Eurico Guterres

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 08.06.2016 )
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Eurico Barros Gomes Guterres was born in 1971 in Watulari in East Timor. He has no particular educational background, having never been awarded any academic qualifications. At an early stage he is said to have become an army informant and, in 1999, to have joined Gardapaksi, a Timorese militia force in favour of uniting East Timor with Indonesia. In 1999, he became Commander of this organisation, which was renamed Aitarak.

The accusations of criminal responsibility against him go back to the events which took place in East Timor in 1999. Around 1400 people were killed in the months leading up to a referendum on independence for the region, organised by the United Nations on 30 August 1999, and during the days following this vote. In addition, more than 250’000 people were transferred by force or fled to West Timor or Indonesia. A large number of people were also victims of other violations of human rights, notably of torture and rape. These crimes were carried out by the militia with the support and coordination of members of the armed forces, the police and the Indonesian Civil Authorities in order to influence the outcome of the referendum and to upset adoption of the results of the referendum.

At the time the events took place, Eurico Guterres was commander of Aitarak, the militia force which was the most heavily involved in the crimes committed in Dili. In this role, he is said to have planned, in collaboration with the army and the Indonesian police, the whole campaign aimed at destabilising the referendum process. Furthermore he is accused of being directly responsible for several murders and acts of torture. In particular, he is said to have taken part in the attack against the home of the independence leader Manuel Carrascalao on 17 April 1999, against the diocesan buildings in Dili on 5 September 1999, and, on 6 September 1999, against the residence of bishop Belo where around 5000 people had taken refuge. He is also reported to have participated in the forced transfer of Timorese civilians.

On 31 May 2002, Eurico Guterres was indicted for crimes against humanity by the Ad-Hoc Indonesian Human Rights Court for East Timor.

legal procedure

On 18 February 2002, Eurico Guterres was indicted in absentia, for the attack which took place on the 17 April 1999, by “The Serious Crimes Unit” of the Dili district court. This is a body set up by the United Nations Transitional Administration of East Timor by adopting Resolution 1272(1999) of the Security Council, and placed under the authority of the Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes. This group was commissioned with giving assistance to the Timorese authorities in prosecuting the most serious crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, which were committed between 1 January and 25 October 1999.

On 27 February 2003, Eurico Guterres was charged, by the same body, with other crimes, notably for his role in the attacks against the diocesan buildings in Dili and the residence of bishop Belo. The charges against him include a wide range of crimes against humanity such as persecution (forced deportation and destruction of property), inhumane acts, murder, disappearance and forced transfer of population.


On 31 May 2002, Eurico Guterres was also indicted for crimes against humanity by the Ad-Hoc Indonesian Human Rights Court for East Timor.

Eurico Guterres was accused of not being able to control members of his militia during the attack on 17 April 1999 against the residence of Manuel Viegas Carrascalao, a leader of the Timorese independence opposition.

On 27 November 2002, he was sentenced by the Trial Chamber to 10 years in prison. However, on 6 August 2004, his sentence was reduced to 5 years imprisonment by the Court of Appeal.

On 13 March 2006, the Indonesian Supreme Court re-examined the verdict of the Appeals Court of the Ad-Hoc Tribunal and reinstated the original sentence of 10 years imprisonment, asserting that the reduction in sentence handed down by the Court of Appeal did not correspond to a fair and just conviction.

Guterres was imprisoned in the Cipinang prison centre in Jakarta and thereby became the only person, from the 18 individuals indicted by the Indonesian authorities for acts of violence committed in East Timor in 1999, whose trial ended in a conviction.

However, the Supreme Court reversed its decision on 13 March 2008 and cleared Guterres of all charges. He was released on 8 April 2008.


The Special Human Rights Court for Timor Leste (the Special Court) was set up in Indonesia in order to judge those accused of crimes, including, amongst others, crimes against humanity which had been committed in East Timor between April and September 1999. The Commission of Experts from the United Nations, in charge of examining the legal proceedings against the perpetrators of serious human rights violations committed in Timor Leste in 1999, concluded in its report, that the Indonesian Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations in East Timor (KPP HAM) had conducted the inquiry phase of the special judicial process in conformity with international norms applicable to judicial inquiries. From a list of some 22 suspects drawn up by the KPP HAM in its report, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court had issued bills of indictment against 18 persons from the army and the police who had held direct command functions in East Timor at the time of the events, the rest being civil servants and a militia leader. All of the Accused, except one (Eurico Guterres), were either acquitted by the Trial Chamber or on appeal.

After a thorough examination of the facts, the United Nations Commission of Experts concluded that the legal proceedings before the Special Court were clearly not conducted as they should have been. According to the Commission, the charges laid against the accused were too restrictive and badly backed-up, with the witnesses for the prosecution being linked more or less to the defendants. Furthermore, the public prosecutor’s department had not really taken into account the documentary evidence in its possession (including the report of the KPP HAM and the study by the Group of Inquiry into serious crimes) In the final analysis, it is clear that the inquiries and legal proceedings were conducted at a time when the political will to proceed against the accused was lacking.

In addition, the Commission members highlighted a flagrant incoherence between the verdicts and the findings of the Special Court. Finally, it appears also that justice was not rendered in that those who held the greater part of responsibility for such serious violations, were not even called to account.

As far as the NGOs are concerned, Human Rights Watch talks of a “judicial disgrace” in referring to the Indonesian Special Court, and does not hesitate to withhold from it any designation of “justice” (Report: Justice denied for East Timor). On a similar basis, the joint report of the Open Society Institute and of the Coalition for International Justice) (Unfulfilled Promises in Achieving Justice for Crimes Against Humanity in East Timor, November 2004), qualified these judicial proceedings as a global failure in all respects.


On the 25 October 1999, the Security Council of the United Nations adopted Resolution 1272, whereby it was decided to create a United Nations Transitional Administration of East Timor (UNTAET). By regulation 2000/11 of 6 March 2000, UNTAET created a judicial system aimed specifically at prosecuting the following crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, sexual offences and torture.

Jurisdiction to prosecute these particularly serious crimes was conferred on the Dili District Court, sitting in a special configuration, consisting of both Timorese and international judges. Judgements handed down by this Court could be brought before an Appeals Court also located in Dili and likewise composed of both Timorese and international judges. The authorities for the prosecution of the Dili District Court had, until December 2004, issued 90 bills of indictment with charges laid against 377 people. Since the Court commenced hearings, numerous cases were settled by a Trial Chamber, resulting in 74 convictions (by early December 2004), particularly for murder or crimes against humanity. Sentences ranging from 11 months to 33 years and four months imprisonment were handed down. Several cases were brought before the Appeals Court, which rendered its verdict in some of these cases.

Parallel to the trials being heard in Dili, Indonesia also set up a procedure aimed at prosecuting the atrocities committed in East Timor. A National Commission of Enquiry, whose final report was published on 31 January 2000, leveled accusations directly against 33 individuals, including several military leaders. A Human Rights Tribunal, an ad hoc jurisdiction with the specific task of judging these individuals, was subsequently set up. Of the 33 persons designated by the Commission of Enquiry, only 18 were convicted. 12 were acquitted by the lower court, 4 on appeal and 1 on final appeal before the Supreme Court. The only person to be convicted is Eurico Guterres, whose prison term was fixed at 10 years by the Indonesian Supreme Court on March 13, 2006. In the final outcome, the quasi-totality of those accused of crimes committed in East Timor, were thus acquitted by the Indonesian Human Rights Tribunal. Doubts about the impartiality of this organism were however raised by many human rights organisations, in particular, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Coalition for International Justice.