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(Photo provided courtesy of the American University Washington College of Law, War Crimes Research Office)

(Photo provided courtesy of the American University Washington College of Law, War Crimes Research Office)

The Public Prosecutor v. Jose Valente

Court Special Panels for Serious Crimes (District Court of Dili), East Timor
Case number 03/2001
Decision title Judgement
Decision date 19 June 2001
  • The Public Prosecutor
  • Jose Valente
Categories Human rights violations
Keywords Murder
Other countries involved
  • Indonesia
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From 1975 until 2002, Indonesia illegally occupied East Timor. Pro-autonomy militia groups, as well as the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) perpetrated a number of abuses against the Timorese civilian population, targeting particularly those individuals who were suspected of being pro-independence supporters. In September 1999, following a referendum in which the Timorese people voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence, members of the Team Alfa pro-autonomy militia were ordered to locate and kill independence supporters.

The Accused, Jose Valente, travelled with a number of militia members to an elementary school where they were to find and kill two suspected pro-independence supporters. These individuals were found and chased: one victim was shot in the leg by a militia member, and then shot again in the forehead by the Accused. The Accused was convicted of the domestic crime of murder and sentenced to 12 years 6 months’ imprisonment by the Special Panels for Serious Crimes. The Court found that the Accused acted with premeditation: he may not have had the intention to kill the victim as an individual, but he participated in the plan of the militia group to kill pro-independence supporters. 

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Procedural history

On 18 November 2000, the Public Prosecutor indicted the Accused, Jose Valente, for one count of murder as a domestic crime, contrary to section 8 of UNTAET Regulation 2000/15 and Article 340 of the Indonesian Penal Code.

The preliminary hearing commenced on 26 April 2001. The trial commenced on 16 May 2001. On that same date, the Accused confessed to some of the facts alleged against him. The trial continued with the calling of witnesses and the presentation of evidence. 

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Related developments

On appeal, the Court of Appeal confirmed the conviction and the sentence against the Accused (see Office of the Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes, ‘The Confirmation of the Conviction and Sentence of Jose Valente from Los Palos’, Serious Crimes Unit Update, 30 April 2004).

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Legally relevant facts

The Accused was a member of a pro-autonomy militia group called Team Alfa (p. 5).

On 25 September 1999, the Accused, along with ten other individuals, went to an elementary school in order to locate and kill two individuals suspected of being pro-independence supporters, Benedito Marques Cabral and Armindo Da Silva. Cabral and DaSilva were found and chased by members of the group. One militia member fired the first shot at Cabral hitting his leg, the Accused proceeded to fire a second, which hit Cabral in the head. Cabral died as a result of his injuries (pp. 5, 6). 

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Core legal questions

  • How is premeditation for the offence of murder within the meaning of Article 340 of the Indonesian Penal Code to be determined?
  • What is the difference between the crime of murder (Article 340 of the Indonesian Penal Code) and manslaughter (Article 338 of the Indonesian Penal Code)?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Section 8 of UNTAET Regulation 2000/15.
  • Articles 338 and 340 of the Penal Code of Indonesia.

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Court's holding and analysis

Although the Accused confessed to shooting the victim, he maintained that he did not go to the school with the intention of killing but in order to take rice from a nearby warehouse (p. 7). The Court, however, found that the evidence established premeditation: there was intention and a plan to kill pro-independence supporters amongst the militia members following the results of the referendum in which the Timorese people had voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence. (p. 7). Although the Accused himself did not have a plan to kill the victim as such, he was a member of the group that planned to kill pro-independence supporters and anybody taking rice. Thus, the killing of the victim was part of a previously formed plan (p. 8).

The difference between murder and manslaughter is premeditation. The premeditation does not necessarily imply a long-term planning of the conduct. It is enough to have thought about acting and to have decided whether to take the life of the victim or to withdraw from that intention (p. 9).

The Accused was convicted of the crime of murder and sentenced to 13 years 6 months’ imprisonment (p. 12).

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited