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Whereabouts of 14 arrested East Timorese unknown

East Timor Human Rights Centre - 31 July, 1997

Grave fears are held for the safety of 14 East Timorese men whose whereabouts is unknown following their arrest on 2 July, 1997, during an assault by the Indonesian military on the village of Wadaboru. Internal steps taken to locate them have been unsuccessful.

During the assault, members of Kopassus (Special Forces Command), BTT 312 (territorial battalion) and Team Saka (a team of East Timorese recruited into the Indonesian military) attacked a house, arresting the 14 men who were in hiding there. It is believed the military also burnt down the house, which belonged to Lucas Gaio, aged 63. Both Lucas Gaio and Marcos Pereira were burnt in the fire before being arrested. Another man, Antonio Freitas, aged 20, was shot dead during the assault and later buried at Wadaboru.

The 14 men were taken to Koramil (Sub-district Military Command) headquarters in Quelicai, where it is believed they were subjected to torture. The following day, they were transferred by military car to Baucau and taken to an unknown location.

Indonesian military officials promptly reported that the East Timorese man killed in the assault, and the 14 arrested, were members of the armed East Timorese Resistance, Falintil. (LUSA 4 July 1997). However, ETHRC sources have reported that the men were all civilians and the ETHRC believes they may have been arbitrarily arrested.

The East Timor Human Rights Centre believes the men are at heightened risk of further torture and ill-treatment if they are still in detention. Detainees in East Timor are routinely subjected to torture and ill-treatment while in military or police custody, especially if they are held incommunicado and denied access to family members and independent legal counsel.

Biographical details of some of the victims:

Antonio Freitas, 20, from Mocobubo, Lacoliu village, Quelicai sub-district; son of Alfredo Freitas and Aurea Freitas Lucas Gaio, 63, from Guruga village, Quelicai sub-district. Cesario Marcal Freitas, 29, from Lacoliu Celestino Ximenes, 20, from Lebenei, Letemumo village, Quelicai sub-district. Domingos Ximenes, 24, from Lebenei. Gregorio Ximenes, 25, from Lebenei. Leopoldo Ximenes, 20, from Lebenei. Januario Ximenes, 24, from Lebenei. Virgilio Ximenes, 19, from Lebenei. Amaro Ximenes, 19, from Lebenei. Domingos Savio Ximenes, 20, from Lebenei. Luciano Ximenes, 25, from Osomesa, Bualale village, Quelicai sub-district.