Subject: SMH: Timor's Release of Massacre Suspect Draws Warning from UN
also UNHCHR "deeply concerned" about Bere release
The Sydney Morning Herald Monday, September 7, 2009
Massacre Suspect's Release Draws Warning from UN
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-Gusmao, the wife of the East Timorese Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, 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-Gusmao 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.
On 2 September 2009, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights sent the following letter to President of the Republic Jose Ramos-Horta.
NATIONS UNIES HAUT COMMISSARIAT AUX DROITS DE L’HOMME
UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Telefax: (41-22) 928 9018 Telegrammes: UNATIONS, GENEVE Telephone: (41-22) 928 96 31 Internet <http://www.unhchr.ch/> www.unhchr.ch <mailto:email@example.com>firstname.lastname@example.org Palais des Nations CH-1211 Geneve 10
2 September 2009 Excellency,
I would like to congratulate you and the people of Timor-Leste on the occasion of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the popular consultation of 30th August 1999. OHCHR is proud to have supported your Government and the people of Timor-Leste in strengthening the rule of law and promoting a strong culture of respect for human rights.
I must express, however, my deep concern about reports that the Timorese authorities have released Mr. Maternus Bere, who had been indicted for crimes against humanity in connection with the Suai massacre in 1999. I understand that Mr. Bere was arrested by PNTL on 8 August and had been in pre-trial detention until 30 August, when he was handed over to the Indonesian authorities.
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 article 160 of 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.
I appreciate your Government’s desire to develop healthy relations with Indonesia and welcome the progress that has been made in that regard. However, I trust that you will appreciate that your Government should not avoid its international obligations in the name of bilateral cooperation. I would appreciate, therefore, receiving more detailed clarifications on the circumstances of the release of Mr. M. Bere.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
High Commissioner for Human Rights
H.E. Mr. José Ramos-Horta
Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste