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The Prosecutor v. Carlos Soares

Court Special Panels for Serious Crimes (District Court of Dili), East Timor
Case number 12/2000
Decision title Judgement
Decision date 31 May 2001
  • The Public Prosecutor
  • Carlos Soares
Categories Crimes against humanity
Keywords crimes against humanity
Other countries involved
  • Indonesia
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Indonesia illegally occupied East Timor from 1975 until 2002 during which time members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and a number of pro-autonomy militia groups perpetrated widespread crimes against the civilian population of East Timor, particularly those suspected of being independence supporters.

In September 1999, the Accused, Carlos Soares, was a member of the Darah Integrasi militia group. During an attack on a village in which the militia, alongside the TNI, burnt down civilian homes and killed the villagers who refused to run away, the Accused shot an elderly man through the neck, killing him. The Accused was convicted of murder as a domestic offence and sentenced to 15 years and 6 months’ imprisonment.

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Procedural history

On 12 December 2000, the Public Prosecutor indicted the Accused, Carlos Soares, for the charge of murder as a domestic offence, contrary to section 8 of UNTAET Regulation 2000/15 and Article 340 of the Indonesian Penal Code.

The preliminary hearing commenced on 14 February 2001 at which time the defendant entered a statement to the effect that he was not guilty as he was forced to commit the murder.

The trial commenced on 24 April 2001 and concluded on 11 May 2001. 

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Related developments

On 11 February 2004, the Court of Appeal reduced the sentence of the Accused to 13 years’ imprisonment.

On 20 May 2005, the Accused was granted a one-year reduction in his sentence by Presidential Decree.

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Legally relevant facts

The Accused was a member of the Darah Integrasi militia (p. 3).

In early September 1999, members of the militia accompanied by members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) burnt down a large number of houses in two villages. On 10 September 1999, the miltiia returned armed with rifles, including the Accused. Whilst patrolling along the main street, the Accused noticed an old ma  hiding under a tree. The Accused walked towards him and shot him through the neck, killing the victim (p. 3).

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Core legal questions

  • Can the Accused rely on the defence of mistake of fact to exclude his criminal responsibility?
  • How is premeditation defined?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Section 9 of UNTAET Regulation 2000/15.
  • Article 340 of the Indonesian Penal Code.

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Court's holding and analysis

The victim was reportedly carrying an iron bar at the time that he was shot. The Accused attempted to rely on the defence of “mistake of fact” to excuse his criminal responsibility by alleging that he believed the victim to have been attacking him. The Special Panels found, upon hearing witness testimony, that this allegation was groundless and unproven. The victim was an elderly man incapable of raising the bar to attack; he was in possession of such an item due to his role as watcher, he relied upon the bar to hit a gong to warn the villagers of the presence of militia (p. 8).

Premeditation means that there is a time between when the intent to murder arises and when the intent is actually realised for the accused to calmly think about how the murder is to be committed. In the instant case, the accused had received orders to kill the villagers who refused to run away. The accused, after noticing the victim,  decided to kill him and knew that he would be accurate at shooting from that distance (p. 9).

The Special Panels convicted the Accused of murder and sentenced him to 15 years and 6 months’ imprisonment (p. 12).

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Instruments cited