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Concerns over East Timorese students still in custody

East Timor Human Rights Centre - November 27, 1997

Concerns are still held for the safety of Bernandino Simao, Domingos da Silva, Francisco de Deus, Juvinal dos Santos and Silverio Baptista who remain in custody at POLDA (the local police station) in Dili, following their arrest on 14 November. The five students were among a group of East Timorese arrested at the University of East Timor (UNTIM) during a confrontation with Indonesian security forces (see UA 26/97 & UA 26/97PR for details). It is believed all five men are facing charges in relation to the UNTIM incident. Recent reports have suggested that six students remain in detention, however, the ETHRC has just confirmed that Vicente da Cruz has now been released.

It is believed a total of sixteen students were arrested immediately following the confrontation. Eight have now been released but another three have disappeared. Abrao Benjamin, Domingos dos Santos and Duarte Fernandes de Araujo were reported missing by the University of East Timor following their arrest during the confrontation. Internal steps taken to locate them have so far been unsuccessful and their whereabouts is still unknown.

It is believed the following students have now been released and appeals on their behalf should cease: Joaquim Matetai, Albano Barreto, Adolfo da Costa, Abrao do Nascimento, Antonio Viegas, Natalina Duarte de Araujo, Orlando (no surname) and Marito de Almeida

The ETHRC welcomes the release of these students as it is believed they were being arbitrarily detained. However, grave fears are held for the remaining detainees as detainees in East Timor are routinely subjected to torture and ill-treatment, especially if they are denied access to independent legal advice.

In its investigation into the UNTIM incident, the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (KomnasHAM) concluded that no one was killed but that excessive force was used by the Indonesian security forces and human rights violations committed. During a news conference in Dili, Mr Marzuki Darusman, deputy chairman of KomnasHAM stated: "Based on information from official and reliable sources, acts of violence, which were a violation of human rights, were found. For example, students suffered from gunshot wounds, were beaten up, and had their teeth broken, faces swollen, and legs injured and bruised due to being hit with solid objects".

The ETHRC calls on the Indonesian government to act on the findings of the Indonesian Human Rights Commission by bringing charges against any members of the armed forces who committed human rights violations during the 14 November incident. The ETHRC also urges the Indonesian authorities to lift restrictions on access into East Timor for independent human rights monitors.