/maternus-bere-dikembalikan-ke-pihak-indonesia/
http://www.timorexpress.com/index.php?act=news&nid=3582

East Timor president threatens to resign

Dili, DPA, 9 Sep 2009 - East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta on Wednesday threatened to resign if the parliament continued to show him disrespect as head of state. On Tuesday, parliament voted 18 to 16 with three abstentions, against his planned visit to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly - to protest a recent government decision to release a militia leader accused of human rights crimes.

But on Wednesday, the parliament reversed its decision, voting 31 to one [actually 10], with five abstentions, in favour of the trip, after the president threatened to resign over the matter.

"I am pleased that parliament today reversed their vote of yesterday," said Ramos-Horta. He noted that as president he was not solely responsible for the decision to free Laksaur-Maternus Bere, accused of participating in a church massacre 10 years ago.

"Under the constitution I am not accountable to parliament, the prime minister yes, but because prime minister has members of parliament. I don't have any members of parliament; they all play politics and they decided to attack the president," Ramos-Horta said.

"Today I told the diplomatic corps I would resign because when the president of republic is disrespected by parliament with these petty politics, I have no more condition to continue to work," he said, noting that if he resigned a new election would be called within three months.

"I will not accept anymore disrespect from anyone as president of this country," Ramos-Horta said.

The militia leader was arrested August 8 on charges of homicide, sexual violence and torture in the church of Nossa Senhora de Fatima Suai-Covalima in 1999.

But the government, apparently under pressure form Indonesia, decided to release him earlier this month, raising questions about the legality of the move.

East Timor's release of former militia chief causes outcry

South China Morning Post, September 10, 2009, by Marianne Kearney in Dili

For 24 years they fought to rid East Timor of its Indonesian invaders.

But now Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão and President Jose Ramos Horta stand accused by critics of pandering to Jakarta with their decision to free a former militiaman linked to one of East Timor's worst massacres.

Maternus Bere was one of the leaders of the pro-Indonesian militia that slaughtered up to 200 people, including three priests, in the notorious Suai massacre, which occurred a decade ago last Sunday.

Later, Bere was indicted by the United Nations' serious crimes unit for crimes against humanity. He was also indicted for assisting in the rape and abduction of Juliana "Alola" dos Santos, who became the namesake for the charitable women's foundation set up by Gusmao's wife, Kirsty Sword-Gusmão.

Until early last month, Bere lived freely in Indonesian West Timor. But during a visit to his family in Suai, he was almost lynched by Timorese and detained by the police.

Then, just as East Timor was preparing to celebrate 10 years of independence on August 30, Bere was ordered released from custody and handed over to the Indonesian embassy, at the request of Gusmão and Horta, say parliamentarians.

The release of Bere to the Indonesians has angered ordinary Timorese and former victims, who argue Horta and Gusmão have no right to decide whether East Timor should pursue justice for past crimes. International groups and opposition politicians argue that lack of accountability for the crimes of 1999 sets a bad precedent for the young country.

This week, parliament vetoed a request from Horta to travel to the United States and Europe, partly in anger over the Bere decision.

"The reason was lack of explanation over the travel plans and lack of explanation after parliament asked about the Bere case," said Arsenio Bano, a parliamentarian from opposition party Fretilin.

In retaliation, Horta has threatened to resign if parliament does not relent, according to Bano, who was holding an emergency meeting with other parliamentarians.

Horta also angered rights groups - and prompted a rebuke from Navanethem Pillay, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights - over a speech he gave to foreign dignitaries to mark East Timor's independence.

On the same day that Bere was handed over to the Indonesian embassy in Dili, Horta insisted that "there will be no international tribunal" to try crimes that occurred during the Indonesian occupation. He labelled the UN's serious crimes unit - which has been investigating the cases - a waste of money.

The transition to democracy has not been easy for Gusmão and Horta, the former having spent years as a guerilla commander and the latter running a resistance organisation as an exile. They now govern in an "almost military-like, authoritarian style", says MP Fernanda Borges, a member of a small opposition party.

She calls it "guerilla leadership".

Bano, who is a former student leader, believes that years of having their every command obeyed have left their mark on Gusmão and Horta.

"If they say 'go for demonstration', you do it because you do it for good things, you do it to contribute for the country to get independence, it doesn't matter. You get hurt or even sometimes you get killed, or get jailed - no problem," Bano said. "We think doing a good thing for the country is the best thing the student resistance can ever do."

There is another possible motive for Gusmao's failure to welcome outside scrutiny of East Timor's former troubles. If the crimes of 1975 to 1999 are prosecuted, he, too, might be accused of crimes against humanity, say both Bano and Borges.

Edio Saldanha from Yayasan Hak, East Timor's main rights group, says Gusmão and Horta are putting a priority on good relations with giant neighbour Indonesia, which is the country's major source of staple foods and largest trading partner. Hundreds of East Timorese students study in Indonesia.

But Borges says this is "friendship gone too far".

Are we willing to subvert everything - our sovereignty, our rule of law, our legal system, the dignity of Timorese victims - to ingratiate ourselves to Indonesia? If we were truly friends, Indonesia would respect Timorese law and allow the courts to prosecute Bere and others who committed atrocities in Timor-Leste, in accordance with Timorese law."

Pillay protested against Bere's release into Indonesian custody, arguing that Gusmão and Horta violated Timor's constitution and UN security resolutions, which called for accountability for past crimes.

Timor Leste Government releases indicted Indonesian war criminal

The wire, Community Radio from around Australia, 8 September 2009

Why was Martenus Bere, an indicted war criminal, released on the 10th anniversary of Timor Leste's independence from the brutal Indonesian occupation?

Featured in story: Clinton Fernandes - former military officer in Timor Leste and senior lecturer in politics at the Australian Defense Force Academy and Jose Teixeira - Fretilin's Parliamentary Spokesperson.

UNMIT Timor-Leste Human Rights Report for June 2008 - June 2009

Text of the report  (also Tetum)

Transcript of press conference.

TL High Court Threatens to Arrest The Timorese Leaders

Tempo Semanal Internet Exclusive, 10 September 2009

The head of the Court of Appeal, Timor's highest court, Mr. Claudio Ximenes has declared that he will seek to bring to justice those who released Maternus Bere from Becora Prison on August 30th 2009. Claudio Ximenes in his statement said, "those authority is not judge have no power give order to freed someone from the prison whom been order to be jailed by a judge."

According to East Timor Penal code article 245, section 1 stated by Mr. Ximenes said who ever with illegal action freed from prison those according to the law has lost their freedom or help the person to escaped would receive prison terms minimum 2 years and maximum 6 years imprisonment.".

East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão after his meeting with East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta in the Presidential Palace on Thursday responded, "I am ready because I released him." The Former East Timor head of state challenged the High Court's courage by saying, "I know where Becora prison is so as soon as a court sentence I will go there my self."

The Maternus Bere released case is hit the division of the state institutions too. On 08/09/09 the Parliament voted against President Horta Trip to New York and make the 1996 Peace Price winner angry and threaten to resign if the Parliament would not retrieve their vote. The case of freed Maternus Bere has create a division among the victims and Leaders of the country. After a Sunday mass in Suai church Maternus Bere was beaten up by the community near the market. Later Maternus was taken to a police station for questions and his passport was removed. He then taken to Becora Prison for a three years preventative detention but less then a month the state leaders intervene in the Judicial process for his release.

ETimor opposition calls for early election in militia leader row

Sept 10 (AFP) -- East Timor's opposition called on President Jose Ramos-Horta on Thursday to dissolve parliament in a row over the release of an Indonesian former militia leader accused of involvement in a 1999 massacre.

Opposition Fretilin party secretary general Mari Alkatiri challenged Ramos-Horta to call early elections over government "interference" in securing the release of Martenus Bere last month.

"We don't want President Ramos-Horta to resign, but what we want is for parliament to be dissolved and for there to be early elections," former prime minister Alkatiri told reporters.

"What is going on in East Timor right now is a big confusion. The decision to free Bere was careless because it was interference with judicial decisions," he said.

Opposition National Union Party lawmaker Fernanda Borges said Bere was released from Dili's Becora Prison on a verbal order from Justice Minister Lucia Lobato, at the urging of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão.

Bere was detained after crossing into East Timor on August 8, five years after being indicted for his role in the 1999 Suai church massacre in which up to 200 people were killed.

East Timor's leadership has been tight-lipped on Bere's release amid criticism of its opposition to prosecuting those believed responsible for abuses during Indonesia's bloody 1975-1999 occupation.

The 24-year occupation, which ended after a UN-backed vote that saw Timorese overwhelmingly support independence, killed at least 100,000 people.

Justice Minister Lobato said earlier this week the release was a "political decision".

Supreme Court chief justice Claudio de Jesus Ximenes said Wednesday "correspondent legal and disciplinary action" would be taken if Bere's release was found to be illegal.

"The release referred to in the media as having occurred was not ordered by a court decision," he said in a statement.

Ramos-Horta threatened to resign on Wednesday after parliament refused to approve his overseas trips to New York, Denmark and Germany in protest over Bere's release.

Lawmakers later reversed their decision made a day earlier after the president issued his ultimatum.

Fretilin bid to unseat coalition

Upstream, 11 September 2009, by Russell Searancke. Upstream is an oil industry trade magazine.

The main opposition Fretilin party in east Timor will begin a campaign in the coming weeks to try to bring down the under-fire government led by Prime Minister and former freedom fighter Xanana Gusmão, writes Russell Searancke.

Former prime minister and Fretilin member Mari Alkatiri said: “We have already made proposals to the government to hold a referendum to let the people decide on continuing with the current de facto government or having a new election. Of course, nothing resulted from that effort. So, in the coming weeks, we will push hard for a vote of no confidence (in this government).”

The Fretilin party has been a relentless critic of the Gusmão-led coalition government, which has been involved in several scandals, and is accused by Fretilin of being secretive and corrupt.

Xanana Gusmão and his government have no respect for the rule of law,” said Alkatiri. “Also, Gusmão treats a budget like a contingency fund so that he can do whatever he likes with it.” Fretilin has waged a media campaign against the government, accusing it of illegal actions in a $385 million heavy oil plant contract — the so-called Ricegate affair — and a memorandum of understanding with Malaysian national oil company Petronas.

Outspoken nongovernmental organisation Lao Hamutuk has joined in, saying the lack of transparency “is so pervasive that it must be addressed at all levels, especially at the top”.

In the last week, Fretilin MPs have walked out of parliament in protest over a decision by the Gusmão-led government to free an Indonesian militia leader, Martenus Bere, who is alleged to be responsible for murders, abduction and rapes in 1999.

Gusmao’s government is a coalition of four parties that has been in power for two years.

The next election is planned for 2012. Alkatiri, who was prime minister for four years between 2002 and 2006, said: This government will not last that long. There is a lot of bad feeling and ill will among the people.”

Xanana Ready to go to Jail

Written by CJITL Editor (translated from Tetum), 12 September 2009

Dili. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão has aid that he is ready to accept whatever sentence the court hands down to him because he acknowledges that it was he who ordered the freeing of former commander of the Laksaur militia, Maternus Bere.

“I will accept it because it was I who ordered Maternus Bere be freed, whatever sentence comes down on me from the court I will go directly because I know where the Becora Prison is,” PM Xanana said to journalists after having met with the President of the Republic, Jose Ramos Horta at the Presidential Palace, Aitarak Laran, Thursday (10/9).

PM Xanana stated this in response to the statement by the President of the Court of Appeal, Claudio Ximenes that persons responsible for freeing of the former Laksaur militia commander face a sentence of imprisonment from 2 to 6 years.

The President of the Court of Appeal Claudio Ximenes via a press conference on Wednesday 9/9 said that according to the constitution of the RDTL only a judge has the power to jail someone and to release someone from jail.

Before this, Carmelita Moniz MP (from CNRT party) said that the President of the Republic Jose Ramos-Horta totally violated sections 160-163 of the constitution of the RDTL, because article 160 states that “acts committed between the 25th of April 1974 and the 31st of December 1999 that can be considered crimes against humanity of genocide or of war shall be liable to criminal proceedings with the national or international courts.” (publication STL 11/9)

Gusmão under fire over militia leader

Sydney Morning Herald (AFP) September 14, 2009

East Timor's opposition has moved to censure the government of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão over its decision to free an Indonesian militia leader accused of crimes against humanity.

Fretilin party lawmakers submitted the censure motion to parliament on Monday over the decision last month to release Martenus Bere, who stands accused of involvement in the death of up to 200 people in a 1999 church massacre.

"On (August 30) for purely political reasons and without a court order, the prime minister is said to have instructed the justice minister to release (Bere) from lawful imprisonment," Fretilin leader Aniceto Guterres said in a statement.

"This censure motion is intended to draw the lines on where the parties in the parliament stand on justice and the rule of law," he said.

If passed, the motion would give President Jose Ramos-Horta the authority to dismiss the current government and call for a new one to be formed, Guterres said.

Fretilin has earlier said it wanted parliament to be a dissolved and a fresh election called over the decision, which it says constitutes undue "interference" in the judicial process.

Bere was detained after crossing into East Timor on August 8 but was released amid 10-year anniversary celebrations of the 1999 UN-backed referendum that saw Timorese vote overwhelmingly to break from Indonesian rule.

At least 100,000 are believed to have died as a result of Indonesia's 24-year occupation, including about 1,400 people in Indonesia-backed militia violence surrounding the 1999 vote.

East Timor Ten Years On: Justice Denied

By Katherine Iliopoulos, Crimes of War Project , 14 September 2009

The 10th anniversary of a United Nations-sponsored referendum which effectively ended Indonesia's 25-year military occupation of East Timor has rekindled the debate on the merits of establishing an international criminal tribunal for crimes against humanity and other atrocities that were committed in the former Portuguese colony during the occupation, which culminated in a post-referendum campaign of violence in 1999 that claimed 1,400 lives. ...

... The anniversary - and the responses it has provoked - has drawn attention to two competing theories of justice: the retributive model and the restorative model.

Release of Laksaur Militia
Dom Basilio, “The Church wants justice.”

Jornal Diario Nacional 15 September 2009, Translation from Tetum

Baucau Diocese Bishop, Dom Basilio do Nascimento said, the Catholic Church has always advocated for justice and the truth first and foremost, then forgiveness can come and because of this Dom Basilio supports the statement by the President of the Court of Appeal, Claudio Ximenes that only the court can imprison and release prisoners.

Dom Basilio was speaking with journalists on Friday (11/9) in his Diocesan office in Baucau.

He said that nobody consulted with the Church regarding the release of the former Laksaur militia from prison, even though the Church’s position has always been that there must be justice first and foremost.

“Yes Sir, we have to forgive but before we can forgive there must be justice,” said Dom Basilio.

Dom Basilio said he was shocked with the information he had just heard on 9 September regarding this former militia because Maternus Bere, as before he knew a Maternus who was teaching music to kids in Maukata, wondering if they were the same person.

Dom Basilio also corrected what had been written in Suara Timor Lorosa'e (9-10 September 2009 editions) that was written by this journalist.

“I call attention to some of your colleagues who wrote falsehoods on 9-10 of September and I want to know where STL got their information from. Because of this I ask the journalists to sometimes take responsibility for their actions.

Regarding this Maternus Bere problem Dom Basilio added that, the public statement by the President of the Court of Appeal, whose stated position is very clear, that when it comes to judging when the law has been broken this can only be done by the courts and there is no other institution of state that can judge when the law has been broken, “But if we start to begin to heel over, then it is a sign that our independence is valueless, that Timor may be independent as it is but if someone else comes and orders us around in our own country regarding all manner of things, then we are setting a precedent that very soon, anybody could be imprisoned here but someone else kicks up dust and our noses start to run straight away,” said Dom Basilio.

Dom Basilio added that any problems that may arise in Timor-Leste have to be resolved according to Timorese law despite others not liking it and may start stamping the ground. (FG)

UN criticises ETimor over militia leader's release

(AFP) – 15 September

DILI ­ The United Nations' human rights representative in East Timor criticised Tuesday government "interference" in the release of an Indonesian militia leader accused of crimes against humanity.

The government of former rebel leader Xanana Gusmão went outside the law in freeing militia leader Martenus Bere last month, Louis Gentile, the local representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters.

"What we know is that the legal means to release someone from prison were not followed, so whatever has happened must be therefore something that is political and there must be some kind of interference," Gentile said.

"If there is no trial in East Timor and there is no adequate trial in Indonesia then the (UN) Security Council... has to consider what other option is available to bring those people to justice, including an international tribunal," he said.

The government has been under fire for its decision to release Bere, who was arrested after crossing into East Timor on August 8 for his alleged involvement in the 1999 Suai church massacre in which up to 200 people died.

He was released during commemorations marking 10 years since East Timor won independence from a brutal 24-year Indonesian occupation in a UN-backed vote amid militia violence that killed around 1,400 people.

The opposition Fretilin party moved a censure motion in parliament this week over Bere's release, aimed at giving President Jose Ramos-Horta the authority to dismiss the government.

However, Ramos-Horta is a strong supporter of forgiveness for those accused of rights violations during the Indonesian occupation, during which at least 100,000 people are estimated to have died due to violence, preventable disease and starvation.

Only one person is currently in prison in East Timor over violence committed around the 1999 vote. No one has been successfully prosecuted in Indonesia, according to rights group Amnesty International.

Interview with Fernanda Borges, MP, Chair of RDTL Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Issues, Justice and Human Rights

Australian community radio 2SER, 15 September 2009  (6 minute MP3)

UN: E Timor broke international law with Bere's release

ABC Radio Australia, 16 September 2009  By Christine Webster, Asia Pacific

The United Nations has accused East Timor of breaking international law.

It follows President Jose Ramos-Horta's decision to release to Indonesian authorities a militia leader who crossed into East Timor last month.

Martenus Bere is wanted for his alleged involvement in the Suai church massacre in which up to 200 people died in the lead-up to East Timor's 1999 vote for independence.

Fernanda Guimaraes, the UN Human Rights deputy chief in East Timor, told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific program, the release or detention is up to the courts, and not the Government, to decide.

"There can be no impunity for crimes against humanity, for war crimes and gross human rights violation," she said.

"Timor Leste ratified the Rome statute that established International Criminal Court and is a party to the international covenant on civil and political rights."

Human rights progress report

The United Nations has released its third human rights report on East Timor, which highlights the fact that the country made progress in key human rights areas in the past year.

These include the strengthening of the judicial system, no confirmed reports of torture by security forces and the introduction of laws such as making domestic violence a crime.

The report covers the period between July 2008 and June 2009.

UN official: Tribunal needed for Timor crimes

By Deutsche Presse Agentur, September 16, 2009

Dili - The international community should consider setting up a tribunal for serious crimes in East Timor if former occupier Indonesia and East Timor were unwilling to prosecute suspects, a United Nations official said Tuesday.

The United Nations has criticised East Timor's government for the release from jail last month of Martenus Bere, a former pro-Indonesia militia leader accused of taking part in a 1999 massacre at a church in Suai district, in which up to 200 people died.

"If the two countries ... are not willing and are not intending to prosecute people who committed crimes against humanity, there is the principle of universal jurisdiction for these crimes," said Louis Gentile, the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in East Timor.

Gentile said it was the responsibility of the international community to find a way to bring those who committed crimes against humanity to justice.

Gentile said the release of Bere was political because it did not follow legal procedures.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was annexed by Indonesia in 1976. The territory voted for independence in a UN-sponsored ballot in 1999, which was marred by violence blamed on pro-Jakarta militiamen and Indonesian troops.

According to a report by a UN-sponsored truth commission, the Indonesian occupation led to about 100,000 deaths from killings, starvation and disease.

The territory became formally independent in 2002.

Indonesia and East Timor have agreed to put reconciliation and friendship ahead of prosecution of those who committed crimes during the occupation.

International NGO Safety-Security update of the general situation over the past week

Update 11 September – 17 September 2009

3. Current Issues:
3.1 Release of Martenus Bere from custody

Martenus Bere is accused of leading the massacres in Suai in September 1999 and has an arrest warrant in his name in Timor-Leste. He was arrested in Cova Lima district in August when he returned from West Timor, Indonesia where he lives. Reportedly the President and/or Prime Minister ordered that he be released from custody and handed over to the Indonesian Embassy on Sunday 30 August.

On Monday 7 September, it was reported that members of the FRETILIN party walked out of a parliament session in solidarity with those who are calling for the return of Martenus Bere. A small peaceful protest of around 40 people was held outside the Indonesian Embassy on Sunday 6 September calling for his return to jail. Reportedly, the parliament initially refused the President’s international travel plans but later agreed after the President threatened to resign. This week there continues to be controversy and discussion, both in parliament and in the media regarding this issue.

While currently this issue is being responded to in a reasoned and responsible manner, with healthy parliamentary debate and peaceful protests, this is a very sensitive issue and has the potential to trigger stronger reactions.

East Timor probes legality of militant's release

By Guido Goulart (AP), AP writer Anthony Deutsch contributed to this article from Jakarta. 17 September 2009.

DILI, East Timor — East Timor's Supreme Court is investigating top government officials over accusations they illegally released a war crimes suspect at Indonesia's request — a case that could test the constitution of Asia's youngest democracy.

Judges say political leaders illegally bypassed the courts with the release, highlighting the continuing challenge to establish an independent and viable judiciary after the tiny state broke from hundreds of years of colonialism in 2002.

Formal charges have not been filed, but prosecutors are investigating the possible involvement of several members of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's government, two court officials with first-hand knowledge of the case told The Associated Press in interviews this week. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Indonesian national Maternus Bere was detained Aug. 8 to face allegations of crimes against humanity, including the 1999 Suai church massacre that left dozens dead, among them women, children and three priests. Bere was set free on Aug. 30 before be could be put on trial.

The killings were part of a wider campaign of persecution and murder by pro-Indonesian forces against the Timorese population that year. The violence, prompted by a vote to split from Jakarta after a brutal 24-year occupation, left at least 1,000 people dead.

The United Nations has expressed concern over Bere's release and called for Timor's leaders to abide by international law. Arrest warrants issued by a U.N.-backed serious crimes unit are outstanding for nearly 400 suspects, but East Timor has favored reconciliation with neighboring Indonesia over prosecution.

President Jose Ramos-Horta argues that reopening old wounds will not help the impoverished country build a stable democracy.

"The vast majority of the people here don't care about what happened to the guy (Bere)," Ramos-Horta told The Associated Press. "The enemies of yesterday must apologize and forgive each other. The U.N. human rights bureaucracy is the one out of touch with the reality."

Indonesia's Foreign Ministry says it negotiated Bere's release by phone with Ramos-Horta, Gusmão, Foreign Minister Zacharia da Costa and other officials on Aug. 30.

Indonesian officials waited for confirmation of the release before attending East Timor's celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the independence vote, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said.

Indonesian officials say that Bere, who was reportedly in East Timor for a family wedding, remains at the Indonesian Embassy in Dili awaiting deportation to Indonesia.

Supreme Court chief Judge Claudio Ximenes told reporters last week that Bere's handover was "an illegal decision made be someone who has no right to do so."

"Only a judge can order the freeing of a suspect from a detention center or prison," he said.

The Dili-based La'o Hamutuk research institute, a respected group that studies efforts by foreign institutions to rebuild East Timor, also said the handover violated the constitution.

Gusmao's office said he is ready to accept any legal consequences of freeing Bere, but that he has received no notice of an investigation.

"The Gusmão Government has always been open, transparent and readily willing to participate in any investigations," government spokesman Agio Pereira said in a statement to the AP.

The dispute comes amid relative stability in East Timor, a predominantly Catholic state of 1.1 million people that descended into chaos in early 2006 when fighting between rival security forces killed dozens. President Ramos-Horta was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in February last year.

Bere's case exposes a lack of separation between political powers and the courts, Charles Scheiner of La'o Hamutuk said in an e-mail to the AP.

"It has serious implications for the future of rule of law and justice," Scheiner said. "The investigation by the judicial system is one piece; whether the prosecutor will be brave enough to bring the case to court is yet to be seen."

The opposition Fretilin party is pushing a censure motion in parliament over the Bere release, which could force early elections.

"The government of Xanana will be brought down and the president will have to call early elections," Fretilin's Deputy House Speaker Vicente Guterres told the AP Wednesday.

Fretilin is the largest party in parliament, but it is unclear if a majority of lawmakers are willing to risk another political crisis.

Roughly a third of East Timor's population was wiped out during the Indonesian occupation, but those crimes go unpunished.

Timor jail release slammed

The Age September 17, 2009. By Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin

NON-GOVERNMENT organisations in Dili have backed the United Nations' condemnation of the release of an Indonesian man accused of crimes against humanity.

The Catholic Church has also condemned the release of former militia commander Martenus Bere, with influential Bishop Basilio do Nascimento declaring: ''We have to forgive, but before we can forgive there must be justice.''

Bere allegedly led an attack on a church in the East Timorese town of Suai in September 1999, during which three priests and about 200 civilians were massacred.

In a blunt statement released in Dili, the East Timor NGO Forum described the Government's decision to release Bere on the 10th anniversary of East Timor's vote for independence, on August 30, as a ''cheap political decision'' that violated the independence of the country's judiciary.

''The NGO Forum and its members condemn the political intervention by the Republic of Indonesia into the judicial sovereignty of Timor-Leste [East Timor],'' said the forum, which represents more than 300 organisations.

The forum said Indonesia pressured for Bere's release after he was arrested in the Suai area in mid-August. He had crossed the border from Indonesian West Timor to attend a family funeral.

Bere, a West Timor provincial government official, was indicted by a UN Serious Crimes Tribunal in 2003 on charges of murder, extermination, enforced disappearance, torture, rape, deportation and persecution.

East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão secretly arranged Bere's release to Indonesian officials without a court order, which prompted new calls for the UN to establish an international tribunal to prosecute people accused of crimes in East Timor.

Mr Ramos Horta threatened to quit when Parliament last week voted to block his overseas travel plans until he explained his role in Bere's release.

Chronology of a Memorable Day

Translation of a Portuguese SBS Radio report, REPORTER: Beatriz Wagner. On air: 19th September 2009

Download episode (7 MB MP3 in Portuguese)

LIVE RECORDING TIMORESE CHOIR AT THE CELEBRATION IN DILI

The day when Timor celebrated the referendum, released an alleged assassin and jailed who asked for justice

Dili, Sunday, 30th of August 2009: the celebration of the 10-year Popular Consultation that led Timor-Leste to be independent.

The heat is almost unbearable. Hundreds of international authorities and special guests sit in the blue chairs in both sides of the main stage, in front of the Dili’s Presidential Palace.

The press piled itself in front of the palace, under the punishing sun. Not one shadow, as far as the eye can see: reporters, photographers, cameramen, correspondents from faraway lands.

And also your correspondent from SBS Radio Portuguese Language Program, Australia, more than enthusiastic to report on such a joyful day, remembering that all those who gave their lives did it for a brighter future of the new country of the new millennium: the world youngest’ democracy, a land of justice and fairness, after the darkest imaginable days of the past. What a privilege to be here!

The ceremony, to begin at 9 am, is late. After five minutes, some unease begins. Fifteen minutes passed. Women fan their hats. Guests abandon the blue chairs that are in the sun. All everybody wants is a shade.

José Ramos-Horta, the Nobel-Peace-Prize-President, is the host.

Half past nine: what is going on? The uneasiness now is quite spread. Only the Governor-General Quentin Bryce, all dressed in hot pink, representative of the Queen of England in Australia, waits impassive in her elegant, regal and dignified attitude.

Nearly ten in the morning. And the ceremony begins.

LIVE RECORDING IN DILI AT THE MILITARY PARADE MC (translation): “His Excellency the President of the Republic will proffer his speech.”

REPORTER: President Ramos-Horta gives a 42 minutes speech but just 5 seconds of what he says are enough to fire the passions in this God’s forsaken land:

PRESIDENT RAMOS-HORTA (in English): “Lets put the past behind. There will be no international tribunal.”

REPORTER: Only few days after the world would know that behind the scenes at the palace a drama was unfolding, as reported by the Australian Associated Press, with an ultimatum by the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister: “release Maternus Bere or I don’t participate in the ceremony”.

Maternus Bere is indicted by UN for crimes against humanity: murder, extermination, enforced disappearances, torture, inhumane acts, rape, deportation and prosecution.

The highlight of his pro-Indonesia militia career was the Suai Massacre, on 6th September 1999, when up to 200 people were murdered, including three priests.

We all know how the drama ended: Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão gave the verbal authorization to the Minister of Justice, Lúcia Lobato, who by her turn gave the verbal authorization to transfer one of the worst alleged 1999 alleged assassins, the Deputy-Leader of Laksaur militia, from Becora prison to the Embassy of Indonesia in Dili.

Not even the second Deputy Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, in this land of long titles and names, Engineer Mário Viegas Carrascalão, seems to know what is going on. Speaking to SBS Radio after the ceremony, he complains of the lateness.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MÁRIO CARRASCALÃO (translation from Portuguese): “One aspect that didn’t please me was that extremely too long wait for the Indonesian Foreign Affairs minister, for reasons that… there can’t be any reason to justify this. The ceremony began at quarter to ten, 45 minutes late. A whole country can’t be waiting for a foreign affairs minister of a country to begin ceremonies which are of national significance, isn’t it?”

REPORTER: Thus the referendum celebrations day began in Dili, in the morning.

Jump to half past two in the afternoon, scheduled for a protest asking justice for the victims of atrocities.

Location of the scene: Hotel Timor, in front of Dili’s Wharf.

The protest, with 60 or 70 people spread, is the only one in a whole week of commemorations, supported by the International Solidarity Conference, which just finished three days of debates the night before.

It brings together international and Timorese activists and only attracts the local press.

It is staged at the hotel’s glass doors, with its banners and placards.

In the hall of the hotel, I begin an interview with Mr Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR.

At the end of the interview, at a quarter past three pm, comes into the hall, short of breath, Sydney’s Jefferson Lee, Special Officer for AETA/Australia East Timor Association, with the news: police just detained three Timorese students.

JEFFERSON LEE, AETA/SYDNEY (in English): “It was a peaceful protest urging the UN to end impunity in Timor-Leste over the deaths of two hundred thousand people and the police arrived, confiscated all the placards and three of the Timorese organizers have been arrested and taken away by force to Dili police station. I think they were arrested for taking photos of Sixto’s arrest, because the police were not tolerating any photographs of them arresting the key speaker of the rally, which was also addressed by Pedro Pente, the jurist from International Platform of Jurists, spokesperson for Timor’ solidarity for the last 20 years. I have to go and ring the Secretary to the Prime Minister, Agio Pereira, who we informed of this demonstration last night, so he should be informed that people has been arrested for peaceful protest.”

REPORTER: Once outside I photographed the police cars still there. The protest is over.

Reuters photographer, the Timorese Lírio da Fonseca, says he was pushed by police.

REUTERS PHOTOGRAPHER, TIMORESE LÍRIO DA FONSECA (in English): “Police arrives there and demonstrating here, but I take picture and police push me and police say ‘you don’t have authorization’, but no me, demonstration no have authorization, but not me, I am journalist. Why you talk to me “not take picture in here”? These public area, no police office or no police area. I think this is free for me take picture. Three protesters take to police office: Sixto dos Santos, Hélio de Souza and Gaudêncio.”

REPORTER: Dutchwoman Saskia Kanenberg, who was the Coordinator of Independent Observers of the Referendum in 1999, followed the police action.

DUTCH OBSERVER SASKIA KANENBERG (in English): “It was quite peaceful in the beginning but then the police asked one to go because they had no permit for demonstration and they said: “it is not a demonstration, we are actually having a press conference here”, then the police got very impatient, quite all at sudden, about thirty police at one stage and they surrounded them and there were plain clothes police and the UN police and local. And then they started pushing the journalists back and they didn’t want them to take any pictures and there were three people arrested. I think that it is in a way an extremely sad scene, as if they were bringing danger to the safety of anyone. They were not harming anyone. It’s the generation who brings up new issues. They want the international tribunal and they may not agree with the government but they should have the right to express themselves.”

REPORTER: There are no other foreign journalists at the scene. They are all at the Presidential Palace for the 4 pm ceremony, when Ramos-Horta distributes awards and medals to 45 personalities who contributed to the independence of Timor-Leste.

Amongst the awarded there is a Timorese journalist who is facing criminal defamation charges at the tribunals by the Minister of Justice, Lúcia Lobato.

MC: Senhor José Belo!

APPLAUSE

PRESIDENT RAMOS-HORTA (in English): “Normally, no politician, no government, should give José Belo any award. And actually, we shouldn't give any award to journalists. They make our lives miserable. Or they make the lives of their politicians miserable. Those who have a conscience don’t have to be afraid.”

APPLAUSE

REPORTER: At the end of the ceremony, the US activist John Miller from ETAN/East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, explains that the protest in the afternoon had no official permission.

He criticizes Timor-Leste’s restrictive laws, which makes harder the condemnation of police action.

JOHN MILLER, ETAN/US (in English): “Timor has a fairly, at least compared to what I know in New York, restrictive demonstration law. They need three days notice which clearly wasn’t able to be given and you can’t demonstrate within 100 metres from government buildings, and anybody who has been to Dili knows that any other block there is a government building. So Timorese and some of the internationals decided to demonstrate anyway and my understanding is that the police moved very quickly and arrested three East Timorese. I’m pretty sure two of them are staff numbers for one of those organisations, the Hak Association, which is the oldest human rights organization in Timor.”

REPORTER: But Mari Alkatiri has no difficulties to explain the spirit of the law, approved by Fretilin when he was the prime minister.

FORMER PRIME MINISTER MARI ALKATIRI (translation from Portuguese): “The protest has to be 100 meters from public buildings if they are the object of the protest. If they are not, it doesn’t have to be. Otherwise there will be no place to protest at all. So, is there no right to protest now? This is democratorship, as they say in Brazil. It is not democracy. The law says three days, just to allow, in a country as ours, where for all and for nothing violence can flare up, the protection of protesters and also the public buildings. Once the protest is on, it becomes a political issue and the power should decide on the spot. And the decision should be in favour of the exercise of a right. One that is a constitutional right.

REPORTER: And Mari Alkatiri criticises Xanana Gusmão’s government.

FORMER PRIME MINISTER MARI ALKATIRI (translation from Portuguese): “During my time there was a Catholic Church three weeks protest, the law was there and government and police were not informed… and no one was detained. There were many other protests and the order was clear: no detention, only control. Why 60 people, with banners, have to be detained? Why? But this a regime of intimidation. When there was talk of the Peace March, Xanana himself said ‘come and I order everyone jailed’. What? This is the kind of power we have today. They used protests to reach power. They know this can happen and are afraid and in panic to be overthrown based on violence and they act, to prevent. I think it is not right.”

REPORTER: The three students committed the crime of protesting without previous authorization, Sunday afternoon. They were detained for three days.

Those who died and suffered in the Suai Massacre, mostly women and children, exactly 10 years ago, when Maternus Bere was the right arm of the leader of Laksaur militia, Egidio Matek, had the bad luck of being victims of an Indonesian militia, released on Sunday morning and who now awaits to be deported.

MCs (in English): “And now we would like to invite our special guest from Indonesia: Kriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisdayanty!!” INDONESIAN POPSTAR KRISDAYANTY (in Portuguese than in English): “Boa noite, Díli! Boa noite, senhores e senhoras! On behalf of Indonesia, also happy and congratulate for this 10th of the referendum of Timor-Leste.”

REPORTER: The night of 30th August saw a huge popular party with Indonesian pop star Krisdayanti, singing in the mega stage in front of the Government Palace, Xanana’s palace, and dancing with both the president and the prime minister.

INDONESIAN POPSTAR KRISDAYANTY (in English): “Wow! Mr Xanana, look handsome in person! Wooooow!!

REPORTER: A nice sign of friendship between the two countries.

LIVE RECORDING: Fireworks at midnight in Dili

REPORTER: The day finished with a spectacular fireworks show, exactly at midnight, making the sky of Dili colourful and turning night into day.

Maternus Bere could participate in the euphoria of the celebration.

He could hear the popping of the fireworks and, who knows, maybe even see them, from the safety of his country’s embassy in the Timorese capital.

And this here, definitively, is not the report I had imagined to present when the 30 August 2009 came to a close: the party for the 10-year referendum that led to the independence of Timor-Leste.

PRESIDENT RAMOS-HORTA (in Portuguese and English): “Que Deus, o Todo-Poderoso e Misericordioso, nos abençoe a todos. May God the Almighty and Merciful, bless us all. Thank you!”

LIVE RECORDING: Applause

REPORTER: Beatriz Wagner, from Díli, to SBS Radio Australia.

Indonesia’s Balibo Response: Refusing to Face the Ugly Past

Column by James Dunn, 20 September 2009

The latest move in the Balibo affair has taken us to a kind of watershed in a sensitive aspect of our relationship with Indonesia. Are we going to continue to help Jakarta cover up a brutal chapter in their history, or should we now encourage the SBY government to open up the past to much-needed public scrutiny?

As things stand, Indonesia’s hostile reaction to the AFP Balibo investigation was predictable enough, because it came just as Jakarta was facing renewed criticism in East Timor, at the tenth anniversary of the Suai massacre, much more recent than Balibo and more brutal. As it happens the Balibo shooting and the Suai massacre span Indonesia’s 24 year presence in East Timor, and remind us of an ugly fact: the TNI left the colony with the same cruel behaviour that it began with 34 years ago.  Thanks in large measure to international accommodation none of those indicted for war crimes has ever been brought anywhere near an independent tribunal. No other regime with links to the West has so completely escaped investigation for such serious crimes against humanity.  AFP investigators may take the matter further, but they face huge obstacles, given the Yudhoyono government’s hostile reaction so far, a response based on an unacceptable assumption, a continuation of our cover-up policy.

 Although the TNI’s brutal departure in 1999 at last attracted widespread international attention, Jakarta’s circle of powerful friends, including Australia, discouraged international attempts to bring  the serious war crimes committed during the 24 years of occupation, before an international tribunal. While the Balibo incident, thanks to the film, has continued to capture widespread attention, we need to understand that it really merely marked the beginning of a series of war crimes that continued to the very end of the Indonesian occupation. Then, in 1999,  hundreds of East Timorese were killed when the TNI and its militia set out to punish the East Timorese for its humiliating vote against the TNI-dominated occupation.  

In a sense Balibo was the beginning and the Suai massacre of September 1999 the end, both incidents under direct TNI command. The Suai atrocity, in all costing over 200 lives, occurred only days after the results of the plebiscite were announced in Dili. A recent incident has revived Timorese interest in this incident, despite the urgings of their leaders to put the past behind them. It was the arrest of Maternus Bere, former leader of the Laksaur militia, who now lives in West Timor, but who returned to Suai to attend a wedding. His presence was noticed by a local policeman who arrested him, on the basis of a UN indictment for serious crimes. The Indonesian reaction was extraordinary. His immediate release was demanded, with dark hints that there could be serious border problems if it was not heeded.

There is a possible explanation for this rather arrogant response. Based on my own investigations into the Suai affair, the militia were mere pawns, their orders coming directly from a TNI colonel then dressed in full uniform, and bearing a M16 weapon. If Bere were to appear before an East Timor court his testimony could therefore be of great embarrassment to the TNI at this time. The pressure was eased somewhat when the East Timorese prime minister responded quickly, ordering the release of Bere to the Indonesian embassy in Dili, a move that caused concern in the UN mission.

This incident case has aroused anger in Dili on a number of fronts. It happened at a time when what to do about past war crimes was the subject of lively discussion, emotions having been stirred by the Balibo film. The rather arrogant and clumsy intervention by Jakarta caused an angry public reaction and criticism, and irritation and dismay in the government. The East Timorese government may have quickly caved in, but the mood in the National Assembly is not so compliant.

Jakarta’s intervention was particularly hurtful and ill-timed for President Jose Ramos Horta, who had just delivered a very conciliatory address at the 10th anniversary commemoration, urging East Timorese to overlook their past sufferings and to end their campaigns for an international war crimes tribunal.

In the circumstances why didn’t Indonesia act more discreetly? One possible explanation is that it happened at a time when there are increasing calls from Indonesian democrats for a closer look at the TNI’s past. An exposure of its command role in East Timor in 1999 would have led to renewed calls for the comprehensive investigation President Wahid’s advisers had recommended in early 2000. Also if Bere were to have appeared before a Timorese court the leading role of Kopassus might have been exposed, at a time when this force is being rehabilitated as an anti-terrorist agency. Few would miss the irony of yesterday’s masters of terror being transformed into today’s hunters of terrorists!

The Balibo film, the AFP action, and the Bere case may have caused official jitteriness and media circumspection in Dili and Canberra, but the popular reaction in both countries has not helped Indonesia’s image. In Dili I attended two meetings where there were strong demands for an international tribunal, not just for justice for individual victims, but as a way of bringing out into the open one of the worst cases of its kind in the region’s recent history. What most Timorese are seeking is Jakarta’s full recognition of the war crimes committed and of Indonesia’s responsibility. Without serious steps in that direction, reconciliation will be meaningless. A brooding resentment, especially  towards  the Indonesian military, will continue to lurk in much of Timorese society, where thousands consider themselves victims of crimes against humanity. As for Australia, we should now be urging Indonesia to take an honest and closer look at what happened in East Timor between the Balibo and Suai incidents.  A recognition of its lessons is an important step in the path to the kind of democracy Indonesians now aspire to.

Interview with President Jose Ramos-Horta

Lusa, 21 September 2009

Dili - The President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta in an interview today broadcast on TVTL, admitted that the national interest can override the law, as has been the case with Bere.

