Dili, 7 March 2002


United Nations Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello expressed his disappointment today with a six-year sentence given by an Indonesian court to a militiaman found guilty of murdering New Zealand peacekeeper Pvt. Leonard Manning.

Prosecutors had sought a 12-year sentence for Jacobus Bere, one of four suspects charged in the killing.

“The prosecution had asked for a 12-year sentence, and the verdict was half of that, so I can only be disappointed with this light sentence,” said Vieira de Mello, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in East Timor. “The killing of a United Nations peacekeeper in cold blood should be considered a crime of severe gravity, and the sentence should reflect that. We hope there will be an appeal which would result in the full sentence sought by the prosecution.”

Manning was killed on 24 July 2000, while tracking a group of armed militia in Suai district, near the border of West Timor, Indonesia.


Members of the Constituent Assembly presented reports today on East Timorese popular opinions on their nation’s draft Constitution.

Following a week of public consultations held across the territory, 13 groups of Assembly members verbally summarised the comments and criticisms expressed during the more than 80 public meetings before handing their written reports to the Systematisation and Harmonisation Committee.

The committee will determine which suggestions will be voted on by the full Assembly next week. Any approved amendments will be entered into the draft Constitution ahead of a final vote on the full document on 13 March, followed by a signing ceremony scheduled for 16 March.

While a variety of opinions were expressed during the consultation, a handful of issues appeared to be dominant concerns to the general public: the length of the consultation process; the date of independence; the role of the Catholic Church; the powers of the President; and the Assembly’s transformation into the Republic’s first legislature.


The East Timor Immigration Service said today it had registered 190 people during the first four days of a nationwide campaign to account for foreigners living in East Timor.

The campaign – which does not affect members of UNTAET, UN agencies, foreign missions or international NGOs – aims to regularise East Timor’s immigration practices before the territory celebrates its independence on 20 May, said Maria do Céu da Conceição, Supervisor of the Immigration Service, during a press conference.

Of the 190 registered, 82 were found to be in violation of UNTAET’s immigration regulation, mostly for overstaying the length of the time they had been authorised upon arrival.

The registration process aims to identify all foreigners without proper travel documents and order them to visit the Immigration Office for advice on how to regularise their situation. If necessary, individuals may also be asked to visit the Dili mission of their home country to obtain a valid passport.

The registration operation is scheduled to continue next week.


Efforts to bring a third major Crimes Against Humanity case to trial have slowed after the defence asked for more time to develop its case, the East Timor Serious Crimes Unit said today.

The indictment of the so-called “Passabe case”, which involves almost 70 killings, includes charges of extermination, murder, unlawful imprisonment, deportation or forcible transfer of a population, persecution and other inhuman acts related to a campaign of terror waged by pro-autonomy militia and Indonesian soldiers from April to September 1999.

Among the charges detailed in the indictment is the 10 September 1999 massacre near Passabe village, in the Oecussi enclave, of 47 men from the nearby villages. About 100 people from Passabe village were later forced to bury the victims.

Only one of 11 of the accused – Sakunar (Scorpion) militia member Florenço Tacaqui – has been arrested. Eight other militiamen and two Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) sergeants are still at large.

The trial was initially scheduled to begin today. The next significant date in the case is a pre-trial hearing on 11 April.