12 April 2009
East Timor: 12 April 1999 Cailaco Atrocities Anniversary
10.2 Cailaco Killings (April 12, 1999)
Some of the most notorious violations of human rights in 1999 occurred in the District of Bobonaro, where an estimated 250 civilians were killed in political violence, and many others suffered torture (including rape), beatings, destruction of property, and forcible relocation. All but a handful of the victims were supporters of independence.
The perpetrators were generally members of one of the several militia groups operating in the district, but in many cases, the principal perpetrators were TNI soldiers and officers.
One of the clearest examples of this general pattern occurred in the Sub-District of Cailaco on April 12, 1999. *In two separate incidents on the same day, TNI soldiers and militiamen rounded up and deliberately executed seven people. The dead have been identified as: Carlito Mau Leto (32), Domingos Resi Mau (29), Joao Evangelista Lima Vidal (40), Paulino Soares (34), Jose Pau Lelo (37), Antonio Soares (45), and Manuel Maulelo Araujo.
According to an indictment filed by East Timor's Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes† in February 2003, these seven killings were committed with the knowledge and acquiescence of several senior military and civilian officials, including:
the District Military Commander (Dandim), Lt. Col. Burhanuddin Siagian;
the District Head of Military Intelligence (Kasi Intel), Lt. Sutrisno;
the Bupati, Guilherme dos Santos;
the militia commander, Joao Tavares;
and the District head of the FPDK, Jorge Tavares.
The indictment also names Lt. Sutrisno as one of the direct perpetrators of the seven murders.
By some accounts, the Cailaco killings were an act of official retaliation for the murder of a local pro-autonomy figure, Manuel Gama, and at least one TNI soldier, in an ambush near Poegoa village, Cailaco Sub-District, early on the morning of April 12.
Gama, who was Finance Head of the District administration and had recently been named deputy leader of the FPDK in Maliana, was driving from Cailaco to Maliana with an escort of TNI soldiers when the attack occurred. He and one of the TNI soldiers were both shot and killed at close range, while a second TNI soldier reportedly survived the ambush.
As of early 2003, the identity of Manuel Gama's killers had not been established. Some residents claimed that the attack was carried out by a member of the Halilintar militia, as a deliberate pretext for the crackdown on pro-independence supporters that was to follow. Others believe that the ambush and killings were the work of Falintil fighters, who had been operating in the area in preceding months.
Whoever the perpetrators were, the attack did indeed set in motion a campaign of retribution in which local residents were detained, beaten, forcibly relocated and killed by TNI soldiers and Halilintar militiamen.
After learning of Manuel Gama's death, the commander of the SGI post at Marco, Mahalan Agus Salim, ordered TNI and Halilintar militiamen to track down those responsible. Teams of soldiers and militiamen then fanned out to villages in the immediate vicinity, looking for suspects. In the course of this initial sweep some 30 residents, including women and children, were detained and forcibly marched to the Sub-District Military Command (Koramil) headquarters at Marco. The women and children were held separately for up to four days, before being released. Several of the detained men – including Carlito Mau Leto and Domingos Resi Mau who would later be killed – were badly beaten while in detention.
The beatings reportedly began after orders were received from the Kodim in Maliana and from militia commander João Tavares. In the words of the indictment issued by the Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes:
“The detainees were told to lie on the floor and the TNI and militiamen present hit them with their fists and boots. They were also beaten with rifle butts while being questioned about the murder of Manuel Gama.”
A number of the detainees were released, but some remained in custody in Marco. Two others – Carlito Mau Leto and Domingos Resi Mau – were taken to the site of Manuel Gama’s murder, near the village of Poegoa. TNI soldiers and militiamen had already brought three other villagers to that spot, and had begun to beat and interrogate them about the killing of Manuel Gama.
The soldiers and militiamen at the site were under the authority of TNI Lt. Sutrisno, the District Military head of intelligence. Lt. Sutrisno was present when soldiers and militiamen beat the detainees. According to witnesses, he also kicked one of the detainees in the face and the body as he lay on the ground, with his hands tied.