Questioned about whether or not the delivery of Maternus Bere, who is indicted for crimes against humanity in the massacre of 1999 in the Suai Church to Indonesian authorities, the Head of State responded that "not everything that is legal can support the national interest and the interests of the State.”

Ramos Horta, in the interview in Tetum, the language most spoken in the country, said that as head of state his first duty is to ensure the sovereignty and independence of East Timor and so he has to cultivate good neighborly relations, particularly with Indonesia, which has its own difficulties in moving towards democracy.

The President made the analogy of delivery Maternus Bere, who is Indonesian nationality, to the agreement made with the United States in 2002 by the government of Mari Alkatiri, which states that crimes committed in Timor-Leste by the US military cannot be tried in Timor, but would be handed over to the American authorities.

Drawing parallels between the U.S. and Indonesia, Ramos-Horta stressed that both countries, unlike East Timor, have not ratified the Treaty of Rome, so if the International Criminal Court were to issue an arrest warrant against a U.S. citizen within Timor-Leste’s jurisdiction, it is bound by the agreement to deliver him to the United States.

According to Ramos-Horta’s interpretation, in agreeing with Indonesia to deliver Bere to them, Timor-Leste would be doing the same as if it were an American citizen, as both the USA and Indonesia, have not ratified the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court.

The President also said that the establishment of an international tribunal to try serious crimes committed between 1975 and 1999 in Timor-Leste is not generally supported in East Timor, nor is it consistent with the position of both parties, but shows the "hypocrisy" of some sectors at home and abroad.

"FRETILIN was in power from 2002 to 2007, with a majority in Parliament and did not want a tribunal, understanding the importance of neighborly relations with Indonesia," he recalled.

On the other hand, Ramos-Horta recalled that the UN had the exclusive administration of East Timor from 1999 to 2002, as mandated by the Security Council and "did nothing" regarding serious crimes at that level.

"So why is that the Security Council did not adopt a resolution to create an international tribunal at the time," questioned the Head of State.

During the interview, he also commented on the recent incident with the National Parliament, which took the decision to prevent him traveling abroad on an official visit, pending clarification on the case Bere, but then reconsidered it.

Ramos-Horta pointed out that, constitutionally, the President, is directly elected, and is not accountable to neither the Parliament or to the government, so the first parliamentary decision was vitiated by an unconstitutionality, and also said to have been itself a surprise.

"The secretary general of Fretilin, Mari Alkatiri, had attended a meeting to consider a way out and gave his contribution, showing understanding of the relationship with Indonesia. We were surprised that Alkatiri's moderated analysis of the problem was not reflected in the position taken by his party in the parliament," he said.

Questioned about the censure motion against the government of Xanana Gusmão, tabled in Parliament by FRETILIN, Ramos-Horta said that as President of the Republic, he considered this to be a normal practice in democratic regimes.

"Personally as a citizen, I Ramos-Horta, support the AMP government 100%, which I believe have all the constitutional legitimacy and have total confidence in the Prime Minister," he said.

Internet Exclusive: Maternus Bere Case - Breaking News: Bere has a VISA

Tempo Semanal Internet, 24 September 2009

Tempo Semanal has just been provided with a with a leaked copy of Maternus Bere's passport.

In this passport is shows his visa and the documents also include a letter from the Ministry of Justice which justifies the release of Maternus Bere from custody in Becora prison.

Next week's edition will be a Special Edition focussing on the Maternus Bere case.

Tempo Semanal staff are in Suai gathering the information and views about justice from victims and family of victims of 1999 violence perpetrated by the Laksuar Militia of which Bere was a Commander.

To date victims and those civilians who arrested Bere express their anger at the Government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and are very disappointed with the United Nations and especially UNMIT and its SRSG Khare who continues to have a executive policing mission, but seem "toothless" once again.

Once survivor of the Suai Church Massacre, named here as DA, who was present when Bere was arrested in Suai Market on 8 August 2009 said;

"I saw Maternus. People yelled at him near the market, and we the victims arrested the perpetrator then handed him over to UNPOL and PNTL to bring justice. But the Government has delivered injustice to us - the victims. An the UN has just washed their hands of us, and has finished the Special Panel on Serious Crimes.

So if one day I get another member of the Laksaur Militia, I will make my own judgement, with my own hand."

LUSA: UN says international tribunal possibility

Lusa - September 24, 2009

Dili - A representative of the division of the UN Human Rights said today that an international court may be established if East Timor and Indonesia fail to administer justice in the Bere case.

The deputy chief of the Division of Human Rights United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), Fernanda Guimaraes argued that Maternus Bere should first be judged by those with primary jurisdiction, either East Timor or Indonesia, but if they fail to do so then other options must be considered, including an international tribunal.

The UNMIT representative conceded that Maternus Bere could be tried in Indonesia, provided there is to be "a fair trial," but noted that "previous rulings in Indonesia have caused concern in the international community for not following the minimum standards of what can be regarded as a fair trial.”

Fernanda Guimaraes, from UNMIT, was speaking outside a seminar on the implications for the judiciary of the political decision to deliver the ex-militia chief Maternus Bere Indonesia, held today in Dili by the Association Hak [sic, actually by La'o Hamutuk].

"Firstly, it should be up to the primary jurisdictions and that is with East Timor or Indonesia. In the event that the primary jurisdictions fail, then the international community will consider other options, including an international tribunal.

If there is a trial that is considered fair, then in principle everything is fine, but the point is that there is a precedent in that it is not what has happened previously.

“There have been previous rulings in Indonesia that have caused concern in the international community, because the minimum standards of a fair trial were not followed," she told Lusa.

For the speaker, the United Nations position is clear: Any decision must promote criminal liability.

"We want to stress that (the release of Bere) it is a violation of the Constitution and laws of this country and it is also a violation of international treaties to which Timor-Leste is a party, as the Rome Statute that created the International court, and the convention of civil and political rights.

Again what is the position of the United Nations and is a basic principle of human rights: there can be no impunity for serious crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide," he said.

Another speaker [Deputada Fernanda Borges], the chairperson of the Justice and Constitutional Committee (The committee) and leader of the National Unity Party (PUN) urged at the meeting the Attorney General's Office, Ana Pessoa, to investigate "who was involved in the process to release Maternus Bere Becora prison.”

"The Court of Appeal has taken a position, saying that there was violation of the law, and has ordered an investigation of this case. The Court of Appeal receives the result of the investigation from the Attorney General, analyzes the facts and judges according to the laws.

Our Attorney General has to fulfill her duty, comply with the Constitution, and not consider who put her in that office or at her personal political views. She must act as an advocate compliance with the law in East Timor and she fails to do that then she is not qualified to perform the job," she said.

Maternus Bere was arrested when he returned to East Timor, to be indicted for involvement in the massacre in Suai church in 1999 when three priests and several worshippers who were in the house were killed.

He was released from Becora jail on 30 August, with an administrative order but without a judicial order, and delivered to the Embassy of Indonesia.

Security Council Report

October 2009 on Timor-Leste [Excerpts]. This is written by an NGO which monitors the Security Council, not the UN itself.

Expected Council Action

No Council decisions on Timor-Leste are expected in October, but the Council is likely to receive a briefing from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare.

At press time the Secretary-General’s progress report on the activities of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) was expected by 30 September. As requested in resolution 1867 (which in February extended UNMIT’s mandate until 26 February 2010), the report will update the Council on the transfer of policing responsibility from UNMIT to the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL). Khare may also brief on the village (suco) and sub-village (aldeia) elections for chiefs and councils due on 9 October.

Key Recent Developments

The 10th anniversary of the UN-organised referendum that led to Timor-Leste’s independence was marked on 30 August. In remarks to the press, the president of the Council said the Council commended the people and government of Timor-Leste on their efforts towards peace, stability and development. In Timor-Leste Khare said that “in the last 10 years, Timor-Leste had achieved significant progress in the areas of consolidation of the institutions of democracy, respect for human rights”. He noted the development of the police and the local military, but added that “the road ahead is still long.”

In a report released on 27 August, Amnesty International warned the Council that there was a need for a long-term comprehensive plan to end impunity for crimes in Timor-Leste. It proposed that an international criminal tribunal be set up with jurisdiction over all crimes committed in Timor-Leste between 1975 and 1999. There are 400 outstanding arrest warrants issued by the Serious Crimes Unit, originally set up within the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) in 1999.

Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta, speaking on the 10th anniversary of the referendum, rejected the idea of an international tribunal and said it was time for the UN to disband the Serious Crimes Unit.

The impunity issues were highlighted on 30 August with the release of Martenus Bere, who had been indicted in 2003 by the Serious Crimes Unit on charges of crimes against humanity, including the Suai church massacre in September 1999. Bere had been detained in Timor-Leste on 8 August. However, a top Indonesian official invited to participate in the 10th anniversary celebration refused to enter the country if Bere remained in custody. A spokesperson for the Secretary-General has said Bere’s release is contrary to resolution 1704, which set up UNMIT in 2006, and conflicted with the UN’s position of no amnesty or impunity for crimes against humanity. Timor-Leste’s Supreme Court is investigating the case to determine if Bere’s release violated the constitution.

...

The UN’s third human rights report on Timor-Leste, covering July 2008 through June 2009, was published on 15 September. The report said that Timor-Leste had made progress in key human rights areas such as the strengthening of the judicial system and adherence to the rule of law, but still had work to do in the area of accountability.

Key Issues

A key challenge for the Council is factoring the specific needs of Timor-Leste into its overall approach to peacekeeping, represented in its most recent review in an August presidential statement ( S/PRST/2009/24).

A related issue is finding ways incorporate more peacebuilding elements into UNMIT’s work in light of paragraph 9 of that statement.

Recent history shows the risks in Timor-Leste of the Council and UNMIT being lulled into a sense of security. Ensuring that UNMIT retains an effective oversight function in the districts transferred to the PNTL may be a key issue.

Developments in the Bere case and the response to the Amnesty International proposal suggest that accountability for past human rights violations will continue to be a serious issue. Bere’s release to the Indonesian government may feed underlying discontent among some sectors of the Timor-Leste population about continuing impunity for crimes committed over the years.

...

Cova Lima, East Timor: Political conflict can lead to constitutional crisis

Global Voices, 1 October 2009 by "Keta Haluha"

The isolated district of Cova Lima, Timor-Leste has produced two remarkable stories in the last month. Both involving Timorese men with a violent political background supporting Indonesia's invasion, occupation and subsequent integration of Timor-Leste in 1975. Both stories, set in the present, involve President Jose Ramos-Horta. While one is headline news in the English and Tetun speaking press, the other has received little attention beyond Tetun print and web media.

On 23 September 2009 a prominent former pro-autonomy leader from the Timorese southern coastal district of Cova Lima made a stunning revelation in Dili District court during the trial of those accused of shooting President Jose Ramos-Horta, and attacking Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão on 8 February 2008. Rui Teixeira Lopes admitted to providing now deceased, rebel leader Major Reinado, and the man that lead the attack on Horta, with uniforms procured in Indonesia.

As the increasingly active Centru Jornalista Investigativu Timor Leste (CJITL), [Centre for Investigative Journalism Timor-Leste] reported in a Dili Flash news segment on 25 September 2009 states:

“Rui Texeira Lopes ne’ebe kolega diak grupu Alfredo nian mak sosa husi Indonezia.” [Tet.]
Rui Teixeira Lopes an ally of the Alfredo Group bought [them] in Indonesia.

The report quotes Lopes as saying,

“ Farda Militar nebe Alfredo ho nia grupo hatais ne’e hau mak sosa husi Marina Amerika iha Indonezia” dehan Rui Lopes ba Tribunal.”
The military uniforms worn by Major Alfredo and his group were bought by me from American Marines in Indonesia, said Rui Lopes to the Tribunal.

Lopes further stated:

“Maibe osan ne'e laos hau nian tanba montante osan ne’e Salsinha intrega mai hau hafoin hau ba sosa farda mai fahe ba sira iha subar fatin. Hau deklara buat ne’ebe los ba tribunal mais kuandu ida ne'e mak hau sala karik ohin kedas hau prontu ba tur hamutuk ho maluk arguidu sira ne’e” Rui Lopes hatutan.
But the money was not mine, as the amount of money was given to me by Salsinha [Reinado's deputy] and then I bought the uniforms and distributed them in their hiding place. I declare this to be true but if this is a mistake I am today ready immediately to sit with the accused.” Rui Lopes

Who is Rui Lopes?

In addition to being a former colleague of many wanted war criminals - he is the former Bupati (Indonesian term of District Head) of Cova Lima District, an honourary member of the Indonesian special forces unit Kopassus, and a successful businessman with interests in cross border trade, trucking and is known for breeding racing horses. In 1999 he supported the pro-autonomy option until the last moment, and then turned on his Indonesian general masters and told the world about TNI plans and actions to “torch” Timor in the wake of a vote for independence. In June 2006 he lead a anti-FRETILIN protest convoy to Dili as part of the effort to oust then Prime Minister Alkatiri. He was caught on film claiming he was “prontu atu mate - ready to die”. As blogged by FRETILIN leaning blogger Tatoli, and posted on You Tube.

Meanwhile the international press, Timorese websites, blogs and newslists are flooded with stories, gossip and commentary on the Bere Case. The domestic print media has literally used up a valuable forest on the issue.

Who is Bere?

Maternus Bere, was a subcommander of the infamous pro-Indonesia Laksaur militia, organised, funded and directed by the Indonesian military, and based in Cova Lima district on the south west border with Indonesia. Laksaur was an extension of the pro-autonomy apparatus funded by the Indonesian military and lead by Rui Lopes and others in Cova Lima. Laksaur, and Bere, were responsible among other crimes, for the Suai Church Massacre on 6 September 1999, in which over 200 people were killed for their support of the Independence option in the 30 August 1999 UN run Popular Consultation. Bere was subsequently indicted by the United Nations Special Panel on Serious Crimes, along with numerous other members of Laksaur for the Suai Church Massacre along with other human rights violations.

