DILI — The United Nations condemned Tuesday the reported release of an
Indonesian former militia leader accused of taking part in a massacre
of civilians in East Timor in 1999.
“If the reports are true, his release is 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,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokeswoman Marie
Okabe said in a statement.
The UN said earlier this week that the suspect, Martenus Bere, had been
released Sunday ahead of national celebrations commemorating 10 years
since East Timor won independence from Indonesia in a UN-backed
The government has refused to confirm Bere’s release amd the UN
appeared to backtrack on Tuesday, saying in a separate statement that
its mission in Dili was “not in a position to comment” on Bere’s
Bere was detained in East Timor on August 8, five years after being
indicted for his role in the 1999 Suai Church massacre, in which up to
200 people were killed.
“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,” Okabe said.
“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.”
East Timor’s leadership has been criticised for opposing prosecution
for those responsible for abuses during Indonesia’s bloody 1975-1999
occupation of the half-island, which killed around 100,000 people.
President Jose Ramos-Horta says restoring good relations with Indonesia
is more important than “prosecutorial justice”, and has said he will
not let his country be used as an “experiment” in international justice.
The opposition Fretilin party however says he is out of touch with the
East Timorese people, many of whom continue to demand justice for gross
human rights abuses committed during the Indonesian occupation.