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The Prosecutor v. Florindo Morreira

Court Special Panels for Serious Crimes (District Court of Dili), East Timor
Case number 29/2003
Decision title Judgement
Decision date 19 May 2004
  • The Prosecutor
  • Florindo Morreira
Categories Crimes against humanity
Keywords crimes against humanity, Murder, torture
Other countries involved
  • Indonesia
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From 1975 until 2002, Indonesia illegally occupied East Timor. The Indonesian Armed Forces along with a number of militia groups, including the Aitarak militia, perpetrated countless abuses against the civilian population and especially pro-independence supporters. One such incident occurred on 31 August 1999 at an Aitarak militia checkpoint where two individuals were searched and identified as being members of a pro-independence organisation. They were beaten to death.

The Accused, Florindo Morreira, was alleged by the Prosecution to have been involved in the beatings and actually stabbed one of the victims with a samurai sword. However, the two witnesses that were called provided unreliable and contradictory evidence. The Court therefore acquitted the Accused, finding that withdrawing the indictment alone was insufficient to guard against double jeopardy as the Accused could be indicted again by the Prosecutor in the future for the same conduct if new evidence comes to light. 

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Procedural history

The Accused was indicted by the Prosecutor on 26 September 2003 for two counts of crimes against humanity: murder and torture. The trial commenced on 17 March 2004.

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Related developments

The Accused was indicted by the Prosecutor with 6 other Aitarak militia members for a different crime on 25 September 2003, for which a conviction was secured on 6 December 2004. The Accused was sentenced to 6 years 8 months’ imprisonment, reduced to 5 years 6 months by the Court of Appeal.

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Legally relevant facts

The Accused was a member of the Aitarak militia who supported Indonesian autonomy (p. 1).

On 31 August 1999, two individuals were stopped at a militia checkpoint and searched. When the results of the search yielded evidence that the individuals were members of a pro-independence organisation, they were beaten by militia members and stabbed to death. The Accused is alleged to have participated in the beatings of both victims and in the stabbing of one victim with a samurai sword (p. 1).

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Core legal questions

  • In light of the contradictory and unreliable evidence of the only witnesses, should the Prosecutor’s oral request to withdraw the indictment be granted?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Section 5.1 (a) and (f) of UNTAET Regulation 2000/15.
  • Section 4 of UNTAET Regulation 2000/30.

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Court's holding and analysis

Despite the Court’s belief that there is insufficient evidence upon which to ground a decision of conviction, the withdrawal of the indictment is not the appropriate way to conclude the case. Such a purely procedural solution would leave open the possibility of a future indictment against the same Accused for the same conduct, based on new evidentiary material. This would violate the principle of double jeopardy, as contained in section 4, UNTAET Regulation 2000/30. (p. 2).

The Accused was acquitted (p. 3).

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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