In summary Bere, a minor government official in Indonesia and a wanted man for the last decade, crossed the border from Indonesia into Cova Lima district in August 2009. Critically, Tempo Semanal has obtained a copy of Bere's passport, showing it was issued in July 2009 by the Indonesian government, and that he was provided a visa by Timorese police on 5 August, three days before his arrest in Suai. Bere was arrested by local people on 8 August, handed over the police, and subsequently released on 30 August 2009 by President Ramos-Horta, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, and Minister of Justice. Bere is currently believed to be in the Indonesian Embassy in Dili

Civil society reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. On 25 September the leading weekly newspaper Tempo Semanal, blogged a video taken from the National Commission for Victims of Human Rights Congress meeting in early September, capturing the feelings of civil society - being frustration and anger.

The leading Opposition party, FRETILIN has introduced a motion to censure the Government, and is suggesting it will quit Parliament if the vote goes in support of the Government.

FRETILIN argues that the release is grossly unconstitutional, and is the last straw after a series of allegedly illegal actions by the Government and its Ministers over the last 2 years. These actions include but are not limited to corrupt activities by the Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, the husband of the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, to but a few. Tempo Semanal has published dozens of corruption stories in the last year.

Additionally, Tempo Semanal obtained a copy of dispatch by Claudio Ximenes suggesting that the release of Bere was unconstitutional and thus illegal, even going so far as to indicate that the President, Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, if found in breach of the law face jail terms of 2-6 years. Prime Minister Gusmão responded by stating. ““I know where Becora prison is so as soon as a court sentence I will go there my self.”

Indeed the grand old man of Timorese politics, the country's first President, and the Proklamador (Proclaimer) of independence on 28 November 1975, Fransisco Xavier Amaral has declared that President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão “La Iha Klamar - Have no Soul”.

The politico-legal witch's brew emanating from Cova Lima is threatening to engulf the country in a constitutional crisis, once again. The events of 1975, 1999, and 2006 reverberate in 2009. And to think, the Government wants investors to join it in pumping hundreds of million of dollars into major oil and gas infrastructure projects in Cova Lima and other south coast areas.

Legality v. Justice

By Clinton Fernandes, 1 October 2009

"Jose Ramos-Horta: If we were to have an international tribunal, I say we start with whom? We start with Indonesia or start with United States that provided weapons to the Suharto regime. Or Australia. Or all of them at once. And how, and why only Indonesians and why not East Timorese themselves, who including from the resistance side who were involved in violence? Or we should only try the so-called enemy. Or try only the weak side."

CF: Leaving aside the rest of the boilerplate, His Excellency raises an important point. There are two separate issues: "legality" and "justice".

Legality is a technical question of law and history. Who would be the defendants in an international tribunal is a matter for international law. But international law reflects the standards of those who ratify treaties and other agreements. It is simply a body of principles formally accepted by the great powers.

To quote my rabbi: "These laws, so understood, are the weapon of the strong, and are of no moral force or validity. It is a political decision to accept an interpretation of the law which holds that a government installed and maintained by a foreign power has the right to call upon this foreign power to suppress an insurgency that has gained such extensive political support that insurgents are indistinguishable from the population, and which holds that civilian participants in the insurgency are war criminals. It is a political decision to accept as valid the law that combatants must identify themselves as such to the soldiers of the foreign army, while that same law raises no objection to the dispatch of soldiers "thousands of miles from home" to "unlovely circumstances" in which they cannot distinguish noncombatants from partisans... No reason, that is, apart from the political judgment that a great power has the right to impose a regime of its choice, by force, in some foreign land. The system of law, so interpreted, is merely a ratification of imperialist practice... If international law has nothing to say about this (except that civilians aiding the resistance are war criminals), then its moral bankruptcy is revealed."

Justice is a much deeper concept. When we talk about Justice, we (or at least I) refer to a longer-term project, which is the replacement of one form of social logic with another.

But when we talk about an international tribunal for East Timor, or the Balibo Five, or Agus Muliawan, Sander Thoenes and others, we (or at least I) refer only to "legality". "Those who bear the greatest responsibility" should be the defendants, which is a jurisdictional requirement.

Maternus Bere and the National Interest

By Antonio Ramos naikoli, editor of Forum Haksekuk blog, 5 October 2009  (also Portuguese)

Maternus Bere (MB) was captured by authorities and condemned by the Suai District Court, accusing MB to be one of the perpetrators of the massacre unleashed by pro-Indonesia militias on 6 September 1999, Suai Church. That massacre victims were civilians and many religious. The court verdict was the middle of August, which MB awarded him penalty because the acts committed in the past.

[LH note: This is not correct. The Suai district Court ordered that Bere be held until he could be tried in the Dili District Court. He has not yet been condemned and no verdict has yet been issued. Political interference in the judicial system may prevent the trial from ever occurring.]

According to UNTAET Regulation No.15/2000, which is the panel of serious crimes with powers to prosecute for serious crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against genocide, among others. In light of UNTAET Regulation No .15/2000, the only Court that has jurisdiction over serious crimes, the District Court. It means that the very Suai District Court violated the regulation in force and for the Council of the Judiciary (CSMJ) open an investigation to the Judge of the process.

...  (click on headline for complete article)

ETimor lawmakers attack govt on militia leader

AFP, Dili. 12 Oct. -- Lawmakers in East Timor shouted jibes at each other Monday in a fiery censure debate over a government decision to free an Indonesian militia leader accused of crimes against humanity. Members of the opposition Fretilin party pushed the motion against the government of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, accusing it of breaking the law in an August decision to release militia leader Martenus Bere.

"Let's not say the freeing of Martenus Bere was in the national interest, as it violates the constitution," former prime minister Mari Alkatiri told parliament as opposition lawmakers shouted that the government had undermined East Timor's independence. "This government has become accustomed to disrespecting the constitution and the law, opposing national and international laws," Alkatiri said.

A vote on the opposition censure motion was expected later in the day. Bere was arrested after crossing into East Timor on August 8, five years after being indicted for his role in a string of human rights violations including the 1999 Suai church massacre in which up to 200 people were killed. The United Nations has criticised government "interference" in freeing the militia leader.

But Gusmao and President Jose Ramos-Horta have said reconciliation with giant neighbour Indonesia is more important than dwelling on past abuses. At least 100,000 people were estimated to have died during Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor, which ended with bloody violence surrounding a 1999 UN-backed independence vote.

Timor Leste government faces no confidence vote

AP, 12 Oct. -- Timor Leste's government faced a no-confidence vote Monday over the release at Indonesia's request of an alleged militia leader accused of war crimes in the slayings of women, children and priests in a church a decade ago.

The opposition Fretilin party put forward the motion in the house of representatives Monday to protest Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's order to set free Maternus Bere on Aug. 30. The Supreme Court believes the move violated the constitution and has launched an investigation.

Gusmao, an independence-era icon who began his 5-year-term in August 2007, told the legislature at the start of the debate Monday that he accepted responsiblity for Bere's release. "It was purely a political decision for our good relationship with Indonesia," he said.

The case has become a test for the infant nation, highlighting the continuing challenge to establish an independent and viable judiciary after breaking from hundreds of years of colonialism in 2002. If half the members present in the 65-seat body support the motion, the government will be dissolved and new elections ordered within three months in what could spark new instability. It appeared set for a close vote, with house members bitterly divided.

"The government's decision to free Mr. Maternus Bere from Becora Prison clearly violated the constitution," Fretilin's motion said. "Only a court has the power and competence to order a citizen in prison to be freed from custody."

Timor Leste is enjoying relative stability after assassination attempts against its leaders in early 2008. Even those who opposed Bere's release may not support the bill for fear of disrupting the peace.

A vote was expected late Monday night, said house speaker Fernando de Araujo.

An Indonesia national, Bere had been at large for 10 years until his arrest on Aug. 8 after crossing into East Timor from Indonesia for a family gathering. Bere is one of the alleged leaders of the 1999 Suai massacre, when pro-Indonesia militias killed dozens and possibly hundreds of people sheltering in the village during the bloody aftermath of East Timor's referendum for independence that left at least 1,000 people dead.

Preparations for his trial were underway when he was handed over to the Indonesian Embassy as the nation marked the 10th anniversary of the historic Aug. 30 vote for independence, in which the nation of 1.1 million chose to break from Indonesia after 24 years of occupation. Indonesia waited for confirmation of Bere's hand-over before sending officials to Dili, Timor Leste's capital, to attend a public ceremony with President Jose Ramos-Horta, an Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman has said.

Human rights groups say the handover demonstrated the weakness of the judiciary and that giving in to the political demands of powerful neighbor Indonesia undermined democratic institutions. The United Nations has expressed concern and called for Timor Leste's leaders to abide by international law. Arrest warrants issued by a U.N.-backed serious crimes unit are outstanding for nearly 400 suspects in the 1999 violence, but Timor Leste has favored reconciliation rather than prosecution.

East Timor opposition debates censure motion against government

DPA, Dili - East Timor's Parliament on Monday debated a censure motion submitted by two opposition parties against the government for releasing an Indonesian militia leader accused of committing crimes against humanity.

The motion - launched by the Revolutionary Front of Independent Timor-Leste, or Fretilin, and the Democratic Alliance Kota/PPT - is to go to a vote about 10 pm (1100 GMT) Monday, officials said.

The government, led by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, would collapse if 33 lawmakers approve the motion. Opposition parties have 23 seats in Parliament while the government alliance has 42 members.

Opposition members accused the government of interfering with the judiciary in ordering the release in August of Maternus Bere, indicted for committing atrocities in the violent aftermath of the 1999 referendum that won East Timor independence from Indonesia.

Gusmao defended his decision to release Bere as necessary to maintain good relations with its powerful neighbour, Indonesia, which reportedly asked for Bere's release. "My government prioritizes national interest as we know we have more than 8,000 East Timor students studying in Indonesian cities and we have 75 per cent of our trade links with Indonesia," Gusmao said. "Indonesia is very important for our bilateral cooperation and regional security," he said.

Fretilin spokesman Aniceto Guteres called on the prime minister to resign for interfering in the judiciary. "We are very concerned on the political interference in the judicial system," Guteres said. "We agree with reconciliation, but we don't accept that the government ignores justice for the victims" of the 1999 atrocities. Bere was arrested in August and placed in jail after being indicted for involvement in homicide, sexual violence and torture in 1999.

East Timor became independent in 2002 after a referendum in 1999 that was organized by the United Nations. The resulting vote for independence sparked a rampage by pro-Indonesia militias that destroyed much of the territory's infrastructure and left more than 1,000 East Timorese dead. An international peacekeeping force was necessary to restore order and the territory, once a Portuguese colony, was kept under UN supervision for three years before gaining independence.

East Timor government survives no-confidence vote

By Guido Goulart, Associated Press, 12 Oct 2009

East Timor's government survived a no-confidence vote Monday called after it released, at Indonesia's request, an alleged militia leader accused of orchestrating the slayings of women, children and priests in a church a decade ago.

The opposition Fretilin party put forward the motion in the parliament to protest Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's Aug. 30 order to set Maternus Bere free. The U.N. has a warrant out for Bere, who is accused of crimes against humanity, including persecution, forced disappearances, torture, extermination and abduction.

The Supreme Court believes his release violated the constitution and has launched an investigation.

After a day of heated debate, the proposal to dissolve Gusmao's Cabinet failed in the 65-seat house. It received 25 votes in favor and 38 against, house speaker Fernando de Araujo said.

Gusmao, an independence-era icon who began his five-year-term in August 2007, told the legislature earlier Monday that he was ready to accept responsibility for Bere's release. Following Gusmao's order, Bere was handed over to the Indonesian Embassy, where he remains.

"It was purely a political decision for our good relationship with Indonesia," Gusmao said.

The case is a test for the infant nation, highlighting the continuing challenge of establishing an independent and viable judiciary in the wake of its 2002 break from hundreds of years of colonialism, including rule by Indonesia and Portugal. While the political challenge has been diminished, Gusmao could still face legal proceedings in the Supreme Court.

"Prime Minister Gusmao will remain in power until 2012 because the deputies have placed their trust in you," de Araujo said after the late night session.

Fretilin's motion contended that the government's decision to free Bere violated the constitution because a court is the only authority with the power to release a prisoner. Gusmao "disrespected the constitution, the judicial process, and parliament," Fretilin lawmaker Inacio Moreira said during a debate. "That's why we don't trust you."

East Timor is enjoying relative stability after assassination attempts against its leaders in early 2008. Even those who opposed Bere's release may have voted against the bill for fear of disrupting the peace.

An Indonesian national, Bere had been living freely in Indonesia until his arrest on Aug. 8 after crossing into East Timor for a family gathering.

Bere is one of the alleged leaders of the 1999 Suai massacre, when pro-Indonesia militias killed dozens and possibly hundreds of people sheltering in the village during the bloody aftermath of East Timor's referendum for independence that left at least 1,000 people dead.

Preparations for his trial were under way when he was handed over to the Indonesian Embassy as East Timor marked the 10th anniversary of the historic Aug. 30 vote for independence, in which the nation of 1.1 million chose to break from Indonesia after 24 years of occupation.

Bere is still at the embassy waiting for documents to be processed so he can be returned to Indonesia, Gusmao said.

Human rights groups say the handover demonstrated the weakness of the judiciary and that giving in to the political demands of powerful neighbor Indonesia undermined democratic institutions.

The United Nations has expressed concern and called for East Timor's leaders to abide by international law. Arrest warrants issued by a U.N.-backed serious crimes unit, including the one for Bere, are outstanding for nearly 400 suspects in the 1999 violence, but East Timor has favored reconciliation rather than prosecution

East Timor Government Survives No-Confidence Vote

By Brian Padden, Voice of America, Jakarta 13 October 2009 (audio from above link)

Although East Timor's government has survived a no-confidence motion in parliament, there still is considerable anger over the prime minister's decision to release a pro-Indonesia militia leader charged with war crimes. This crisis is another test for a fledgling democracy.

E. Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao (file photo) East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao (File) Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao addressed the East Timor Parliament for more than two hours to defend his decision to release Maternus Bere.

Bere is accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor. He allegedly was one of the leaders of pro-Indonesia militias involved in a 1999 massacre in which scores of people were killed before East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia. It was part of a wave of militia violence that left over 1,000 dead in East Timor.

An Indonesian national, Bere had been living in Indonesia until his arrest on August 8th, after he entered East Timor for a family gathering. He was charged and trial preparations began. But on August 30, the 10th anniversary of East Timor's vote for independence, Bere was handed over to the Indonesian Embassy.

Angry opposition politicians filed a no-confidence motion. After 12 hours of debate, it was voted down late Monday night.

Charles Scheiner is a researcher with La'o Hamtuck, organization that monitors democracy and development in East Timor or Timor Leste, the country's name in the Portuguese language. He followed the debate and says the prime minister claimed sole responsibility for the decision and was unapologetic.

"His basic theme was that his determination of what is in the national interest of Timor Leste, which has to do with maintaining a good relationship with the Indonesian government, is more important than legal technicalities or provisions of the constitution," Scheiner said.

Scheiner agrees with the opposition argument that the prime minister abused his power and interfered with the operation of an independent judiciary.

"You just cannot spring somebody because the prime minister thinks it is the diplomatic requirement," Scheiner noted. "The constitution very clearly says in Timor Leste, as in the United States and many other countries, the judicial system is independent and is not up to political officials, elected officials or government officials to override the laws and the constitutional priorities of the court system."

But the opposition could not persuade enough members of parliament to agree. The motion to dissolve Mr. Gusmao's Cabinet failed by a vote of 25 in favor and 38 against.

Scheiner says the victory for the prime minister is not a total loss for democracy. The debate ended peacefully and not in armed conflict or assassination attempts, as has happened here in the past.

But the matter is not dead; the Supreme Court is investigating whether the prime minister, in releasing Bere, violated the constitution.

This incident could become a major issue in the 2012 elections in East Timor, where one third of the people had family members killed during the Indonesian occupation.

East Timor govt survives no-confidence vote

AFP, Oct 13

DILI (AFP) - East Timor's opposition stayed on the offensive Tuesday after the government survived a no-confidence vote over its decision to free an Indonesian militia leader accused of crimes against humanity.

Members of the opposition Fretilin party and its allies brought the motion before the house, accusing the government of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao of breaking the law by releasing militia leader Martenus Bere from custody.

After a fiery day-long debate which was broadcast on national television, MPs voted late Monday by a margin of 39 to 25 against the motion, officials said.

Had it succeeded, President Jose Ramos-Horta could have dissolved parliament and called an election, a remote prospect given his support for the government's policy of leniency toward rights abusers of the past.

Fretilin lawmaker Arsenio Bano said MPs were scared to censure the government over the Bere affair, which has drawn criticism from the United Nations and independent rights groups like Amnesty International.

"They refused to censure the ... prime minister despite his public admission, repeated several times to parliament yesterday, that he ordered the release of Martenus Bere," Bano said in a statement.

Former prime minister Mari Alkatiri led the charge against the government, saying Bere's release less than a month after his arrest in August was unconstitutional and undermined East Timor's independence.

Bere was arrested after crossing into East Timor on August 8, five years after being indicted for his role in a string of human rights violations including the 1999 Suai church massacre in which up to 200 people were killed.

Gusmao, who led East Timor's resistance against Indonesian rule before its 1999 vote for independence, defended freeing Bere as a "political decision" that was "in the national interest".

Bere has stayed at the Indonesian embassy in the capital Dili since his August 30 release.

Government MPs argued his release was necessary to prevent reprisals against Timorese studying in Indonesia, and said a trial would have done nothing to improve reconciliation between the two countries.

Gusmao and Nobel prize laureate Ramos-Horta insist that building cordial ties with Indonesia is more important than dwelling on its crimes, despite UN calls for an international tribunal.

Indonesia's brutal 24-year occupation of East Timor ended with bloody violence by Indonesian troops and their militia proxies who opposed the 1999 UN-backed independence vote.

Oh come on…

The Lost Boy blog

October 21st, 2009 blog by The Lost Boy

This is from STL. If it’s true, it’s despicable

President of the Republic Jose Ramos Horta, has already decided to return former Commander of the Laksaur militia Maternus Bere, to Indonesian authorities because he suffers from a complicated medical condition.

“I have made this decision so that there is no impact for the State of Timor-Leste, based on medical advice that Maternus Bere suffers from a condition that is a bit grave,” PR Horta told journalists this at the Comoro International Airport, Dili, on Monday 19 October 2009, as he was about to travel to participate at President SBY’s swearing in ceremony.

This is the first I’ve heard of a “grave” medical condition. I know they tried to get Bere out before by pretending he was ill, but when it was decided that he could be treated in Dili, the whole plan was scuppered. So what’s wrong with Bere now?

He confessed that before the state decided to hand him over to Indonesian authorities, according to the opinion of two doctors, one from Indonesia and one from Timor-Leste, Maternus suffers from diabetes and other medical conditions.

I’m sure diabetes can be treated in Timor-Leste. And as for “other medical conditions”, I hear there are doctors for those things too. Apparently it’s a matter of life and death, but it’s taken nearly two months to surface. What a crock.

Of course Lucia Lobato has something to say. She “appealed to judicial authorities and political leaders not to oppose or criticize the State’s decision regarding the freeing of Maternus Bere, because when political leaders criticize one another without looking for solutions, Maternus Bere can end up dying in Timor-Leste”.

Bere can’t have had it that rough in the Indonesian embassy. When I spoke to officials there a few weeks ago, they told me Bere was perfectly healthy. There was no mention of diabetes then. Everyone is apparently worried that Bere is going to die in the Indonesian embassy.

I’m not in Dili at the moment, but for those who are, you can’t let this happen.

East Timor: Waiting for justice

"101 East" on Al-Jazeera Television, October 22, 2009

Ten years after gaining independence, is East Timor putting reconciliation ahead of justice? This week on 101 East, we speak with Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor's president, about the challenges of reconciling with the injustices of the country's past.

Part 1 (10 min) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBkPgifb2r0 background, interviews with victims and others

Part 2 (13 min) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwYVaJzEH54 interview with President Ramos-Horta

Timor war crimes need justice

Sydney Morning Herald, October 25, 2009. By Paul Daley

Australia should push for justice for war crimes in East Timor rather than accept excuses of good relations with Indonesia.

ONE of the most compelling moments in the recent film Balibo depicted a no-holds-barred punch-up in a swimming pool between Australian journalist Roger East and the East Timorese independence activist Jose Ramos-Horta.

It was late 1975, the Indonesian special forces had just murdered five Australian newsmen in Balibo and Jakarta was poised to invade East Timor, the tiny country on Australia's doorstep.

Balibo, the movie, depicted the veteran journalist East as something of a washed-up hack who'd reluctantly come to East Timor at Ramos-Horta's insistence to run the East Timor News Agency. East was portrayed as being disproportionately obsessed at times with solving the murders of the five young Australians while comparatively inured to the broader injustices being perpetrated against the East Timorese.

The fight between East and Ramos-Horta is a neat dramatic metaphor for anyone who has, over the years, pondered the horrible deaths of the five Australians – and the massive injustices and human rights abuses dealt to the East Timorese for 24 years from 1975. It flares after Ramos-Horta criticises East for caring only about the dead journalists when he should be concerned about finding justice for the East Timorese.

It is a gritty, tense and immensely unsettling scene that forces viewers to confront the moral relativism through which we view the murder of the Australians amid the context of broader atrocity against the East Timorese. Ramos-Horta, I found myself thinking, has a point; what happened to the journalists was terrible but it was also part of a much larger Indonesian crime against the East Timorese.

It was a brilliant scene in a remarkable film. But as the movie's consulting historian Dr Clinton Fernandes points out on his website about Balibo, the swimming pool scene was "entirely fictitious". "It was written into the movie partly to confront the audience with the obvious point: 'why care so much about five journalists when so many East Timorese are dying?' The fact is those who campaigned – and still campaign – for justice for the Balibo Five also campaigned for the independence of East Timor. The journalists were murdered because they were trying to tell the world the truth about East Timor," he says.

Today, of course, Ramos-Horta is East Timor's President. The former guerilla fighter Xanana Gusmao is the country's Prime Minister. Many of their countrymen and countless individuals and human rights groups the world over, have a burning desire to bring to justice the Indonesian soldiers and intelligence officials who oversaw 24 years of atrocities. Ramos-Horta and Gusmao are more pragmatic.

Gusmao's Government recently narrowly survived a no-confidence motion. It was moved in protest at the Prime Minister's extra-legal decision to free Indonesian militiaman Maternus Bere, wanted by the United Nations for his part in the massacre of women, children and priests in a church at Suai, East Timor, in 1999.

Besides his alleged involvement in the Suai massacre, one of Bere's associates Egidio Manek abducted a girl, Juliana Dos Santos – known in East Timor as Alola – and forcibly took her to West Timor to be his wife. Under international law, Bere is also complicit in the abduction and sexual slavery or Alola.

In 2001 the Alola Foundation, a charity to support the women and children of East Timor, was established in her name. Its patron is, somewhat ironically given recent events, Kirsty Sword Gusmao, the Australian-born wife of Xanana. Bere was arrested in East Timor on August 8 and was being held in pre-trial detention pending his criminal case. But on August 30, the 10th anniversary of the East Timorese independence vote, Gusmao took the extraordinary step of unilaterally freeing Bere.

In his speech to the nation on August 30, Ramos-Horta didn't mention Bere but he made it clear "there will be no international tribunal" in relation to Indonesian war crimes. He asked the UN to disband its serious crimes investigating team in East Timor. He said: "As the nation knows, my position is clear and firm on this issue: as an East Timorese and head of state, as someone who has lost brothers and a sister, as someone who almost lost his life, as someone who has criss-crossed this beautiful island of ours in the past 10 years, and know what the vast majority of the people feel and demand today, I am saying let's put the past behind. There will be no international tribunal."

On September 2 UN Human Rights Commissioner Navanethem Pillay wrote to Ramos-Horta, expressing deep concern about the release of Bere. "This decision is extremely regrettable as it has grave consequences for the prospects of accountability for the serious crimes which occurred in 1999. It would seem to violate ... Timor Leste's Constitution, as well as the country's penal code. It also counters successive Security Council resolutions which call for accountability for past crimes. You will equally be aware of the United Nations' firm position that there can be no amnesty or impunity for serious crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide," Pillay wrote. "I appreciate your Government's desire to develop healthy relations with Indonesia ... However, I trust you will appreciate your Government should not avoid its international obligations in the name of bilateral co-operation."

Defending his decision to hand Bere to the Indonesian Embassy in East Timor on August 30, Gusmao said: "It was purely a political decision for our good relationship with Indonesia."

In late 1975 when the ailing Whitlam government turned a blind eye to the murdered journalists and the continuing human rights abuses in East Timor, and implicitly supported Indonesian invasion plans, such pragmatism in the name of good bilateral relations with Jakarta was railed against. Not least by the likes of Ramos-Horta.

For the next fortnight, UN diplomats will debate whether to establish an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute war crimes in East Timor. Australia has effectively said it is willing to abide by East Timor's wishes. While Gusmao's and Ramos-Horta's positions are seen as regrettable by many who continue to fight for justice, East Timor cannot be expected to take the international lead. Australia can and should play a pivotal role.

Suspect in East Timor Massacre Back in Indonesia

Associated Press, Jakarta, October 30, 2009

Indonesia brought home a suspected militia leader accused in a massacre of dozens of women, children and priests in a church in East Timor a decade ago, the Foreign Ministry said.

Maternus Bere arrived in Indonesia on Friday and was taken to a hospital with undisclosed health problems, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah. He faces no charges in Indonesia and will be a free man after treatment.

An Indonesian national, Bere was indicted by U.N. prosecutors in 2003 on charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, persecution, forced disappearances, torture, extermination and abduction.

More than 1,000 people were killed by pro-Indonesian militias when East Timor voted to break from Indonesia in 1999, but more than 300 suspects remain at large, most of them in Indonesia. Leaders from both countries oppose criminal trials so rights activists have called for the establishment of a U.N. tribunal.

Bere was recognized during a visit to Suai, the town where the massacre took place in September 1999, and was arrested by Timorese police in early August.

He was handed over to the Indonesian Embassy at Jakarta's insistence after negotiations between the two governments on Aug. 30, the 10th anniversary of the tiny country's vote to become an independent state.

Culprit of Slaughter Repatriated to Indonesia

The repatriation was done secretly and tightly guarded by Timor Leste police officers.

VivaNews, 30 Oktober 2009, 16:45 WIB Elin Yunita Kristanti. Translated by: Nataya Ermanti

Former Laksaur militia commander, Maternus Bere, who was arrested by Timor Leste police for his alleged involvement in the massacre at Suai Church, was repatriated to Indonesia.

The convict in the post-election riot in 1999 which killed more than 200 civilians returned to Atambua, Belu regency.

The repatriation was done secretly and tightly guarded by Timor Leste police officers.

An official source from the office of Timor Leste Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, said Bere was no longer within Timor Leste’s territory.

“Please check with his family in Atambua. He was repatriated in the beginning of this week. Please check with the Indonesian Embassy in Dili,“ the source who wished to be unnamed said on Friday, October 30.

Indonesian Territory Security Guard Commander, Let. Col. Yunianto, who was contacted on his mobile phone, refused to comment on the report.

Dili Indonesian Embassy Public Relations Officer Neson Simorangkir would not also issue any statement.

Maternus Bere’s repatriation to Atambua made headlines in some of local media in East Nusa Tenggara. However, there is not any government nor the police and the military official source who was willing to comment.

According to the information obtained from Atambua, Bere was repatriated by the Indonesian Embassy in Dili via a cross-border door in Motaain in north Belu regency. “Maternus went home on Thursday, October 29, in the morning,“ an immigration officer said.

