Subject: Yayasan HAK: The True Story of A Victim
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:39:25 -0400
From: raimata@worldnet.att.net

Testimony of a Victim of Mahidi's Brutality

Carlito de Araujo, 22, lives in kampung Webaba, village Raimea, district Suai-Covalima

Introduction

Recently in the local newspapers in East Timor it was reported that ABRI arms militias who support integration with Indonesia and the autonomy plan. Officially it is said that ABRI supplies arms to these militias in order to protect them from the terror of the pro-independence groups. Is this true? The reality is different and it becomes important to question such a statement. Facts and testimonies gathered from the communities in districts of Ainaro, Liquica, Suai, even in Dili indicate that the armed militias are the ones which terrorize the population. Furthermore, victims from those districts reveal that the armed militias do not only terrorize them, but also commit brutal violence toward unarmed civilians. Below is a testimony from one victim of torture inflicted by the militia. Another proof that what is casually said by ABRI as an attempt to guarantee the safety of the supporters of integration and autonomy has caused almost indescribable suffering to innocent people.

Testimony

My painful experience happened on January 2-3, 1999 when I was going to return from visiting my parents in Ainaro. I went to village Manutasi, Ainaro to celebrate New Year's Eve with my parents. Both my parents are originally from Manutasi, and just like the majority of East Timorese, they are peasants and they live quite poorly. They only have a piece of land about 200 square meters,and the land is very stony and not fertile at all. As you would expect, with this kind of land they naturally rely very much on the rainfall. Nonetheless, I'm grateful to them because with their hardwork and limited skills, they managed to raise us, their 3 children, quite well.

I have a wife now and she is two months pregnant with our first child. Since my wife is from district Suai-Covalima, for the past year I've spent most of my time in Suai. Yet, as a child, I often missed my parents. Only now I have to prioritize my responsibility and love to my wife and our coming baby. It doesn't mean that I forget my parents.

Towards the end of 1998 I decided to visit my parents, and this to a certain extent healed my homesickness of the past year. The one event that impressed me the most during my visit home was on the night of December 31, 1998. When the time almost reached midnight, my parents and other relatives who gathered in the house were hugging each other in silence waiting for the new year. We were hoping that the new year would bring more blessings and prosperity to our family so that we could live better. What happened next was pretty much expected. After the arrival of the new year we cheered and started eating a quite simple dinner: cassava, steamed rice and vegetables my mother picked up from the garden.

To make long story short, the meeting with my parents was going to end in couple hours. Yes, on that day, Friday, January 2, 1999, around 10:00 AM I decided to return to my wife's side in kampung Webaba, village Raimea, district Suai Covalima. Without being aware, I was already sitting inside a 'mikrolet' which made occasional stops to let people get in and out. The 'mikrolet' kept moving until we reached village Casa. A group of armed militiamen stopped the car. It seemed like the driver was used to this practice so he immediately stopped. I faintly heard that the armed militiamen without any sign of rank wanted to store some goods in the mikrolet. Their faces looked very scarry. It turned out that after the driver turned off the machine, these men with weapons did not intend to store any goods in the car. They began to search each passenger. When it came to my turn, they asked for my ID and other proof of identity. It so happened that at that time I didn't bring my ID because I left my expired ID in my parents house and the new one was still being processed in Suai. I tried to explain this matter to them, but they didn't want to listen to me. Instead they began to suspect me as a clandestine member of the resistance movement. But, I had the feeling that this ID problem was not the real reason they finally arrested and tortured me, because there were several passengers in other vehicles passing by the area who didn't bring their IDs and were not arrested.

My suspicion became greater when I overheard their conversation which said that they found the suspect who allegedly beat up one of the ABRI members named Anto in village Webaba. It seemed like they thought I was the suspect, while actually I didn't know anything about this matter because I was not even in village Webaba during the incident; I was in my parents home in Manutasi. The militia began to search my body, then searched my travelling bag, and ransacked its contents. After the search they dragged me from the original location and tied my hands and feet together with a piece of rope, apparently prepared for the purpose. Without telling me anything they started beating me and torturing me with their shoes, hands and rifle butts, which were the most painful. The beatings were on my face, my chest, and stomach in a very sadistic and heartless manner. I was treated more like a ball which was kicked and beaten alternately right and left. At first I tried to bear this torture, but after a while, along with the deteriorating condition of my physical defences, fresh blood gushed out of my mouth and nose and spilled onto the skin of my chest and back. At that point I felt an unbearable piercing pain in my chest and lungs and I had difficulty breathing.

If only my hands and feet were not tied, I would have resisted this inhumane treatment. These militiamen had no shame toward the community living in the area who secretly witnessed and cursed the brutality from the slots of their walls and windows. They began to beat me around 10:30 AM and because they themselves were exhausted they temporarily stopped beating around 6:00 PM. In my very weak condition I could still see them laughing at me and mocking me. I was praying silently to God so that this torture would end soon. But what happened next was even worse.

They blindfolded me with a thin t-shirt they got from my travelling bag and then they threw me into a Kijang pick-up truck. Later I found out that the car was owned by the commander of Mahidi, Cancio de Carvalho. I was taken around village Casa several times and then they let me out near the bank of Sarai river. There was a hut which once was used as the resting place for workers of the project of developing a bridge over river Sarai. Here I was tortured again until blood was dripping from my mouth and nose. I decided to swallow some of the blood because I thought that it would strengthen my body. These barbaric people continued to torture me until 04:00 AM (Saturday, January 3, 1999) and I fell unconscious. I regained my consciousness around 06:00 AM when I found myself inside the shallow river. I was trying to get up but since my hands and feet were strongly tied up I was only able to move my body and try to get myself out of the water as high as my hips. Before I could even reach the side of the river the militiamen came to drag me toward the hut. They didn't beat me anymore this time, but they intimidated and pressured me to join the Mahidi with a financial compensation of Rp. 250,000.00 per month. Even though my physical condition was so bad because of the injured parts, fearlessly I said that even if they threatened to kill me I wouldn't even think of joining them. I told them that I'm a stupid person, I don't understand politics. Moreover, I'm a poor man and have a wife so I have to take care of our corn field. They kept pressing me and I insistently refused their pressure. Perhaps, because they were so upset with my refusal, the head of the village (younger brother of Cancio, the commander of Mahidin) and the armed militias locked me up in that post for one week.

During the detention, their treatment toward me remained brutal. Everyday they terrorized and intimidated me. They fed me with the food which looked very much like bird food. I was quite fortunate though that the news about my tragedy reached the Church of Ainaro and Suai. A pastor from Suai parish came to see Cancio and his followers to find out my whereabouts and my life. Likewise, my wife got a chance to visit me three times. The last time she visited me was for taking me home after the torturers released me.

I would like to disclose one more important thing. This tragedy should not have happened. When I was beaten up, tortured and locked up, the security forces (both the army and the police) knew about it. But they didn't do anything because they said that now the police and the army did not have any right to meddle in matters like what I experienced. They mentioned this reason when my wife came to them pleading for my release. Still, I had the impression that the army and the police actually supported these armed militias.

I'm released now and of course I still feel the pain of the torture inside my chest, stomach and back. I really hope, if there is a chance, those people who tortured me, as well as the army and the police who lent support to these criminals, can be brought to trial.

(The story was put into writing by Rui Viana, a monitoring staff at Yayasan HAK, Dili, East Timor)

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