Maternus Bere was born in Auren, Suai, on April 1 1956. During the Indonesian occupation, he was a teacher near this village, but when this small nation was preparing for the referendum on 30 August 1999, Maternus Bere left this position for the Laksaur militia.
According to information from a Tempo Semanal correspondent in Suai, Maternus Bere was well-known and got along with his students.
Yet when he became involved in Laksaur, he became hostile in his anti-independence stance, and many civilians became victims of his behaviour.
To resolve Bere’s case and those of human rights violations in 1999, the then-President Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao travelled to Bali on 29 May 2004 to meet TNI ex-general Wiranto.
This discussion created big issues with many people as all people want justice for the human rights violations which occurred during the Indonesian occupation. These issues were magnified when Gusmao met with the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudohono on 9 March 2005 to sign the Truth and Friendship Commission agreement, which contravened the principles set out by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (aka., CAVR).
Yet the former Minister for Foreign Affairs and current President has always questioned civil society’s persistence in establishing an international tribunal on grounds that Timor-Leste’s diplomatic priority is to maintain friendship between the people of these two nations – not to bring about justice.
Due to this, Maternus Bere’s attack on Ave Maria Parish in Suai on 6 September 1999—which killed Fathers Hilario Madeira, Dewanto, Francisco and many other civilians—is not likely to have much political influence in our leaders’ hearts. From this perspective, Timor-Leste doesn’t have much chance of holding former militia Maternus Bere to justice because its heads of state and government haven’t fully given importance to immigration law or a penal code in Timor-Leste.
Political—rather than legal or moral—decisions meant that on 29 July 2009, Maternus Bere approached the Indonesian Department of Immigration in Atambua to acquire a visa to visit his birthplace. Thus, on 5 August 2009, he crossed the border to visit Suai with permission from the Department and from the Timor-Leste police.
On 8 August 2009 in Suai, Maternus Bere attended Mass in a local church. He left during the ceremony to visit the burial site of Father Hilario and, with a heavy heart, reached for the cross above the grave. A Suai youth named Watu said Bere felt frustrated and sad with his behaviour in 1999.
When he initially saw Bere, Watu attempted to hit him, but was unsure as they were at a church. Yet after leaving the church, Maternus Bere walked to a local market and Watu attempted to hit him.
Upon seeing this, nearby PNTL and UNPOL officers apprehended Watu because they didn’t know who Bere was, and asked Watu to explain his actions.
Watu then explained to police that Bere was a mlitia commander who was involved in a grave crime during 1999 and, as such, the security authorities were surprised at not having captured Bere, who’d returned to his home in Leogore.
When this newspaper approached a victim who wished to be known only as “DA” and other civilians involved in Bere’s capture, DA said, “We feel angry towards the Government and don’t’ like the UN’s behaviour”. DA is a survivor from the massacre on 6 September 1999 who was present during the recent occurrences in Suai market.
“I saw Marternus start shouting [at Watu] near the market, and then we, the victims, captured this criminal and then gave him to the PNTL and UNPOL. At the time, they didn’t know who Maternus Bere was in order to bring justice, but the Government has [now] not delivered justice and the UN has washed its hands of the affair,” DA continued.
“When the day comes that we find another militia from Laksaur, we’ll undoubtedly take our own judgement with our hands,” DA declared.
After being in a holding cell for three days, the police brought Maternus Bere to Dili, where he entered block one of Becora prison on 12 August 2009. Bere’s capture has shown the community’s contribution to justice.
Yet Timor-Leste’s Head of State and Head of Government—who speak loudly that the people must contribute to justice—are now trying to close the path for the people to contribute to justice. The UN itself always speaks out about peace and justice, but for all its sweet-talk its actions are very much in vain, because one part of the UN asks for justice, but the other part has been involved with dispersing the Serious Crimes Unit. Because of this, the UN’s mission in Timor-Leste appears to be a big boss who comes to supervise millions and millions of dollars’ worth of projects, all to deliver various reports to Geneva.
It’s the same with what deputies are currently doing in National Parliament. They position themselves as representatives of the people, but they speak more of their parties’ interests than those of the people. The young, intelligent AMP deputy alone gave respect to those who captured Bere, but they simply shout back when the opposition criticises the Chief of State’s decisions.