Having received word of Manuel Gama’s death, senior TNI and civilian figures in Maliana gathered at the office of the Bupati to plan their response. Those present included: the Dandim, Lt. Col. Burhanuddin Siagian, the Bupati, Guilherme dos Santos, the militia commander, João Tavares, and the district FPDK leader, Jorge Tavares.
According to the Serious Crimes indictment, the men discussed plans to kill CNRT members and pro-independence civil servants.
After the meeting, the group traveled in a convoy to the site near Poegoa village where Manuel Gama had been killed, and where at least five men were being held by TNI soldiers and militiamen. There, according to witnesses, three of the men who had earlier been beaten were shot dead by TNI soldiers. The circumstances of their killing leave no doubt that the men were deliberately executed while in custody, and strongly suggest the direct responsibility of senior TNI officers and the militia commander, João Tavares.
Shortly after they arrived at the site the militia commander, João Tavares, reportedly walked up to one of the detainees and said: “These are the people that receive money from the government, and they feed the Falintil. These people we have to kill.”
Following this order, several TNI soldiers dragged three of the detainees – Carlito Mau Leto, Domingos Resi Mau, and João Evangelista Lima Vidal – to the top of a nearby hill. They were followed by Lt. Sutrisno, who was carrying a 5.56 caliber rifle.
A few minutes later several gunshots were heard coming from the place where the detainees had been taken. Witnesses said that the gunshots sounded like those of a 5.56 caliber rifle. The three men were not seen alive again.
From the site of the killings, a convoy of officials, soldiers, and militiamen returned to Marco, where residents and civil servants had been ordered to gather at the home of Manuel Gama. There, according to witnesses, Lt. Col. Burhanuddin Siagian directly threatened District civil servants, indicating that if they were independence supporters they would suffer the same fate as the three men just killed in Poegoa. Then, Lt. Sutrisno gave the order to arrest four men, all of them known independence supporters: Paulino Soares, Jose Pau Lelo, Antonio Soares, and Manuel Maulelo Araujo.
The four men were singled out of the crowd and led away to the SGI compound next to the Koramil. Later that afternoon, April 12, they were shot dead by TNI soldiers and Halilintar militiamen. As in the case of the three killed earlier in Poegoa, there is little doubt that the four were killed in custody, and that their murders were ordered by senior TNI officers, including Lt. Col. Burhanuddin Siagian and Lt. Sutrisno.
Some time after the four men were taken to the Koramil, Lt. Col. Siagian, Joao Tavares and Jorge Tavares went there and talked with Lt. Sutrisno. After their conversation, TNI soldiers and Halilintar militiamen were instructed to seal off the area, and Lt. Sutrisno gave the order for the four detainees to be taken outside. Once outside, the detainees were told to run. Paulino Soares, the youngest of the four, started to do so and was immediately shot and killed. The other three men were then killed by shots fired by TNI soldiers and militiamen surrounding the compound. The bodies of the four men were gathered in a single pile and guarded by TNI soldiers.
Lt. Sutrisno has been identified as one of the direct perpetrators of all four of the killings. Lt. Col Burhanuddin Siagian, Joao Tavares, and Jorge Tavares were present and took no action to stop the killings.
As of early 2003, the bodies of the seven victims of the Cailaco killings had not been found. Relatives believe that the bodies were taken by militiamen and soldiers to a beach at Atabae, early in the morning hours of April 13, and dumped at sea. The site of their probable disposal is marked by a stone monument and some clothes discovered on the beach on the morning after the killings, and believed to be those of the deceased. In early 2000, several fishermen told UN Civpol investigators that on the morning after the killings they had discovered that their boats, which had been left on the beach overnight, were spattered with blood and that they had been moved. One fisherman claimed that, earlier that morning, he had seen several men, whom he described as militia, pushing a dump truck that had got stuck in the sand.
The seven murders on April 12, 1999 marked the start of a systematic campaign of officially sanctioned violence against villagers in the Cailaco Sub-District who were believed to be supporters of independence (See District Summary: Bobonaro). Over the next two weeks, soldiers and armed militiamen conducted joint patrols in which they burned and looted houses, detained and beat hundreds of villagers, raped an unknown number of women and girls, and killed as many as 20 people. No action was ever taken by Indonesian authorities against those alleged or known to have carried out these acts.