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Subject: More about the 31 October incident
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 13:05:19 GMT

With reference to my comment yesterday about the incident on 31 October described by Human Rights Watch which occurred when four men suspected by students at a meeting of being from army intelligence were taken out and killed by Falintil members, we have checked on press reports of this incident at the time which do not bear out what Human Rights Watch says:

A report by AFP on 31 October quotes East Timor commander Tono Suratman as saying that three men had left headquarters the day before on regular patrol duties but failed to return. He said they were not armed and had been found stabbed to death and their bodies thrown into a river. They were accompanied by an engineer, apparently a civilian. [In our opinion, it is unbelievable that soldiers went out on patrol without arms.]

On the following day, Jawa Pos reported the commander as saying the soldiers had been killed in a sadistic fashion. According to the army's intelligence chief, Major Wisnumurti, witnesses said that the men were set upon by about 300 people. (Contacts in Dili also say that the soldiers were killed by angry local people, not by Falintil.) Wisnumurti denied that the men had been killed following armed contact with Falintil because they had died from stab wounds, not from gunshot.[Jawa Pos, 1 November]

There is no mention in the report of the men having been taken out by Falintil guerrillas from a meeting convened by students. The implication from the Human Rights statement is that the men were slain while they were in the custody of Falintil. However, the thirteen soldiers taken captive during a raid on the Koramil post on 9 November were not slain. In fact, eleven were released the following day while two others are still in captivity by Falintil.

In our opinion, it is inaccurate to refer to them as hostages as there appears to have been no demand for ransom. As far as we know, it is not part of Falintil strategy to take hostages (unlike the OPM in West Papua) though they do of course take prisoners which under the humanitarian laws of war is quite legitimate. The matter of their release has been handed over to the International Red Cross by ABRI and as far as we know, Falintil is collaborating with these efforts

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK Phone: 0181 771-2904 Fax: 0181 653-0322 email: Campaigning to expose human rights violations in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh

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