Maternus Bere exited Becora prison on 30 August 2009, the commemoration of Timor-Leste’s referendum. The President celebrated this historic day by giving medals to those who’ve contributed to this nation, but he and the Prime Minister also—very quietly—gave Maternus Bere his liberty from Becora prison.
According to Tempo Semanal’s sources, the Minister of Justice telephoned a prison staff member and the source known as “DA” to release Maternus Bere, and members of PNTL (under the command of Sub-Inspector JB) brought him to the Indonesian Embassy in Palapaso.
According to other Government sources, the Indonesian Embassy in Dili is still waiting for a letter of extradition for Maternus Bere from the Government of Timor-Leste. This indicates that Maternus Bere may still be residing within the Embassy. A document from the Ministry of Justice which was acquired on 4 September 2009 explains that the ex-militia left Becora prison for the Indonesian Embassy on grounds of poor health.
This decision prompted strong protests from victims families’ and civil society. A two-page document sent from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ordered the President to explain about Bere’s release.
When Fretilin was in power, some leaders who currently occupy AMP chairs heavily criticised Mari Alkatiri’s government for not doing anything about justice. Yet the UN—through its special representative in Timor-Leste—gave full faith to the Fretilin government that it could create a stable nation.
On 19 May 2003 at Dili heliport, the UN representative in Timor-Leste, Kamalesh Sharma, handed over authority of the State’s security, prompting the Dili District Tribunal to print a notification for arrest warrants regarding serious crimes perpetrated by Maternus Bere and his thirteen accomplices which read:
“The Adjunct Attorney-General for Serious Crimes Autoridade Segundo nian konfirma ba regulamentu 2000/16 to’o 2000/30 ba UNTAET (… wrote in a letter of accusation (number 09/2003) from the Serious Crimes Panel which was sent on 5 November 2003 with a warrant of arrest based on a letter from the Attorney-General on 16 May which this newspaper has acquired.
Yet this warrant of arrest has little worth because the UN has dismantled the Special Panel for Serious Crimes which was created to bring justice for victims of the Indonesian occupation and related occurrences. Former President Xanana Gusmao himself may be content that the ad-hoc tribunal has failed to make a judgement on perpetrators of these crimes in Indonesia. In forming the Truth and Friendship Commission, Xanana has held up friendship and trampled justice in this land.
Indonesian Ambassador Protects Maternus Bere
The Secretary for the Indonesian Ambassador to Timor-Leste, Nelson Simorangkir said the Ambassador’s function in the Maternus Bere case is to give protective assistance to Bere and other Indonesian citizens in Timor-Leste. Nelson said the Indonesian Ambassador has an obligation to protect Bere’s health.
“I want to let the public know that this case may be quickly resolved to maintain good relations between these two nations, as President Ramos-Horta has said,” said Nelson.
According to information which this newspaper has acquired from the Ambassador’s Secretary, Maternus Bere has not yet returned to Indonesia, but he’s hoping that the Government of Timor-Leste may promptly resolve this problem. Bere’s family has frequently visited him.
Nelson added that President Ramos-Horta’s statement on the anniversary of the popular consultation kept with the Truth and Friendship Commission’s views to resolve problems between these two nations.
“These nations’ leaders certainly have good vision and a mission for the future, which is specifically expressed in each of the recommendations they’ve made to strengthen relations between their nations,” encouraged Nelson.
Horta Says the People Aren’t Asking for Justice
On 28 August 2009, when asked by journalists for his thoughts about Amnesty International’s report on 27 August 2009 which recommends an international tribunal for serious crimes during the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste, Horta said, “I absolutely disagree with this. It’s not the same with Amnesty Internation who write from London. I am here. I have been here for ten years already.”
He continued, “I may state that I know this land better than others. In the months I’ve spent walking around this nation in the past two years, I’ve visited cities and villages. I’ve met with thousands and thousands of people. Throughout this, I can guarantee to you that there is not a single person from them who spoke to me about the violence in 1999, 1991, or 1975.”
Speaking on behalf of poor people, the President said this nation’s population hasn’t asked for Justice, but are looking specifically to improve their lives and determine their futures.
“All of the things they’ve spoken have been about their lives in days of peace and security,” he said. “They are not concerned with justice relating to violence in the past. Their concerns are about obtaining 24-hour access to electricity.”