“He was picked up by the Indonesian military. For security reasons, he might be guarded by the police,” the source said.

Bere’s son, Elyseus Kehi said he still did not know his father’s whereabouts.

The former commander of Laksaur militia company, one of the pro-integration groups in East Timor, was arrested by the country’s police officers while attending a family event in Leorge Suai village, Covalima District in August.

Earlier, Xanana Gusmao spokesperson, Antonio Ramos and Timor Leste Consulate in Kupang, Caetano de Sousa Guterres, said Bere was released in order to maintain a good relationship between the two countries. Even at a press conference in Dili, Gusmao said he was ready to accept the court’s verdict if Bere’s repatriation is considered improper.

“I’m ready if I have to be jailed because I’m the one who gave the order to free Maternus Bere. If the verdict was coming from the Tribunal, I would immediately go to the prison. I know where Becora prison is,“ Gusmao said.

[LH note: this article contains some errors in background -- Bere has not been "convicted" and the post-referendum massacres were not a "riot." ]

Indonesia shelters indicted Timorese Suspect

Amnesty International Public Statement. 3rd November 2009 AI Index: ASA 21/020/2009

Reports emerged today that Maternus Bere, an indicted militia leader charged with crimes against humanity, was returned from Timor-Leste to Indonesia last week. His transfer to West Timor robs the victims of justice, as it occurred before his case had even been prosecuted by an independent court in a fair trial.

Martenus Bere, who was charged by the United Nations Serious Crimes Unit in 2003 with the extermination of civilians in the town of Suai and other crimes against humanity in 1999, including torture, enforced disappearance, deportation and persecution, was released from Becora prison on 30 August, amidst the celebrations of the 10-year anniversary of the independence vote. He was handed over to the Indonesian embassy in Dili following a request by Indonesia to the Timor-Leste government.

The transfer to Indonesia of this fugitive from justice perpetuates the pattern of impunity for crimes against humanity and other crimes which occurred during Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Both the Indonesian and Timor-Leste governments appear unwilling to uphold the rule of law and ensure that perpetrators of crimes against humanity are brought to justice, in clear violation of international human rights law and standards.

In this context, Amnesty International renews its call to the United Nations Security Council to step in and establish an international criminal tribunal to bring to justice all those responsible for crimes under international law between 1975 and 1999 in Timor-Leste and to ensure reparations to the victims.

Over 300 individuals who were indicted by the UN Special Panels for Serious Crimes for crimes against humanity and other crimes remain at large and are outside the territorial jurisdiction of Timor-Leste. It is believed that most of them live in Indonesia. The Indonesian government has so far refused to facilitate the extradition of those indicted on the basis that it did not recognize the UN Security Council mandate to try Indonesian citizens in Timor-Leste.

Xanana justifies Bere transfer to Indonesia

MSO - Lusa - 03 November 2009 (translation from Portuguese)

Dili – The Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmão, today justified the transfer of the former head of the militia from the Indonesian Embassy in Dili to Kupang, as being due to his deteriorating health.

Asked by reporters about the return of Maternus Bere to Indonesia on Thursday last, Xanana Gusmão said he was told by Justice Minister Lucia Lobato, the former militia would go on to Kupang for treatment.

"I was informed by the Justice Minister that the Embassy of Indonesia had announced that the health of Maternus Bere would no longer allow him to continue to stay there and that he had to go Kupang for treatment," said the prime minister of East Timor.

Xanana Gusmão was speaking at Nicolau Lobato Airport, where he was awaiting the return of President of the Republic, José Ramos-Horta, from South Korea, and referred further clarification on the subject to the Minister of Justice, who has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday.

Maternus Bere’s return to Indonesia was officially confirmed in Jakarta by Teuku Faizasyah, a spokesman from the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Maternus arrived in Indonesia on Friday and was taken to a hospital with unspecified health problems, and because he has no pending charges against him in Indonesia, he is a free man after he has received his medical treatment," said Teuku Faizasyah.

At the end of September, in a statement to Lusa, the deputy head of the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), Fernanda Guimaraes, had conceded the possibility of Maternus Bere being returned to be tried in Indonesia.

"It should first be the primary jurisdiction and that is with East Timor or Indonesia. In the event that primary jurisdiction fails, then the international community will think of other options, including an international tribunal," she said.

"If there is a trial that is considered fair in principle then everything is fine," she added.

Maternus Bere, former head of the Laksaur militia, returned to Indonesia last Thursday, after he was taken from the Indonesian Embassy in Dili, according to news agency Antara.

According to the Indonesian news agency, the return of Maternus Bere was made public by one of his children in Cupang and he is said to have traveled from Dili to Atambua on Thursday morning, having being escorted by the PNTL (National Police of Timor-Leste) to the border crossing at Mota Ain.

The former head of the Laksaur militia was arrested by authorities after having entered East Timor to attend the funeral of his father and sent to Becora Jail, where he was in custody awaiting trial by order of the District Court of Suai.

He has pending charges for his involvement in various crimes against humanity including murder, rape, deportation, kidnapping and torture in East Timor in September 1999, following the announcement of the result of the referendum.

On 30 August, the date of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the referendum, he was released from Becora prison by a political decision and delivered to the Indonesian Embassy.

There was nothing the UN could do (to stop Bere's removal to Indonesia)

Excerpt from Daily Press Briefing by Michele Montas, Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, New York, 4 November 2009

Question: In Timor-Leste, a militia leader, Maternus Bere, who was indicted by a UN-supported court, has been taken out of Timor-Leste into Indonesia.  They are wondering what the UN is thinking of this and did the UN try to give the court's indictment, tried to stop it and what they think it means for the UN's commitment.

Spokesperson:  There was nothing the UN could do.  We learned of the transfer in the same way everybody else did.  We don't have any additional information on that.  I have to get more information on it before I can give an opinion on it, or the Secretary-General's opinion on it.

The following day, the spokesperson provided additional views

I was asked yesterday about our views concerning reports that Maternus Bere, who was indicted for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in 1999 in what was then East Timor, has gone to Indonesia. The UN Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) says that it has no information on the circumstances of Bere’s return to Indonesia.

The United Nations position that there should be no impunity, especially for serious crimes, including crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, is well known. In the case of Maternus Bere, it is our position that Mr. Bere should be brought to justice. We have made this position clear on numerous occasions.

We have seen the media reports indicating that Maternus Bere was transferred to Indonesia late last week. We were not aware of this transfer and have yet to receive official confirmation that such a transfer took place. For us, any act that undermines the rule of law, particularly with respect to accountability for serious crimes, is deeply regrettable.

I'd like to recall that the Secretary-General expressed his hope in last month’s report to the Security Council that “the Governments of both Timor-Leste and Indonesia will ensure that Maternus Bere is brought to justice, taking into account the report of the Commission of Experts appointed in 2005”.

How an alleged war criminal in East Timor escaped justice

The Age, by Lindsay Murdoch, November 5, 2009

Maternus Bere               

Maternus Bere, a Timorese-born Indonesian citizen accused of crimes against humanity, was ushered secretly across the border from East Timor into Indonesia last weekend, ending weeks of behind-the-scenes intrigue in Dili.

The story of how Indonesia came to threaten diplomatic ties with its tiny half-island neighbour to save Bere is not known outside the circle of East Timor's political elite.

It began 10 years ago, in Father Hilario Madeira's church in the East Timorese town of Suai.

I was fortunate to meet Father Hilario back then, when I was covering the United Nations vote that led to East Timor's independence.

Father Hilario had invited people who feared for their lives amid a wave of pro-Indonesian militia violence to take shelter in his church, where it was thought the sanctity of a place of worship would protect them.

But scores of pro-Indonesian militia stormed the church on September 6 1999, rushing first towards Father Hilario's private quarters, hacking, stabbing and shooting many people in their path.

One witness told how a grenade was thrown into Father Hilario's room, after which the room was racked by automatic gunfire.

Father Hilario and two other priests were among the first of more than 200 people to die in the worst of many massacres in East Timor in the days immediately after Timorese voted to breakaway from Indonesia.

Maternus Bere led that militia attack, according to charges laid against him by the UN's Serious Crimes Unit in 2003.

For a decade he lived in Indonesian West Timor, out of the reach of East Timor's judicial system, where he became a provincial government administrator.

But in August this year he crossed the border and returned to Suai to attend his father's funeral, even venturing back into Father Hilario's former church to pray.

Not surprisingly, he was recognised and set-upon by angry locals.

Police intervened to save him and sent him to a jail in Dili to face the UN charges.

Xanana Gusmao, East Timor's prime minister, revealed how Bere came to be set free during a vote of no-confidence against his government in parliament.

In the days before the 10th anniversary of the vote for independence, the Indonesian Government privately pressured East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta to release Bere, who had been the commander of one of the most brutal militia in East Timor in 1999.

The issue came to a head as dignitaries, including Australia's Governor-General Quentin Bryce, were gathering for the anniversary ceremony on the steps of East Timor's new presidential palace on Dili's waterfront on August 30.

East Timor's Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa was at Dili airport to greet Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda, who had flown in for the ceremony.

But da Costa telephoned Gusmao to tell him that Wirayuda would only attend the ceremony if there was a resolution to the Bere case.

In parliament, Gusmao quoted Wirayuda as saying that “our refusal to co-operate in such a sensitive matter for Indonesia might force the Indonesian state to review their diplomatic policy towards Timor-Leste (East Timor).”

Gusmao called a hasty meeting in the palace's waiting room.

A senior judge told him he could not release Bere under East Timor's laws.

When Gusmao, a former guerrilla fighter, insisted that a way be found to resolve the stand-off, the judge told him “prime minister, the time of the guerrilla (war) is over.”

Eventually, the judge suggested a compromise: Gusmao could transfer a prisoner from one place to another.

“Being thankful for the idea and knowing that otherwise we could not move on with this case, I ordered the Minister for Justice to have Maternus Bere transferred from Becora prison to the Indonesian Embassy,” Gusmao told parliament.

But Gusmao was still not confident his order would be carried out, such was the opposition to the move at the highest levels of government.

He told the minister: “If you do not do it, I will go there and get him (Bere) myself.”

Wirayuda arrived at the ceremony 45 minutes after it had begun, apparently satisfied that Bere was then safely inside the Indonesian Embassy.

Wirayuda was just in time to hear Ramos Horta declare that Timorese must "bury the past" and not pursue the killers of hundreds of Timorese, most of whom live in Indonesia.

There would be no international tribunal to prosecute those accused of crimes in East Timor, Mr Ramos Horta declared on that sweltering hot morning.

When news of Bere's release leaked the next day, UN officials in Dili, Western diplomats, politicians and non-government organisations expressed outrage.

The Catholic church also condemned Bere's release, with influential bishop, Basilio do Nascimento, declaring: “We have to forgive but before we forgive there must be justice.”

I often think of Father Hilario - a wonderful and kind man - and the barbarity that engulfed his place of worship.

Lindsay Murdoch is a senior writer based in Darwin for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. He frequently travels overseas on assignment.

Justice Denied for East Timor Atrocity Victims (video)

Al-Jazeera, November 08, 2009

East Timor's decision to free a former Indonesian militia leader has created a backlash against the government.

Maternus Bere, a Timorese-born Indonesian citizen accused of crimes against humanity, was indicted by the UN for his role in the atrocities of 1999 that preceded the country's independence.

East Timor's supreme court is investigating whether his release was illegal and the decision could determine whether a tribunal is set up to try others accused of similar crimes.

Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley reports from Dili, the capital of East Timor, where victims' families and survivors feel that justice has yet to prevail in one of the world's youngest nations.

Holes in Australia and Timor-Leste's Fishing Nets

By Pat Walsh, 11 November 2009

In recent times, two individuals allegedly responsible for violations of human rights in Timor-Leste have freely and legally entered Australia and Timor-Leste respectively. Both were issued visas. The two individuals in question were Guy Campos, an East Timorese who entered Australia from Indonesia at the time of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit in 2008, and Maternus Bere, an Indonesian from West Timor who entered Timor-Leste on 9 August 2009. Though neither has been convicted of human rights violations, both men are credibly accused of such violations in Timor-Leste and both were involved in militia activity at different times. In addition, Guy Campos was found guilty of maltreatment resulting in the death of a Timorese minor in 1979.

Like any other visitor to Australia, Guy Campos was required to complete a visa application which contains no fewer than eleven questions relating to character background. The questions include: ‘Have you been convicted of a crime or offence in any country (including any conviction which is now removed from official records)?’ ‘Have you left any country to avoid being removed or deported?’ ‘Have you committed, or been involved in the commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity or human rights?’ ‘Have you served in a military force or state sponsored/private militia?

To get through this tightly woven net, one assumes that Guy Campos either ticked no to each box or ticked yes to some but was given a visa because his name was not on an independent, up-to-date alert list against which his claims could be checked. As a result, a person with a criminal record and a suspect human rights background entered Australia. His presence caused considerable stress to the families of his victim and the expenditure of taxpayer money on futile investigations (he has freely returned to Indonesia). The case has left the impression that Australia is harder on carriers of swine flu and asylum seekers than the likes of Guy Campos.

Though most Australians are unaware of it, Australia is a world leader in this aspect of border control. Few other countries have followed Australia’s lead and question intending visitors on their human rights background. The Guy Campos case, however, prompts questions about the management of the system. How well publicised is the existence of the system?  Do applicants from countries with bad human rights records know about it? How is the data-base, a sort of reverse blacklist of the type used in Indonesia during the Soeharto years, managed and maintained? How many people have been denied entry because of their human rights background? Who were they and from which countries? Does the alert list contain the names of those indicted by the Timor-Leste Serious Crimes process or those listed in Chega!, the report of the CAVR?

Entry to Timor-Leste is much easier than Australia. Timor-Leste’s net is woven loosely and its arrival card requires visitors to address only two of the 11 questions asked by Australian immigration.  Like any other visitor to Timor-Leste, Maternus Bere filled in a form which required him to answer yes or no to the following two questions: ‘Have you been convicted of a criminal offence in any country?’ and ‘Have you ever been deported, extradited, excluded from, expelled from, or required to leave any country for any reason?’ 

