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Five East Timorese students shot and wounded in Dili

Amnesty International - November 14, 1997

Five East Timorese students shot and wounded in a confrontation with Indonesian police in Dili, the capital of East Timor, have been taken to a military hospital. The five appear to be being denied access to humanitarian and legal assistance, raising serious concerns for their well-being in custody.

Reports of the events are still unclear but it is believed that a confrontation between students and the security forces began at the University of East Timor in Dili early in the morning of 14 November 1997. Students are reported to have thrown stones at members of the security forces at the university. Riot police arrived to quell the disturbance. The police claim they fired warning shots in the air.

At least five youths are known to have been wounded by the gunfire, three of whom are believed to be Antonio Viegas, Albino Barros and Natalina de Araujo. Amnesty International cannot confirm the identities of the two other students.

One of the students, who received a life-threatening gunshot wound in the neck, was forcibly removed from a vehicle of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) by police.

Eyewitnesses have reported that he was immediately severely beaten by the police before being taken away. It is believed that he and the other four known to have been wounded were taken to the military hospital in Dili, Wirahusada Hospital, where they are believed to be currently in custody. Allegations that one of those wounded has since died cannot be confirmed.

There are reports that up to 11 students have been taken into custody but it is not clear if this includes the five students known to have been taken to the military hospital. The Indonesian military have admitted that arrests have been made. Agence France Press has reported the East Timor Military Commander as stating that "a few people were arrested for criminal actions".

Amnesty International is concerned that the five students known to have been wounded are at risk of further ill-treatment at the military hospital, particularly in view of the treatment handed out to the man taken out of the ICRC vehicle. Torture and ill-treatment of political detainees is routine in East Timor, in particular when detainees are denied access to humanitarian assistance, independent legal advice and their families.