“They question why they’re yet to access telephone lines in parts of this nation which don’t have mobile communication signals. They’re always asking about roads which are still deficient. They often demand more tractors and hand tractors for farming. They want more schools. They ask for clean water. I’ve always listen to these things during the two years prior to now in which I’ve walked hundreds of kilometres.”
“I think I have a better idea of our population’s feelings than those who write reports from London, Washington, New York, and Canberra,” he concluded.
Victims’ Families Angry at Horta
Representatives of victims’ families from Ermera are angry with the State’s decision to free Maternus Bere.
“I’m very sad with the Head-of-State’s statement that the people don’t need justice, sad because charismatic leaders such as Horta should be the number-one person to defend justice for the people, but now he’s crumbling justice from the base, so it’s easy to kill justice,” accused Francisco da Costa, a survivor of militias’ actions in Nossa Senhora church in Suai.
Da Costa asked when the President meets with the people to ask their thoughts about justice, stating “Horta speaks with us that we don’t need justice – is this when lying down, standing up, or sitting? I always attended meetings from 2001 to now and always send invitations to the President and Prime Minister, but they never participate to hear our demands for justice.”
In other news, a survivor from the Liquicia church massacre, Jose Serao, who still carries scars on his throat, said he wants to come together with other victims to continue their struggle for justice.
“This nation will not have peace when there is no justice and it is inexcusable if there is no justice,” he said.
Claudio: “Horta Doesn’t Have the Power to Take Maternus Bere”
In a letter to National Parliament (NP) which was acquired on 22 September from NP secretary, Teresa Carvalho (PD bench member), the President of the Appeal Tribunal Dr Claudio Ximenes said, “As per the information I’ve received, the Suai District Tribunal judge gave a decision to send Maternus Bere to prison to bring judgement. A substantial amount of time passed before the accused was sent to await his judgement”.
Bere’s release was indeed probably not of the tribunal’s doing. According to Timor-Leste’s law and Constitution, only a judge may send a person to prison. Only a judge may order someone from prison. If a judge sends someone to prison, an authority which is not a judge does not have the power to take or order this person from prison.
Article 245 of Timor-Leste’s penal code states whoever has the illegal means to take from prison a person who has lawfully lost their liberty or who gives aid for them to do so will find two to six years [of prison]. Our Constitution defines Timor-Leste as a state of democratic rights, as a state which follows the law and democratic principles.
Our Constitution delegates to each of its sovereign parts the power to conduct their appropriate actions, and not to give one part the power of others. The sovereign parts which do not include tribunals do not have the power to take someone from prison who has been sent by a tribunal, except when it has a political reason to do so. If we do not take the opportunity to follow legal mechanisms to resolve these problems when they appear, they may be exacerbated.
The events of 2006 are a good example, where the law [eventually] made this nation settle down. Violations of law create many problems. Because of this, the Superior Council for Judicial Magistrates and President of the Resources Tribunal gave their attention to the process in which Maternus Bere became the accused.
At the time, the National Parliament hotly debated a Censure Motion which the Opposition had delivered against the fourth constitutional Government, as a consequence of these events. The Opposition demanded a debate, although they already knew that such a motion would fall and that the AMP would feign division on the topic, regardless that they want to show victims that justice will not be served.
Yet the Censure Motion indeed used a deadened counting process, for sake of the Government potentially falling and Fretilin’s campaign tactics. At the time, the Vice President of National Parliament didn’t want to state that this would enter its agenda, but managed to with the diplomacy of Dr Vicente Guterres, who said, “Parliament has many priorities to attend”.
National Parliament took a ‘Rubber Stamp’ to President
National Parliament members signalled their protest about the state’s decision to free Maternus Bere through their vote on 08/09/09 to propose resolution 31/02 on the President’s trip to New York. “I vote to signify a protest because I have come and sat here to defend the people’s interests,” said Estanislao A. da Silva, Fretilin bench member, in an extraordinary plenary session on 09/09/09.
“The interests in this cause are those of the victims. In this way, I vote with conscience – not with emotion,” said da Silva.
“I vote to signal my protest. Why? Because this issue regards a militia who was brought out of prison,” da Silva finished.
