Timor Issues First War-Crimes Warrants on Militia
The Independent [UK] 31 January 2000
East Timor issues first war-crimes warrants on militia
As UN ready to publish reports on last year's massacres, prosecutors pursue notorious militia leader
By Richard Lloyd Parry in Dili
The newly liberated territory of East Timor is about to issue its first arrest warrant for crimes committed by pro-Indonesia militiamen during their murderous rampage last September, the Independent has learnt.
In a historic step which will further test relations between Indonesia and the international community, newly appointed East Timorese prosecutors will shortly order the arrest of Laurentino Soares, a notorious militia leader who is better known by his nom de guerre, Moko.
Human-rights groups in East Timor say that Mr Soares carried out brutal murders and acts of violence following the territory's overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia last year, including forcing his victims to murder members of their own families.
Moko is at present in Indonesian West Timor, from where his Succuna (or "scorpion") militia has continued to launch raids into the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi, with the apparent collusion of the local Indonesian military.
Sources admit it is unlikely that the Indonesian authorities will hand over Moko, but believe that issuing a warrant for his arrest will increase pressure on them to terminate his activities.
The quest for justice for East Timor will gather momentum today with the publication of two separate investigations into the violence last September, when the Indonesian military and its locally recruited militias ran amok, expelling 250,000 people.
In New York, a United Nations commission will deliver its report to the Secretary General, Kofi Annan. UN sources have told The Independent that it will recommend the creation of an international war-crimes tribunal for East Timor similar to those established for the former Yugoslavia.
In Jakarta, meanwhile, an Indonesian commission which has been created by the government of the new President, Abdurrahman Wahid, will recommend that 200 people should be prosecuted for their part in the violence, including the former chief of the armed forces, General Wiranto.
In the long term, political considerations are expected to scuttle both initiatives. In New York, the government of Jakarta has been lobbying intensively against an international tribunal which, it claims, would encourage sympathy for the accused generals in Indonesia.
China and Russia - two other countries with Asian territories and poor human-rights records - would also be likely to veto the proposal in the security council. In Jakarta, a draft law which is soon to be submitted to the Indonesian parliament, will exclude retroactive prosecution.
A third solution has been proposed by UN legal specialists in East Timor that trials should be carried out in Dili by a mixed team of foreign jurists as well as Timorese judges and lawyers, who were recently appointed by the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (Untaet).
The head of Untaet, Sergio Vieira de Mello, is in New York at the moment arguing for this option as a means of establishing early on the legitimacy of East Timorese justice. ---
The Independent [UK] 31 January 2000
'A cynical bandit and vicious murderer'
By Richard Lloyd Parry
"The leader of the Succuna militia is a person known as Moko Soares. As far as I'm concerned he is a cynical bandit and a vicious murderer. I believe that man has a blood lust, and he has little regard for the people of Oecussi."
The speaker was Lieutenant Colonel Peter Singh of the Third Royal Australian Regiment, in charge of security in the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi. Australian officers are not usually so forthright in their public assessments of militia leaders. But Laurentino Soares, aka Moko, is an exceptionally evil character.
His childish nickname means "no teeth", and he began his career as the chief of the village of Cunha. By the beginning of last year, he was in close contact with local commanders of the Indonesian military, who supplied him with automatic weapons. In Oecussi, the small fragment of East Timor stranded in Indonesia, he has a demonic reputation.
During their two-week rampage last September, the East Timorese militias, including Moko's Succuna ("scorpion"), engaged routinely in arson and kidnapping and when Moko's arrest warrant is issued, probably within a few days, it will cite both of these crimes.
But his particular gift is for ingeniously cruel forms of murder. Eyewitnesses speak of one occasion last year when a Timorese man was press-ganged into joining Succuna. Moko took the man to his home village, where he was forced to shoot his own uncle. He was then taken to a neighbouring village where, before his eyes, Moko himself executed the man's brother.
Oecussi's remoteness, enclosed by the sea on one side and Indonesian territory on the other, has made it a particular headache for the international peace-keepers. It took more than a month for Australian soldiers even to land there in the intervening time, Moko and his militia continued their rampage unchecked. In Oecussi, almost 50,000 of the enclave's 58,000 inhabitants had either fled or been driven away.
Even now, Succuna continues to mount raids from West Timor, without any hindrance from the Indonesian military. The United Nations knows that Moko will never simply be handed over, for he knows too much. But his presence may become enough of an embarrassment for his Indonesian patrons to call him off or more. "With a bit of luck, they'll get sick of hearing his name," said one Dili resident. "And one day someone will quietly bump him off."
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