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Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes v. Paulino de Jesus

Court Special Panels for Serious Crimes (District Court of Dili), East Timor
Case number 06/2002
Decision title Final Judgement
Decision date 26 January 2004
  • Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes
  • Paulino de Jesus
Categories Crimes against humanity
Keywords crimes against humanity, Murder
Other countries involved
  • Indonesia
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Indonesia’s illegal occupation of East Timor from 1975 until 2002 was characterised by the perpetration of a number of attacks against the civilian population, particularly those suspected of being pro-independence supporters.

One such attack occurred on the village of Lourbs in September 1999 when members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and various militias burnt down homes, and wounded and killed a number of persons. In the course of this attack, a young girl was abducted by TNI soldiers and stabbed through the back; her mother was shot through leg as she attempted to save her. The Prosecution alleged that the Accused, Paulino de Jesus, was responsible for the murder of the little girl and indirectly for the wounding of her mother although he is not alleged to have fired the shot.

The Special Panels for Serious Crimes acquitted De Jesus on the grounds that the witness evidence did not establish with sufficient certainty either that he was present in the village at the time of the attack, or that he was the author of the charged crimes. 

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Procedural history

On 24 June 2002, the Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes indicted the Accused, Paulino de Jesus, for one count of murder and one count of attempted murder in violation of Section 8 of UNTAET Regulation 2000/15 and Articles 53 and 340 of the Indonesian Penal Code. These were domestic crimes.

The preliminary hearing was held on 10 October 2002.

On 13 August 2003, the Prosecution filed a motion requesting the Panel to amend the indictment so as to charge the Accused with murder and attempted murder as crimes against humanity in breach of section 5.1(a) of UNTAET Regulation 2000/15.

On 8 September 2003, the Panel approved the request and requalified the charges. The trial concluded on the same day.

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Related developments

On 4 November 2004, the Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal and found de Jesus guilty of the crimes against humanity of murder and attempted murder. He was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment (see also here).

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Legally relevant facts

On 10 September 1999, the village of Lourbs in East Timor was attacked by members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and militia members (p. 3). In the context of this attack, numerous homes were burnt down and suspected pro-independence supporters were wounded and killed (p. 3). One victim was a young girl who was stabbed thorugh the back and immediately killed (p. 4). Her mother, in attempting to save her daughter, was also shot in the leg and severely wounded (p. 4).

The Prosecution alleged that the Accused stabbed the little girl and was therefore directly responsible for her murder (Indictment, Section III.f). Furthermore, he is allegedly indirectly responsible for the attempted murder of the mother although it was another TNI soldier who fired the shot (Indictment, Section III.e).

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Core legal questions

  • What is the burden of proof that must be met in order to convict the Accused?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Section 8 of UNTAET Regulation 2000/15.
  • Articles 53 and 340 of the Indonesian Penal Code.

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Court's holding and analysis

In light of the witness testimony and the evidence presented, the Panel has insurmountable doubt that the Accused was the perpetrator of the crimes with which he is charged. It is not known for sure whether the Accused was present in that location, nor if he was present, whether he was the author of the stabbing (p. 7). Any insurmountable doubt must be treated in favour of the accused (p. 7).

The Panel therefore decided to acquit the Accused (p. 12).

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Further analysis

S. Vasiliev, ‘Cure Worse than Disease? Comments on Four Final Decisions of the Court of Appeal of East Timor Concerning Serious Crimes’, Annotated Leading Cases, 2009, Vol. 16, pp. 879-924;

D. Cohen, ‘Justice on the Cheap Revisited: The Failure of the Serious Crimes Trials in East Timor’, East-West Center, Special Report 2006.

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials