Subject: SBS Dateline: Getting Away with Murder

SBS Dateline

Archives - August 24, 2005

Getting Away with Murder

Six years ago this month the Indonesian military unleashed its militia killers on East Timor, creating carnage that shocked the world and saw Australia intervene to drive them out. Dateline's John Martinkus, in East Timor during those awful days, recently returned to find that the dreaded militia are still around, seemingly beyond prosecution, including their ruthless leader Eurico Guterres. Not only that, there is the implicit threat of renewed violence if the international community tries to bring them to justice.

REPORTER: John Martinkus

Six years after assisting the Indonesian military in burning East Timor to the ground and butchering thousands of people, East Timor's militia are gathering again, this time in Indonesian-controlled West Timor. Still at their head is man who led the militia in the killing, Eurico Guterres. Sentenced by Jakarta to 10 years in prison for inciting murder and indicted for crimes against humanity by the United Nations, he's still free on appeal. Honoured and protected by the Indonesian military that created him, he knows he won't spend a day in jail.

EURICO GUTERRES (Translation): When I got 10 years I was glad. I was happy and I laughed, I thought that the decision was extremely unfair.

This ceremony marks what's known as Integration Day, marking the lost dream of Indonesia's takeover of East Timor. It's the first time the militia have come together since 1999. Then Integration Day was used to incite them to violence. Now they say they've gathered to commemorate their dead. There's no doubt who the star attraction is. And Guterres is happy to stand by his role as militia leader - and the killers he commanded.

EURICO GUTERRES (Translation): As their friend, if I'm given the opportunity to live, I'll take full responsibility for what they did.

This mass meeting is a latent show of force by the militia to warn the East Timorese leadership. Many of the 339 men indicted by the UN serious crimes unit are here in this hall, charged with multiple murders, rapes and the forced deportation of thousands of East Timorese civilians. At the meeting I couldn't help reflecting on the terror these people had caused in 1999 and how they are now immune from prosecution. Here in West Timor, while his militia partners receive communion, Guterres, the man who orchestrated mass murder across the border is now, it seems, preaching law and order.

EURICO GUTERRES (Translation): I ask you not to cause problems. I ask you not to question this because we are doing it to ensure security and order. So I've been cooperating with security forces.

After the massacres in '99, the East Timorese were promised justice. 18 people were charged in Jakarta. All but two were acquitted. Those two are now free. In Dili, low-ranking militia have been convicted but none of the leaders have been tried. The UN serious crimes unit in East Timor closed this year. It reported to the security council, that the process had failed. The UN security council is currently considering setting up an international tribunal to bring the perpetrators to justice. That would threaten the impunity of these people here, and the Indonesian military who still command them. In early '99 I was one of the first two foreign journalists to speak to Guterres. Back then the military introduced us to him - he was their creation. Now he's agreed to talk again, confident that he is above prosecution and will never face an international tribunal.

EURICO GUTERRES (Translation): I just want to say if that is what the UN wants, and that includes Xanana……… as a pro integration leader, I am ready to be tried. If the UN does that, I agree in principle. Actually as pro integrationists that's what we want. But if only we are tried the UN has created a time bomb that will explode one day. I want to ask, when that happens, who will take responsibility?

Guterres says he doesn't care that he was sentenced to 10 years and the Indonesian officers in charge of the militia were acquitted.

EURICO GUTERRES (Translation): I don't feel angry and I don't feel vengeful. I don't hate anybody including people in East Timor. It wasn’t just me killing their families, they killed my family. Actually, they were the ones doing the killing. I was just retaliating. If anyone's guilty it's not just me. Xanana's guilty too. He has to be tried too.

REPORTER: And who should be punished for the 1,500 people killed after the ballot was announced in September '99?

EURICO GUTERRES (Translation): If we want to be fair and honest then those responsible are Indonesia, Portugal and the UN because Indonesia and Portugal signed the 5th May treaty and held the referendum. That's why the incident happened.

At this salubrious Kupang Hotel I found another key leader - Meko Soares. He once led the pro-integration movement and their militia in the enclave of Oecussi, and has since worked for Indonesia's General Wiranto. He mocks the idea of an international tribunal.

MEKO SOARES (Translation): If there's an international tribunal pro integrationists will be more militant. Go ahead. Tell him the spirit to fight will grow.

REPORTER: Do you think the TNI are so confident of their own position at the moment that it's not concerned about international pressure or prosecution?

