GOVERNMENT ENDORSES PROPOSAL FOR UN MEMBERSHIP
East Timor will launch a campaign to become a member state of the United Nations during its 20 May independence celebrations, the Cabinet of the Second Transitional Government decided today.
Endorsing a ministry of Foreign Affairs proposal, the Council of Ministers said East Timor’s candidacy will be presented to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who will preside over the independence celebrations.
The Government also agreed, on a temporary basis only, to export sandalwood that was felled before 8 June 2000 – when export became prohibited by law – to avoid its deterioration.
The directive, presented by Minister for Agriculture Estanislau de Araújo, will be closely followed by Ministry of Agriculture experts, who will conduct rigorous inspections of all sandalwood stockpiles.
Finally, the Council decided to hold two open meetings with the East Timorese general public in Same and Ainaro districts on 7 and 8 March, following a now well-established practice of linking the government’s work directly with the people it serves.
DEFENCE CALLS FOR DISMISSAL OF LOLOTOE TRIAL JUDGES
A major Crimes Against Humanity trial was suspended today after a pro-autonomy militia commander’s defence team accused the three-judge Special Panel of pre-judgement and called for their dismissal.
The public defenders for Kaer Metin Merah Putih (KMP) militia commander José Cardoso Ferreira – Sylvia de Bertodano and Câncio Xavier – filed an application with Judge Administrator Aderito Tilman calling for the Special Panel for Serious Crimes to be excused.
Tilman is expected to rule on the application tomorrow morning.
The defence’s move comes after it lost its bid yesterday to change the court’s use of the term “victim” to describe three alleged rape victims who will have their identities protected when they appear as witnesses.
De Bertodano argued that the charge of rape had yet to be proven against her client, and that the terms “Victim A,” Victim B” and “Victim C” should be changed to “Witness A,” “Witness B” and “Witness C.” The motion was turned down by the Special Panel in a 2-1 vote.
The Special Panel granted a separate application filed by the defence today calling for the trial to be suspended until the Judge Administrator’s ruling.
Cardoso Ferreira, fellow militia commander João França da Silva and former Guda village chief Sabino Gouveia Leite have been accused of waging a campaign of deadly terror in Lolotoe sub-district during the months surrounding a UN Popular Consultation on the future of East Timor.
The two KMP commanders are accused of illegal imprisonment, murder, torture, rape, persecution and inhumane treatment of civilians in Lolotoe sub-district, near the border of West Timor, Indonesia. Gouveia Leite is accused of being an accomplice in the offences committed by the KMP and the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI).
The Lolotoe case is the second of 10 priority cases to be tried by the Special Panel for Serious Crimes in East Timor. It is the first Crimes Against Humanity case in East Timor to include charges of rape and charges against superiors based on the actions of their subordinates.
The third priority case, known as the “Pasabe case,” is scheduled to begin on Thursday, 7 March.