The Censure Motion saw a majority of 18 members vote against the President’s travel plans; yet the President subsequently threatened to resign at 5pm on 09/09/09 if the vote was not changed. At 17:25pm, the Deputy of National Parliament brought forth what’s been referred to as a ‘rubber stamp’ to re-approve a resolution with the following results: 31 votes in favour of the President’s travel, 10 against, five abstentions, and one member who did not vote.
PUN MP Fernanda Borges said in the extraordinary plenary session that Parliament had “established a precedent which was not good for the future”.
She lamented that the MPs’ decision did not bring forth the people’s aspirations about speaking correctly and enacting justice for many people who spilled blood and lost their lives to gain independence. Ms Borges, who participated in the ceremony to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Suai church massacre, informed that, “many people will cry and moan for justice, while Mr President and Mr Prime Minister violate the Constitution to just arbitrarily take a person from jail according to their wishes”.
She continued to state that, “this protest vote has come about so we can open our eyes”.
CNRT bench member, Pedro da Costa, said the vote was filled with emotion. “This vote was all emotional because of Maternus Bere’s case,” he said. This AMP member indicated that the President’s travel was as much in the national interest as justice is for the nation’s heroic fathers. Mr da Costa argued to place the national interest above others, and that one may not bring forth the question of Maternus Bere on Presidential matters to create instability in our land.
Yet his friend Aderito Hugo da Costa—from a party which initially voted against the President’s travel plans, then subsequently abstained—said there is serious debate occurring in community areas regarding the case of Maternus Bere. “Liberty for Bere has an impact to the public, because of the issues he raised in 1999,” stated Mr da Costa. “Now is definitely not a good time for the President to make overseas visits”.
“While events which the President intends to attend is also important, it is particularly important for him to please find time to correctly explain this decision,” he continued.
This member alleged that the decision to free Bere came from the President. “I know well the chronology which happened before the ceremony began on 30 August,” he said. “We know one person who made a direct interpretation regarding this prosecution to the justice sector”.
Xanana: “I accept because I decided”
Not long after a meeting with the President on 10/09/09, the Prime Minister responded to the Appeal Tribunal President’s declaration to give a two- to six-year punishment to those who were responsible for releasing Maternus Bere from Becora prison. “I accept,” Mr Gusmao said. “I accept because I ordered this. The name for sentence, from this tribunal shall surely rest with me … I know where Becora is,” Prime Minister Xanana said in a challenge to the President of the Appeal Tribunal.
This is a difficult situation according to former leader Maximu of CNRM and CNRT (who now sits at the head table in the Counsel of Ministers) because Timor-Leste must have its own dignity as a state to see to its national interests that its people—not others—are making their own decisions: “What we say about justice sometimes disregards justice for the people in regard for that which the decision-makers want ... It’s better that we stand as a state. Stand and say that we will do what we say we’ll do”.
The Prime Minister declared that, “Sometimes bigger countries impose upon us when we intend to carry out justice”.
He is now 63 years old, and asked all people to have patience and consider the example about justice regarding World War Two, which occurred before many people were born. In the last two to three years there have been calls for this [justice], to carry it on. This will be a long time. We must leave it to time. We’ll try and leave it for now. We cannot demand greater things in this world,” said the former Falintil Supreme Commander, with a great deal of diplomacy.
President Dr Jose Ramos-Horta said on 09/09/09, “I have given my position many times already. I will not impede those who wish for an international tribunal. Go directly lobby the [UN] Security Council, because I do not make these decisions”.
“I do not agree,” Dr Ramos-Horta continued. “I do not accept; but those in this country who speak with big mouths, who follow Amnesty International, go to the [Security] Council.”
Immigration has a List of Ex-Militia
According to Immigration Director, Boavida Ribeiro, his department has a list of those who Timor-Leste suspects are former militia members, who are banned from entering and leaving the country.
When asked for the total number of people this list contains, or whether he had information that Maternus Bere had entered Timor-Leste on a tourist visa, the Director said he could not comment because this was a political decision.
Judge Requests Mandate for New Captures
Justice Dr Jose Maria de Araujo, who was carrying out Maternus Bere’s case in Suai District Tribunal, said according to the Penal Code, when PNTL and UNPOL capture a person to bring them to the Tribunal, there must be an accusation against them or one pertaining to serious crimes. Yet the Prosecutor-General presented the case to Dili District Tribunal, claiming they had the competence to pass judgement on the matter.
