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The Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes v. Col. Herman Sedyono et al.

Court District Court of Dili, Special Panel for Serious Crimes, East Timor
Case number 14/2003
Decision title Indictment
Decision date 8 April 2003
  • The Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes
  • Col. (inf.) Herman Sedyono
  • Lt. Col. (inf.) Achmad Mas Agus
  • Lt. Col. Lilik Koeshardianto
  • Lt. Col. Gatot Subiaktoro
  • Capt. Achmad Syamsuddin
  • Lt. Sugito
  • Lt. Widodo
  • Lt. Ari aka Commandante Ari
  • Sgt. Maj. Harun Tateny
  • Sgt. Maj. Supoyo aka Pak Poyou
  • Simao Nahak
  • Raul Halek
  • Americo Seran
  • Julio Borges
  • Leonito Cardoso
  • Anito Lau
Categories Crimes against humanity, Torture
Keywords Crimes against humanity; deportation; extermination; forced disappearance; murder; persecution; torture; Suai Church Massacre; Covalima District
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Following the decision of the Indonesian government taken in early 1999 to offer East Timor the opportunity to vote for independence or for autonomy within the Republic of Indonesia, violence erupted in East Timor. The defendants in this case took part in a widespread or systematic attack directed against civilians that were in favour of an independent East Timor. One of the accused, Herman Sedyono, was the Bupati (District Administrator) of the Covalima District, one of the 13 districts in East Timor. As such, he was bearing the primary responsibility for maintaining peace and security in the region. Most of the other accused were Commander or just member of the Indonesian security authorities (TNI) or the Indonesian police force (POLRI), which were both promoting autonomy within the Republic of Indonesia.

In 1999, the Mahidi and the Laksaur pro-Indonesian militia groups, with the help of the TNI and POLRI, and with support from the Covalima District administration, repeatedly committed attacks against the Covalima population (mainly against those that were in favour of independence). The attacks involved crimes such as unlawful arrests, destruction of property, detention, and murder. The 16 accused were charged with encouraging, assisting and failing to stop, arrest or prosecute the perpetrators of the crimes.

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Procedural history

In March 2002, four of the accused were already brought before the Indonesian Ad Hoc Tribunal for East Timor in Jakarta (Indonesia), which was set up to try Indonesian suspects of the 1999 East Timor crimes.

In August 2002, the accused were acquitted by the tribunal in separate trials. The tribunal found insufficient proof to convict the accused on the basis of their superior responsibility for the actions of their subordinates. Further, the tribunal found insufficient proof to demonstrate that Sedyono and four others, who were also named in the indictment of the District Court of Dili, were guilty of the Suai Church Massacre.

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Related developments

No final decision was rendered in the case due to the fact that the accused were all residing in Indonesia.

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Legally relevant facts

In 1975, East Timor was invaded by Indonesia. In 1999, the Indonesian government gave the East Timorese the option to vote for independence or for autonomy within the Republic of Indonesia. Following this decision of the Indonesian government, more than twenty-five pro-Indonesian militia groups, the Indonesian security authorities (TNI), and the Indonesian police force (POLRI), directed a widespread or systematic attack against the pro-independence civilian population of East Timor. Many East Timorese were killed, and about 500,000 persons were displaced from their homes.

In this case, the 16 accused persons were charged with crimes against humanity perpetrated, including murder, torture and persecution. Most of the accused were senior members of the TNI or POLRI. All of the charges related to crimes perpetrated in the district of Covalima. The infamous Suai Church Massacre that took place on 6 September 1999 was also included in the charges. On that day, members of the pro-Indonesian militia group Laksaur, the TNI, and the POLRI killed up to 200 civilians (including three priests) who were hiding in the Suai Church. Some of the bodies were buried while the others were set on fire (paras. 288-311).

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Specific legal rules and provisions

Regulation No. 2000/15 on The Establishment of Panels with Exclusive Jurisdiction over Serious Criminal Offences, 2000, UN Transitional Administration in East Timor:

  • Section 5.1(a), (b), (d), (f), (h), and (i) - Crimes Against Humanity

  • Section 14 - Individual criminal responsibility

  • Section 16 - Responsibility of commanders and other superiors
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Further analysis

G. Robinson, ‘East Timor 1999 Crimes against Humanity’, University of California Los Angeles, July 2003.

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Instruments cited

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Related cases

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Additional materials

J. Perlez, ‘Indonesia Begins Trials of Military in East Timor Abuses’, The New York Times, 20 March 2002.

‘Five Indonesian Officers In E Timor Trials Plead Innocent’, Joyo Indonesia News, 30 July 2002.

'East Timor police chief acquitted', BBC News, 15 August 2002.

‘West turns blind eye as Indonesia's brutal military escapes justice’, Joyo Indonesia News, 29 August 2002.

M. Maluku, ‘East Timor indicts 16 more Indonesians for war crimes’, Yahoo! Groups, 9 April 2003.

‘Serious Crimes Unit: Information Release 9 April 2003’, JSMP, 9 April 2003.