MEKO SOARES (Translation): As an institution the TNI doesn't really care. Those being tried for human rights violations can go to hell for all they care.

The men Meko and Eurico claim to represent are languishing in refugee camps like here in Noelbaki. The militia here used to attack foreigners who tried to enter but now they and their families, 20,000 of them, are the only ones left - unable to return to East Timor because of the crimes they committed at the behest of their leaders.

REFUGEES (Translation): We are like scapegoats. We take the punishment, right? Although they're the guilty ones, none of the leaders get responsibility, we get it. The leaders don't take responsibility. It's the little people who take responsibility. They make fathers and mothers kill each other. It's difficult here. They take no notice. Who will take on our troubles? The people who brought us here or the UN aren't going to take on our problems. They're glad to see East Timorese suffering.

We're now heading back towards East Timor, right up to the border. This Indonesian soldier punishing a militia member shows who still control the militia here. On the East Timor side there's now only 30 police at this crossing, replacing a battalion of Australians. Infiltration of the border by militia or Indonesian military would be easy if the order was given, if, for instance, their leaders were on trial in an international court.

JOSE RAMOS HORTA, FOREIGN MINISTER, EAST TIMOR: Well let me tell you there is not one single member of the Security Council that is going to agree with that. And I as Foreign Minister of East Timor, I am not going to agree with that. There are other priorities, other urgent tasks ahead of us in East Timor. We want justice, but to achieve justice we are not going to go through an international tribunal, we are going to work with Indonesians, as we are doing now on the truth and friendship, so that together we find the truth of what happened in 1999, so that Indonesian military officers and those involved in the violence, they can cooperate, step forward and apologise to the victims.

The pragmatic position taken by Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta and President Xanana Gusmao is unpopular in East Timor. In April this year 10,000 people demonstrated for a week in Dili. The Catholic Church was blamed for organising the rally, one of the main issues was the lack of justice for past crimes. East Timor's Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri is returning to Dili. He initially supported a tribunal but pressure from President Xanana Gusmao and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta forced him to change his stance, something he's reluctant to concede publicly.

REPORTER: So does your government support the establishment of an international tribunal?

PRIME MINISTER MARI ALKATIRI: I am telling you we are for justice this why. This is the reason why we fought for 24 years to free this country from occupation, and at that time many people really did support us and we did it by ourselves. And now is the time for the international responsibility.

REPORTER: But the East Timorese government continues to say that...

PRIME MINISTER MARI ALKATIRI: There is no government in the world that is looking for justice as the East Timorese government. No government in the world.

REPORTER: So do you support the establishment of an international tribunal?

PRIME MINISTER MARI ALKATIRI: Maybe I am not speaking good English that is why you are not understanding me, OK.

But Xanana and his key people aren't supported in Parliament on this issue. Opposition leader Leandro Isaacs led a vote in parliament against Horta and the President - calling on them to stop declaring East Timor's opposition to an international tribunal.

LEANDRO ISAACS (Translation): I want to convince 100%, 100%, SBS Television, that 100% of the East Timorese support, really, really support East Timor's parliament in saying that there should be an international tribunal for East Timor and justice must be upheld by all political players. It's not just people from Kosovo. I'm sorry to say it, who have a right to justice because they are whit. It's not just Yugoslavs who have rights. We here also have the same level of humanity as the rest of the world.

Out here in Becora jail in Dili's eastern suburbs are 70 militia. The only ones tried and convicted by the East Timorese. Two years ago Marcelino Soares was sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against humanity including murder carried out after this rally in 1999. This footage shows Eurico Guterres ordering his militia, including Marcelino, to attack the house of pro-independence leader Manuel Carrascalao and kill pro-independence supporters.

EURICO GUTERRES (Translation): I take this opportunity to o order all militia, both ordinary soldiers and commanders, from April 17 onwards, to seek them out, capture them, if they resist, shoot them dead.

REPORTER: How do you feel now that Eurico Guterres, the man who ordered you to do this, is still free and is still in Kupang and still enjoying a very comfortable life?

MARCELINO SOARES (Translation): They've been freed. Governor Abilio went to jail but now he is out, the same with Eurico Guterres. Are the UN regulations correct or not? Those guys were the foundations we're just the building blocks. Why? The UN applies to all countries. Why doesn’t the UN arrest him in Indonesia and jail him? Why are we, the small fry, jailed for fifteen years? Why? Who is he?

With no international pressure the tribunal will not go ahead and those responsible for the killing in '99 will remain free to threaten East Timor's fragile independence.

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