On 28 August 2009 the Public Defendant requested Suai District Tribunal to suspend Bere’s time in preventative prison because he was sick. Indonesia also requested authorisation for him to travel from Timor-Leste because he was an Indonesian citizen.
Guido Valadares, a doctor from the National Hospital, stated that Maternus Bere was sick in a medical certificate delivered to Becora prison, and recommended Dili District Tribunal authorise his treatment within or outside of Timor-Leste.
The Public Defendant’s request was presented with another copy from Becora prison to the Dili District Tribunal, who then granted a visa from the Public Ministry for Bere’s treatment in Indonesia. The Tribunal initially decreed that Bere remain in preventative prison, but had not made its own decision to grant him freedom from Becora prison.
Suai District Tribunal consequently informally heard that someone was granting Bere liberty from Becora prison.
According to a dispatch from Dr Jose Maris de Araujo on 10/09/09, the PNTL and UNPOL offices in Covalima were requested to commence an investigation to find who granted Bere liberty from prison.
Dr Araujo thus requested that Maternus Bere be taken back into custody, to return to Becora prison and follow due process. According to the resulting dispatches, an authority [other than the Tribunal or PNTL] used its political competence to take Bere from prison.
The Tribunal’s role is particularly to report and pass judgements depending on the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
One person who feels a victim of the Suai church massacre perpetrated by Maternus Bere is Hermenegildo da Costa, director of NGO Hadomi Malu. His own brother-in-law captured and punished him seven times, and he described being tied up like a goat.
The Laksanakan Sapu Rata militia group did not act alone, as they had support from the Indonesian military, who gave drugs to the militia to disorient them as they assaulted the Suai church and shot dead three religious leaders and other Christians.
This massacre in 1999 is one of the great stories of its generation, which left many dead in its wake. Yet the East Timorese people wished to govern themselves, and all share the consequences of such wishes.
Mr Costa asked the State to create an international tribunal for militia who killed East Timorese people in connection to the 1999 referendum.
Chronology of Bere’s Violations
The following actions are alleged as violations of Section 16 of UNTAET regulation 15/2000:
Accusation One: Torture and Crimes Against Humanity
Maternus Bere and Domingos Mali are widely regarded to have committed torture against Agostinho Gusmao, Francisco do Espedito, and Vicente Alves Quimtao on 26/04/1999 in Vila Ligore, Suai.
Accusation Two: The Crime of Forced Disappearance
Maternus Bere, Ilidio Gusmao and Domingos Mali are allegedly responsible for Marsal and Feliz Amaral’s disappearances on 19/04/1999.
Accusation Three: The Crime of Extermination
Egidio Manek, Maternus Bere, Pedro Teles, Henrikus Mali, Come Amaral, Alipio Gusmao, Baltazar da Costa Nunes, Domingos Berek Boot, Olivio Tato Bauk, Americo Mali, Gabriel Nahakno Tito Da Silva “Zito Saek”, are allegedly responsible for the loss of 46 civilians (many of who are unidentified) on in Ave Maria Church, Covalima, on 06/09/1999. Among those dead included Father Hilario Madeira, Father Dewanto, and Father Francisco.
Accusation Four: The Crime of Deportation
Igidio Manek, Maternus Bere, Pedro Teles, Come Amaral, Henrikus Mali, Alipio Gusmao, Baltazar da Costa Nunes, Domingos Mali, Joaquim Berek, Olivio Tato Bau, Americo Malik, Zito da Silva, and Ilidio Gusmao are allegedly responsible for the deportation of civilians on 05/09/1999 and 30/10/1999 to West Timor.
Accusation Five: The Crime of Persecution
Egidio Manek, Maternus Bere, Pedro Teles, Cosme Amaral, Henrikus Mali, Alipio Gusmao, Baltazar da Costa Nunes, Domingos Mali, Joaquim Berek, Olivio Tato Bau, Americo Mali, Zito da Silva, Ildio Gusmao are allegedly responsible for persecuting civilians on 05/09/1999 and 30/10/1999 in Covalima district and West Timor.
Attempted Homicide on Dinis Afonso Moniz and Cancio Nahak
Image added by ETLJB: The murder of Catholic priest Father Hilario in the Suai Catholic Church Massacre in 1999.