UN charges four East Timorese militia with crimes against humanity

UN charges four East Timorese militia with crimes against humanity

The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) has indicted four militia members for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the violence surrounding the 1999 popular consultation.

According to UNTAET's prosecutor general, the crimes were committed in Manufahi District by members of Tim Sasurut Ablai, which was a section of the Ablai pro-autonomy militia group.

The indictment, filed on Tuesday, charges Deputy Commander Benjamin Sarmento and third-in-command Romeiro Tilman with the murder of seven civilians, the deportation or forcible transfer of about 12,000 people from Same sub-district and the destruction of property, including the killing of livestock and burning of whole villages.

Militia member João Sarmento is charged with his participation in the murder of five civilians, deportation or forcible transfer of population and persecution. Militia member Domingos Mendonca is charged for his participation in the murder of three civilians and persecution.

The four militia members are currently imprisoned in East Timor. The Commander of Tim Sasurut Ablai, Bernadino da Costa, is still at large.

In another development, UNTAET Chief of Staff N. Parameswaran hosted a border meeting yesterday between almost 250 community representatives from Cova Lima District and pro-autonomy leaders, including Caetano Mendonça, the former head of the Cova Lima Local Assembly during Indonesian rule, and his son, Helio Moniz, deputy chief of public affairs for the pro-autonomy umbrella group UNTAS.

The meeting - which was also attended by Xanana Gusmão and other East Timorese national representatives - was "very successful and very emotional," said Mr. Parameswaran.