Up to 13 East Timorese men have been arrested in Dili, the capital of East Timor, and near the town of Semarang on the Indonesian island of Java. It is not clear if the detainees have been granted access to independent legal assistance, raising fears that they may be at risk of torture or ill-treatment if still held incommunicado for interrogation.
At least two and possibly four youths were arrested in Dili at around 8am on either 14 or 16 September 1997 after they disembarked from the Tatamailau, a boat which had travelled from the Indonesian island of Bali. Those arrested are believed to be Constancio dos Santos and Jojo dos Santos, both members of the Timorese Socialist Association (AST). Fransisco Caldeira and one other person whose name is unknown, were also reportedly arrested.
The arrests are thought to be in connection with 11 bombs allegedly found on the youths by the authorities. Constancio dos Santos and Jojo dos Santos are believed to be being held under Articles 106, 108 and 110 of Indonesia's Criminal Code which relate to attempts to separate part of the state and rebellion against the state, and another law relating to the use of weapons. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the detainees have been taken to the Regional Police Headquarters in Dili, and that Constancio dos Santos has already been ill-treated.
In a related incident, an unconfirmed number of individuals have been arrested in Demak, near Semarang, Java. Joaquim Santana, Fernando Lere, Nuno dos Santos, Ivo Miranda, Domingos Natalino, Jermao Malta Sebre, Julio Santana, Laurindo Alkino da Costa and Soares are believed to be in detention at the Regional Police Headquarters in Semarang. An Indonesian newspaper, Republika, claimed on 16 September that an explosion, suspected to have been caused by a bomb, occurred at a house in Demak which was being rented by several East Timorese youths. The paper reported that eight East Timorese youths had been taken into police custody in connection with the blast, including Nano, Soares and Laurindo Alkino Dacosta (sic). Another house in the same area was reportedly raided by the police and items confiscated.
Torture or ill-treatment of political detainees in East Timor in both police and military custody is routine. The risk is particularly high during interrogation, when the military or police authorities attempt to extract confessions or information, and when detainees are frequently denied access to legal counsel and to their families. In addition, restrictions are placed by the Indonesian authorities on access to East Timor for independent human rights monitors.