FRENTE REVOLUCIONÁRIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE
Quintal Bot community rejects “lies” by Australian military commander, demands justice for assault victims
Briefing note to media from:
Francisco Branco, acting FRETILIN Parliamentary Leader
(For further details contact: José Teixeira MP +670 728 7080)
Dili 22 October 2007
Below is a translation of a statement from victims of, and witnesses to an assault on three Timorese civilians by Australian troops in the Dili suburb of Quintal Bot on October 14. The statement was read to a news conference at Parliament House, Dili, on October 19.
The news conference was organised by the head of the youth organization in Quintal Bot, Carlito B. and community leader Teki Liras.
Both Carlito and Mr Teki Liras stated that their local community rejected the statement by the Australian Force Commander and would support the victims to get justice through the courts.
They said they believed the Australian troops behaved aggressively because their suburb is considered a FRETILIN stronghold and the soldiers resented the flying of the FRETILIN flag. The assault occurred in front of a shop over which a large FRETILIN flag is flying.
Carlito said the Quintal Bot community is law abiding and there had been no trouble in the suburb. He asked why were Australian troops creating problems inside their community using violence and aggression, especially towards a security guard employed to protect the state’s assets – a rice warehouse?
Carlito directly accused the Australian Force Commander of lying when he denied that his men had assaulted the three Timorese. Carlito said the Quintal Bot community had taken its complaint to parliament, in order to ensure the matter went to court. “We do not want to be repeatedly victimized,” he said.
The victims themselves also declared that the statement by the Australian Commander was a lie, and demanded that he come to Quintal Bot and indicate who it was who were fighting as he alleged.
The victims said they have about 10 witnesses to the assaults whose statements they are collecting (having taken 3 already: Antonio Barreto alias “Mauliar”, Paulo Soares and Chiquito) and these statements will be given to investigators.
On Thursday 18 October the complaint was presented to the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice. The police have already started an investigation of the complaint lodged on Monday 15 October.
FRETILIN supports above all the desire of the Quintal Bot community to a thorough and transparent investigation by the Police authorities and the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice as expressed in their public statements. FRETILIN also expects that the Australian Defence Command will make the Defence Force Personnel involved in the incident available to be interviewed by the relevant authorities to determine the truth of what actually occurred. Other political parties in the national parliament have expressed support in this regard also.
STATEMENT BY COMMUNITY AND VICTIMS OF QUINTAL BOT
Case: Brutality by Australian Forces
Date: Sunday, 14 October 2007, 10.30 at night
Place: Quintal Bot
We would like to refer to the public statement from the Commander of the Australian Forces (Brigadier John Hutcheson) on TVTL on 17th of October 2007, at 8.30 in the evening, that they came to Quintal Bot to separate two people who were fighting and that they did not assault the victim Abilio Fatima.
On this, we as the victims of these actions wish to respond immediately to the Australian Force Commander’s public statements:
1. We greatly lament the statements by the Australian Force Commander because we have heard many times these false arguments and lies to cover up criminal acts against we the little people of Timor-Leste.
2. If as he states there was in fact a fight between members of our community, we request that the Force Commander indicate who these criminal elements are because in reality it was the Australian Forces who brutally assaulted the victim Abilio Fatima in the nighttime.
3. Based on the facts which have been disclosed above, we ask the authorities (the National Parliament, the State, the Government and the Appeals Court) to investigate this crime quickly so that it can be taken to the courts quickly.
Quintal Bot, 18 October 2007
1. Abilio Fatima
1. Antonio Barreto, alias Mauliar
2. Paulo Soares
* Note: Januario and Fernando say they were punched and slapped by the Australian troops. They have therefore identified themselves as victims, and lodged complaints with the police, though their injuries were minor compared to those sustained by Abilio Fatima.
FRENTE REVOLUCIONÁRIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE
October 17, 2007
FRETILIN questions Australian military presence after civilian bashing complaint
Reports that a Timorese security guard was severely beaten by six Australian soldiers opened up a parliamentary debate yesterday about the legal status, role, command structure and duration of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) presence in Timor Leste.
FRETILIN MP Antoninho Bianco presented parliament with a complaint by Mr Abilio Fatima, 41, who is employed by Maubere Security to protect the warehouse of the Ministry of Social Security in the Dili suburb of Kintal Bot.
In a complaint to the police, Mr Fatima alleged that at 10.30pm last Sunday, October 14, he was on duty, talking to some neighbours, when two ADF vehicles arrived, with about 12 soldiers, six of whom alighted and ordered Mr Fatima and the neighbours to disperse and go indoors.
Mr Fatima explained through a Tetum language interpreter attached to the soldiers that he was on duty, that regular police patrols never ordered him to leave his post, and asked why the soldiers were so concerned with ordinary civilians like him instead of with cases like Alfredo Reinado, the rebel soldier, and his armed group.
Mr Fatima alleged that after he mentioned Reinado he was immediately struck with rifle butts many times in the head, upper arms and back, and then bitten on the right upper arm by a soldiers‚ guard dog. Two of his neighbours were also assaulted and fled to their homes, but Mr Fatima stayed at his post.
Next morning, Mr Fatima made a complaint to Fretilin MPs at Parliament House, and then went to the National Hospital for treatment, before going to the Dili Police Headquarters to register his complaint.
Many MPs including from the non-FRETILIN side of parliament supported a call for a full and thorough investigation into this incident as one of a string of incidents of ADF maltreatment of civilians.
The President of the Parliament, Fernando Lasama Araujo MP (Democratic Party), directed that the matter be referred to parliamentary Committee A (Constitution, Rights and Justice) so that the Secretaries of State for Defence and Security respectively could be requested to come to the parliament and respond to these issues raised regarding the ADF conduct.
FRETILIN MP Estanislau da Silva said the time had come to re-evaluate the presence of the ADF, to determine how many, for what purpose and for how long they should remain in Timor-Leste. He stressed that there was a sentiment of hostility building up because of some of the actions of the ADF and that the parliament should be careful that this sentiment did not become overwhelming and manifest itself in negative ways. „We have to act to prevent this from occurring, as we have had a history of this occurring with occupying armies in the past,‰ said Mr Da Silva.
These views were supported by CNRT MP Cecilio Caminha who called for transparency in dealing with cases of abuse of power by the ADF. FRETILIN MP Jose Teixeira called for the Australian military force to come under the UN command, to make it more accountable.
FRETILIN MP Francisco Branco argued that even if the presence of the ADF in Timor-Leste was ultimately ratified by the National Parliament, the officers who ordered operations, such as when ADF troops shot dead Timorese at the Dili Airport IDP Camp or in the attack on the Alfredo group in Same, should be investigated for the legality of their actions.