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East Timor convicts 10 in first crimes against humanity case

East Timor convicts 10 in first crimes against humanity case

Ten people affiliated with a pro-autonomy militia were convicted today in East Timor’s first trial for crimes against humanity, committed during the violence surrounding the 1999 United Nations-sponsored popular consultation.

According to the UN Transitional Administration (UNTAET), the trial by the Special Panel for Serious Crimes of the “Lospalos case,” so named for an eastern town in Lautem District where the crimes occurred, concerned five incidents that included instances of torture and multiple murders of civilians, as well as forced deportation and persecution.

All 10 accused, who were members or supporters of the pro-autonomy Team Alfa militia, were given sentences ranging from four to 19 years for single acts, UNTAET said in a statement. Four were convicted of participation in multiple crimes, and therefore were sentenced to 33 years and four months, the maximum allowed under the Indonesian law being applied.

Joni Marques, the leader of Team Alfa, was convicted of involvement in the murder of 12 people, as well as torture, persecution and deportation and given the maximum sentence.

According to UNTAET, in an important finding of fact that will likely serve as a backdrop for similar trials in the future, Judge Marcello da Costa announced that the court had established beyond doubt that there was in East Timor during 1999 an “extensive attack by the pro-autonomy armed groups supported by the Indonesian authorities targeting the civilian population.” This finding was necessary to prove the widespread or systematic nature of the attacks that led to the charges of crimes against humanity.

An eleventh suspect, Indonesian Lt. Syaful Anwar – the deputy commander of the Indonesian special forces (Kopassus) in Lautem when the crimes took place – was indicted by the prosecution but is currently at large. An arrest warrant is still outstanding for Lt. Anwar and has been served upon the Indonesian Attorney-General.

Set up in June 2000, the Special Panel consists of one East Timorese and two international judges. It can try cases of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, sexual offences and torture, carried out between 1 January and 25 October 1999.