The East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) holds grave fears for the safety of five East Timorese men still in military custody following their arrest in Caibada near Baucau on 25 June, 1997 (see UA 16/97). The five men were arrested together with David Alex, second in command of the armed East Timorese Resistance (Falintil), by members of Kopassus (Special Forces Command). The identity of one of the detainees (who was previously unidentified) is still unconfirmed, however, according to East Timorese sources he is either Jose Mendonca or Mario da Costa.
ETHRC sources have confirmed that four of the men, Jose Antonio Belo, Manuel "Loke Matan", Gil da Costa, and Jose Mendonca (or Mario da Costa), were taken to Kopassus headquarters at Kota Baru in Baucau city (known as "Rumah Merah or "Red House"), which is reputed to be a torture centre of the Indonesian military. It is believed the four men are still in detention there. The ETHRC has not been able to confirm where the other man, Guilherme dos Santos, was taken, however, it is believed that he may be detained at SGI headquarters in Dili.
It is believed the detainees have been subjected to torture and are at serious risk of further torture or ill-treatment as they have not been allowed access to their families and independent legal counsel. The risk of torture and ill-treatment is heightened by the fact that Indonesian authorities do not allow access to East Timor for independent human rights monitors. The ETHRC therefore calls on the Indonesian authorities to allow immediate access to East Timor for UN experts, non-governmental human rights organisations and foreign journalists.
The ETHRC has not been able to confirm Indonesian and East Timorese reports that David Alex was killed following his arrest as there are conflicting reports about the circumstances of his alleged death. Indonesian authorities have claimed that David Alex was buried at 8.30am on 26 June at Bidau-Santana in Dili. However, the circumstances of his alleged death cannot be clarified unless the authorities allow the body to be exhumed for identification by the family, and to enable an autopsy to be performed. It is believed authorities have refused the family's request to have the body returned.