|Subject: Injured Survivors Recount Militia
Massacre in E. Timor
The Jakarta Post May 31, 2002
E. Timor victims testify in ad hoc rights trial, refute military account
Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Two of the survivors in the April 1999 incident at Liquica Church in East Timor testified here on Thursday that what happened on the day was an attack on scared people by armed prointegration militiamen.
The eyewitnesses, Emillio Bareto and Joao Pereira, told the human rights court in Central Jakarta that local people in the East Timorese town had been living in fear of terror perpetrated by the Besi Merah Putih (BMP) militia group and fellow residents, as the former Indonesian province was gearing up for the UN-sponsored self-determination referendum.
Both witnesses shared the conviction that none of the people seeking refuge was armed or prepared -- considering that the police, the mobile brigade and plainclothed military members were also there -- when the locals and several other militia groups later joined in the attack, breaking into the church compound at 1 p.m.
"Pereira and I were hiding in a restroom. We heard them calling our names out and asking us to surrender. We got out. But we were slashed with a machete by a militia member," Pereira said. He was gashed on both arms, and Bareto was wounded on his head.
They said they had obtained information that nine were killed but nobody knew where they were buried.
Earlier investigation revealed that more than 30 people died in the incident and the bodies thrown into the sea and lake.
Bareto and Pereira testified in separate hearings against former governor Abilio Soares and former East Timor police chief Brig. Gen. Timbul Silaen, believed to have been responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999.
The hearings are part of the human rights ad hoc trial on the human rights abuses committed in East Timor in the lead up to and following the UN-organized popular ballot on Aug. 31, 1999.
The Liquica incident began at Easter on April 4 when the BMP burned down the house of proindependence figures in the regency. The attackers ran to the Maubara Military Command Headquarters when angry locals chased them with bows and machetes.
On the next day, the militia, with the help of the police and the military, retaliated by hunting down locals and firing random shots that forced around 3,000 people, including the witnesses, to take refuge in the church.
Early on April 6, the church compound was surrounded by the militia group, who were armed with machetes and guns. Two police officers entered and asked Priest Rafael to surrender village chief Jacinto da Costa Conceicao. The priest refused to hand da Costa to the BMP.
A victim of another pro-Jakarta militia attack in the St. Ave Maria Church in Suai, Covalima regency, on Sept. 6, 1999, Dominggas dos Santos Mouzinho, failed to appear at Thursday's hearing. She testified on Tuesday.
Injured survivors recount militia massacre in East Timor
Two East Timorese bearing scars from a 1999 massacre Thursday told Indonesia's human rights court of a day of terror when militiamen brandishing guns and machetes attacked a church and killed 22 people.
Amelio Baretto, a volunteer with the international aid group World Vision, said he was inside the church at Liquica with his wife and about 3,000 other refugees when the militiamen stormed it on April 6, 1999.
Baretto, who was a civil servant at that time, said one of the attackers slashed him in the head with a machete. He said he heard shots fired and felt the effects of tear gas.
"At one o'clock the militia started to attack and I saw Tome (Eds: correct) Diego (the militia leader) burst into the church screaming 'Attack'," Baretto told the court.
The charge dossier prepared by the prosecutors in the case identified Diego as a member of the Liquica district military.
Joao Fereira, 35, a farmer from the hills near Liquica who was at the church when the attack took place told the same court that he saw the assailants, pro-Indonesian militiamen, come down to the church from the nearby district military headquarters.
Baretto said a man hit him with a rifle butt as he made his way out of the church. A pro-Indonesian friend finally rescued him and took him home.
He said a few hours before the raid, he saw feared militia chief Eurico Guterres speak to Pastor Rafael.
He heard Guterres tell the clergyman: "Let those CNRT leaders here leave and be taken to the district chief Leoneto Martin." CNRT refers to East Timor's independence movement.
Rafael said he could not force them to leave the church, according to the witness. Rafael also survived the attack.
Guterres will eventually stand trial in the rights court.
Fereira said he was slashed three times by a militiaman as he fled.
He said he had hidden in the bathroom of the priest's residence during most of the attack but fled after militias, some of them wearing black hoods, shouted for everyone to come out.
"I came out with many others but I was attacked outside with a machete. The man hacked at me three times but I managed to run to seek safety at the nearby district chief office," said Fereira, who has a scar on the scalp and another on his left elbow.
Baretto, bearing a large scar on his forehead, and Fereira were testifying as witnesses in the trial of former East Timor police chief Brigadier General Timbul Silaen, who is accused of responsibility for "crimes against humanity" by failing to halt the massacre of civilians.
Silaen is one of 18 military, police and civilians who are due to face trial on charges of gross human rights violations over the campaign of violence and destruction by pro-Jakarta militias in the then-Indonesian province.
The militiamen, backed by some Indonesian soldiers, waged a campaign of intimidation before East Timor's August 1999 vote to separate from Indonesia and a violent scorched-earth revenge campaign afterwards.
The trials are being watched closely by the world for proof that Jakarta will punish those behind the violence.
They are focusing on five incidents in which militias attacked independence supporters seeking refuge in churches and homes in April and September 1999, killing more than 100.
They include assaults on the church in Liquica that left 22 dead; on the Dili home of independence figure Manuel Carrascalao in which 12 people died; on the diocese of Dili in which 46 people were killed; on the residence of cardinal Carlos Ximenes Belo in which 10 people were killed, and on a church in Suai in which 27 died.
Although Baretto told the court he was not scared or under pressure to give testimony he appeared nervous, often giving just brief responses.
Both Baretto and Fereira also testified in another trial, that of former East Timor Governor Abilio Soares, held in a separate courtroom on Thursday. Soares is charged with the same crime as Silaen.
International rights groups are sceptical that the long-delayed rights court will deliver justice.
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