03 September 2009
UN anger over Dili's release of former militia leader
ABC Radio Australia: Connect Asia September 2, 2009 12:02:13 United Nations has expressed anger over the release of former militia leader Martenus Bere into Indonesian custody in Dili.
Indonesia's embassy in Dili has confirmed that it's negotiating for his deportation from East Timor. Bere, an Indonesian citizen is accused of directing the Suai massacre in 1999, that saw at least 40 East Timorese killed.
Presenter: Linda Mottram
Speakers: Christina Carrascalao, East Timor justice campaigner; Jose Texeira, Fretilin MP; Victor Sambuaga, Indonesian Embassy in Dili; Marie Okabe, deputy spokeswoman, Office of the UN Secretary General.
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MOTTRAM: Last Sunday night in Dili, the celebrations included East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao dancing with Indonesian pop singer Kristayanti. Also attending was Indonesia's foreign minister, Hasan Wirayuda .. a visit that could only have been interpreted as a sign of good relations between Dili and Jakarta. But within hours, some East Timorese were asking at what price that relationship, as news emerged that former militia leader, Martenus Bere, had been released from jail in Dili and handed into the custody of Indonesia's embassy. Members of Christina Carrascalao's family died at the hands of militias in the frenzy of 1999 and says she understands Bere was released on the orders of East Timor's Prime Minister and President, orders carried out she says by the Justice minister .. though there's been no official confirmation.
CARRASCALAO: Everyone is trying to keep this very quiet, very, very quite. Nobody knew about this. By chance, I actually met with the UN Human Rights person in Dili and he called me out straight away, Chris I have to talk to you. This has happened. Obviously he knew about this and this should not be on because this is very bad.
MOTTRAM: Bere was arrested in East Timor recently after he snuck across the border to attend a wedding. Christina Carrascalao says she's spoken to a Portuguese Euro member of parliament who was in Dili for the 10th anniversary celebrations.
CARRASCALAO: And she went over to the prison to check. She wanted to see she wanted to visit the prisoners, and obviously by the time she got there, she was a day too late. Since the time that she found out, again she was just like every other Timorese, nobody knew. She went there and no signs of Martenus Bere and two other militias.
MOTTRAM: Fretilin opposition member Jose Texeira says the opposition tried to find out more in Parliament, but with no luck.
TEXEIRA: This whole issue has been extremely unsatisfactory, totally lacking in transparency, that such an important figure, important in the sense that notoriety for the violence 10 years ago, was one way or the other no longer kept in prison. and that that occurred at time when there was a major ceremony and speeches delivered by the president and the prime minister and nobody said anything about about this action.
MOTTRAM: Repeated attempts to call three different East Timor government spokesmen have been unsuccessful but Victor Sambuaga from Indonesia's embassy in Dili provided an account of events.
SAMBUAGA: In this case, what we did is we made approach at least on the good relations of two nations and with the two governments. After that, the result is that the government of Timor Leste handed over Mr Bere to our premises in the embassy.
MOTTRAM: In New York, the office of the United Nations secretary general strongly criticised East Timor over Bere's release from jail. In her daily press briefing, the secretary general's deputy spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters it's contrary to the Security Council resolutions which set up the UN mission in East Timor and seriously undermines the global principle of accountability for crimes against humanity.
OKABE: The UN's firm position is that there can be no amnesty or impunity for serious crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. In that context, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights strongly opposes the release of someone for whom an arrest warrant of this nature has been established.
MOTTRAM: But in this the UN and the East Timorese leadership are at odds, with the latter resisting calls for an independent criminal court to try the crimes committed in East Timor .. under pressure, observers say, from Indonesia.
Survivors though say justice is vital, and they want more than words from the UN.