It is not known how Maternus Bere completed his application. It is fair to assume, however, that he either ticked no to the questions above or the duty officer ignored, for whatever reason, any yes ticks. Either way, the system failed and Timor-Leste was left with a huge rumpus it needs like a hole in the head.

To its credit, Timor-Leste has acknowledged that Martenus Bere’s visa was issued in error. The question now is what can be done to avoid a repetition of this error. What is required, one might suggest, is a more tightly woven net that comprises (a) a more comprehensive set of questions like those asked of visitors to Australia and (b) a data base – using Chega! and Serious Crimes information – against which border control can check entrants and their claims.

More effective screening and publicity in both Australia and Timor-Leste will also communicate a key message that both societies have zero tolerance of human rights violations.  As the CAVR report Chega! urges in its recommendations,  more effective ways of discouraging human rights violations are needed. Denying perpetrators easy access to human rights friendly countries is one way of reminding those who continue to enjoy impunity that that’s not the end of the  story. It will also discourage military and other potential offenders by reminding them that there will be a price to pay for their inhumanity, even if they manage to avoid formal justice.

Faith, Hope and Justice

Feature article in The Diplomat, November 19th 2009. by Steve Holland

Just weeks after Timor-Leste voted for independence, the town of Suai was visited by a gang of pro-Indonesian rule militiamen who slaughtered dozens of unarmed citizens hiding in a church. Steve Holland meets Manuel dos Santos who, 10 years later, is still waiting for justice--and for his abducted daughter to come home.

Manuel dos Santos is tired of waiting for justice. He just wants his daughter home.

It’s been ten years since Juliana dos Santos was abducted by the men who also killed Manuel’s son, Carlos. Since then, Juliana has been forced to live the life of a sex slave. She now resides across the border in Indonesian West Timor, not far from the remote town in Timor-Leste that was the site of her abduction and a massacre that saw dozens killed.

The date was September 6, 1999, just weeks after the people of East Timor had voted for independence from Indonesia.

‘I’m waiting, waiting, waiting,’ Manuel says, as he sits on the dusty veranda outside his home, which is constructed from palm stems. ‘I’m frustrated. I’m waiting for the state to bring justice, but justice never comes.  The state and the government never bring justice.’

It seems clear Manuel has been prodded into recollecting his story too many times for his own liking. But he reluctantly agrees to relive the day his family was taken away from him.    

‘I went back to the forest. I was going to take my children and my wife, but I couldn’t because the situation with the militia was tight. So I left alone,’ he says.

‘My children and my wife all stayed at the church. I went up to the top of the mountain and I heard on the radio communications that the people in the Suai Church and the priests and nuns had all died.’

Carlos and Juliana were Manuel’s only children.

‘They took my wife over there for only a month and then she returned alone. My son and my daughter--she didn’t bring them back. My daughter, the militia kept over there.’

Juliana was 15 years-old at the time witnesses say Maternus Bere led the pro-Indonesian rule Laksaur Militia into the coastal town of Suai where it slaughtered as many as 200 unarmed civilians, many of whom were women and children hiding in a church. That’s where Bere’s deputy, Egidio Manek, is said to have found Juliana. He spared her life so he could force her to marry him, and she is now one of his numerous wives (he’s thought to have between three and seven). She is confined to a village in West Timor where she has given birth to three of his children.

Manuel lives on the Timor-Leste side of the border, in a modest house next door to his sister. His home is virtually empty aside from a few chairs and a table. In the main room, the centrepiece is a pin-up board, covered in faded photographs of his daughter and the grandchildren he barely knows. He can’t immediately recall how many grandchildren he has, but looking at the photos he says he has three. He says he can’t remember the last time he saw them.

He points to a photograph of his son, Carlos, as a teenager, which was taken before he was killed by the militia.

He then points to a photo of a young, moustached man with a thick, black mane of hair.

‘Me,’ he says, raising his eyebrows and giving a rare smile. It’s a photo of Manuel in the 1970s, a young man ready to sacrifice everything for his country’s independence.

Manuel keeps in contact with Juliana by telephone, but says he believes the calls are being monitored and that he cannot speak openly with his daughter. His faith in justice is waning, but he says he still hopes to be able to cross the border and meet with his daughter, even if she is accompanied by remnants of the Laksaur Militia.

Suai is a 30-minute drive from the Indonesian border and the close proximity to the homes of the militiamen who slaughtered hundreds of East Timorese lingers in the minds of Suai’s residents. Villagers suspect foreigners speaking Indonesian have links with militia or Indonesian spy agencies (indeed, some thought this reporter was a Kopassus agent working for the Indonesian army).

A few months ago, Maternus Bere again crossed the border into Timor-Leste and headed to Suai. It’s not clear why he returned to the town where the massacre he is blamed for took place, but it’s thought he was visiting friends and family.

One local villager was incensed enough by Bere’s return to lead an attack on him. Police arrived, apprehended the former militia leader and took him to the local police station before transferring him to Becora Prison, in Dili, on the other side of the island, to await trial for crimes against humanity.

But Bere’s incarceration was short-lived. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao intervened after the Indonesian foreign minister threatened to boycott an Independence celebration in Dili unless Bere was freed.

‘I then turned to the minister of justice and told her to release Maternus from the Becora jail. The minister reminded me that she could only order such release with an authorisation by the court,’ Prime Minister Gusmao told parliament.

‘I ordered the minister of justice have Maternus Bere transferred from the Becora prison to the Indonesian Embassy…In view of her refusal, I said “if you don’t do it, I’ll go there and get him myself.”’

The Prime Minister’s role in Bere’s release appears to breach the country’s judicial process, violating the country’s separation of powers.

The circumstances surrounding Bere’s release are being investigated by Timor-Leste’s ombudsman and the country’s highest legal bodies, the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Superior Council of the Judiciary.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Claudio de Jesus Ximenes has pointed to a breach of the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution, noting Bere's release was not approved by the court.

‘In a democratic state under the rule of law we all have to obey the law,’ he has said.

The Superior Council of the Judiciary has the power to convict anyone found guilty of bypassing the judicial process--a crime that carries a penalty of between two and six years in prison.

Prime Minister Gusmao admitted to parliament he had a political motive for intervening in Bere’s release and said ‘I’m ready to be put in jail [if found guilty by a court]’.

When Bere was handed over to the Indonesian Embassy, many in Timor-Leste feared he would soon be allowed to return to his home in West Timor, concerns that proved well-founded. Less than two months after his arrest in Suai, Bere was back in Indonesia--a free man and wanted felon.

President Jose Ramos Horta stands united with Prime Minister Gusmao in favouring forgiveness over justice. He says the people of his country want to move on and forget the past. The president believes such a course will also ensure friendly relations with Indonesia.

‘A Great Evil Took Hold of Them…’

Sister Elsa Fernandes also favours forgiveness over retribution. She walks around the Suai Church compound. Beneath her feet, under the dry sandy ground, are the bones of the women and children killed a decade ago by the Laksaur Militia.

In the days before the killings, as word spread of brewing retribution by pro-Indonesian supporters, East Timorese flocked from surrounding villages for protection in the House of God. Sister Elsa says both her and the priests told the villagers to go to the mountains--that they were not safe in the church. But the people’s faith and fear kept them there.

However, Sister Elsa was right. The militia showed no mercy. They arrived at the church in the early afternoon and Indonesian Jesuit Priest, Father Tarcisius Dewanto, ordained just weeks earlier, went outside to meet the militia. They sprayed the 34-year-old priest’s body with bullets. He was the first of three priests killed that day, one of whom was decapitated.

When the militia entered the church, Sister Elsa says ‘great evil took hold of them’. When they left, ‘a river of blood flowed from the church’.

‘They had been praying in the church. Everybody was inside praying and then the militia opened the door,’ she says. ‘They banged on the door, and the door just opened. They started to kill all the people around…The militia said “this is your present for independence.”’

Survivors say the massacre was not confined to the church. Those who fled to another building, an unfinished cathedral in the church grounds, were pushed to their deaths from rafters they had climbed into to escape their attackers.

Armed with simple tools, builders now work to repair the church on the hill overlooking the town of Suai, home to about 20,000 people. In the searing heat, the men labour in bursts, sifting dirt to make concrete, hoisting huge rollers above their heads to paint the high roof. The church and most of the buildings within the compound were almost completely destroyed by fire during the militia’s attack and the decade of deep poverty that followed independence has hindered repairs.

Sister Elsa hoped the reconstruction of the building would be complete in time for the country's 10-year independence vote celebrations, but the anniversary came and went, and the Church is still not ready for worship. Clasping her hands together, she says ‘next year, we hope for next year.’

Far from Suai, on the other side of the island, behind the walls and razor wire of the United Nations compound in Dili, Louis Gentile, the UN's Human Rights Representative in Timor-Leste, also wants justice.

He voices his concerns about Bere’s release and says his freedom has implications that reach far beyond Suai and Timor-Leste.

‘Why do we care so much? Because the whole effort is to deter these crimes in the future, to try and make sure people who perpetrate these crimes, especially those who are involved at a more senior level, are brought to justice,’ he says. 

‘And if they aren’t, we know the cycle will continue around the world and that these kinds of violations continue--that the international community is still not able to stop many of these things even when they are ongoing. And that’s a failure of the whole international community.’

Bere, a school teacher before East Timorese voted for independence, is said to have gotten along well with his students. He was a strong supporter of Indonesian rule and it’s believed he was greatly angered by the annexation of East Timor. The half island nation had already voted for independence when he allegedly led his militia across the border. The attack on Suai was brutal revenge.

 In 2003 the UN’s Serious Crimes Unit indicted Bere, along with 13 other of the militia, with crimes against humanity of murder, extermination, enforced disappearance, torture, inhumane acts, rape, deportation and persecution. But Bere is yet to stand trial.  

‘It’s very sad, and these people have waited 10 years,’ Gentile says.

‘They were beginning to give up there would be any justice at all and they managed to be in a situation when one of the alleged perpetrators of the Suai Massacre was within the hands of authorities. There was the possibility of fair trial.’

The return of Bere to Indonesia all but obliterates the possibility of a fair trial in Timor-Leste. Hundreds of people accused of war crimes there live freely in Indonesia.

‘If there isn’t going to be justice in Timor-Leste, if there isn’t going to be justice in Indonesia, then an international option has to be considered,’ Gentile says.

The establishment of an international tribunal to hear the case against Bere is one of the last resorts for those who stress the importance of justice for the Laksaur Militia’s victims and the country.

Charlie Sheiner, of Timor-Leste monitoring organisation Lao Hamutuk, agrees with Gentile’s view on the necessity of justice and supports the idea of an international tribunal to bring to account those responsible for atrocities before and after independence.

Sheiner says the ramifications of the lack of justice are evident in the country's recent history and believes a crisis that emerged in 2006 resulted from a culture of lawlessness.

‘I think it’s very clear. In 2006, there was what everyone here calls “The Crisis”…There were conflicts between the police and military, there were 37 killings before the Australian military came in here and another almost 200 afterwards, which nobody seems to want to remember,’ Sheiner says.

He says many in Timor-Leste don’t have an understanding of justice, or confidence in the country’s justice system, because they haven’t seen it implemented and enforced by authorities.  

‘The result of that lack of confidence is that people feel that they can commit crimes with impunity and that people who are victims of crimes feel that they are not going to get justice through the established systems so they have to do it themselves.

‘And this is what people in Suai say now. If you talk to the people in Suai now, they say “the next time a militia leader comes across the border we’re going to kill him…We’re not going to wait for the police and courts to do their process because they are not going to do it,”’ Sheiner says.

‘And that’s not encouraging to those of us who would hope this country can evolve into a peaceful democracy.’

On August 30, East Timor commemorated the 10th anniversary of its independence vote. At least 100,000 people died from fighting, hunger and illness--in excess of what would normally be expected in peacetime--during Indonesia’s 25-year rule.

The former Portuguese colony is still learning to stand on its own feet. But although it relies heavily on international aid, with its vast oil and gas reserves, the half island nation--one of the world’s poorest--has the potential to become prosperous.

Yet the country’s politicians, many of whom are former guerrilla fighters, seem unable to forget the ways of the jungle and demonstrate a respect and understanding for the democratic values they swore to uphold.      

A vote of no confidence was tabled in parliament against Prime Minister Gusmao following his hand in Bere’s release, but the Fretilin Opposition’s motion was defeated.

Timor-Leste MP Fernanda Borges served as Fretilin’s finance minister when the party was last in government. She quit the party, believing there was corruption within the administration.

Although she is no longer directly aligned to Fretilin, she backed its push for a no-confidence vote. Borges now leads her own party, the National Unity Party or PUN, and often spends her time away from work driving to rural areas to try and keep in touch with the people.

‘The people have the desire for it [justice], and they aren’t at peace because they haven’t got it,’ she said. ‘It [the Maternus Bere case] has brought a sense of fear in the people that they can’t trust the security sector or the judiciary because it’s tainted by political decisions.’

Borges believes there’s more behind the desire of Timor-Leste’s leaders to see accused war criminals escape justice than just the supposed desire for forgiveness.  

‘I think our political leaders are more concerned about themselves, their personal dilemmas, because they were involved in the resistance. I have to ask them, and I have been asking: what is it that you are afraid of?

‘Because unless there’s something you’re afraid of yourselves, justice for crimes against humanity is something that every human being would want, particularly those that fought this war, that claim to have fought this war,’ she says. 

There’s a reluctance to speak of the town’s brutal history, and perhaps the politicians who say it’s time to forget the past and move on are right when they claim to act on behalf of the people.

Yet Timor-Leste is a land of divisions and contradictions, and the actions of the young man who beat Bere when he returned to Suai tell another story. Bere has not been forgotten by everyone, and for some victims justice might be necessary for closure. For Manuel and others, though, the wait for such justice continues.

Click here to return to page with information about Bere's arrest and release, and the reactions to it.  (Also articles from Timor-Leste media up to Sept. 20 and after.)

 

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