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The Prosecutor v. Aparicio Guterres a.k.a. Mau Buti

Court Special Panels for Serious Crimes (District Court of Dili), East Timor
Case number 18a/2003
Decision title Judgement
Decision date 28 February 2005
  • The Prosecutor
  • Aparicio Guterres a.k.a Mau Buti
Other names
  • Mau Buti
Categories Crimes against humanity
Keywords crimes against humanity, Murder
Other countries involved
  • Indonesia
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Indonesia had illegally occupied East Timor since 1975. Members of its armed forces (TNI) along with approximately 20 militia groups perpetrated a countrywide campaign to terrorise the civilian population, in particular alleged supporters of Timorese independence.

The Accused was a member of the DMP (Dadurus Merah Putih) militia which, in September 1999, was ordered to accompany a Sergeant in the TNI to kill persons who had escaped from a previous massacre. However, the Prosecution was unable to find any witnesses who could attest to the murder of any individuals or the Accused’s involvement. The only eyewitness changed his story multiple times. Consequently, the Special Panel acquitted the Accused of the crime against humanity of murder. 

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Procedural history

The Accused was indicted by the Prosecutor on 10 July 2003 with 57 others. His case was severed from the others on 15 June 2004 following an order of the Special Panel. The Prosecutor filed an amended indictment on 18 June 2004 charging him with the crime against humanity of murder.

On 4 November 2004, the Prosecutor filed a motion requesting the Special Panel to allow the withdrawal of the indictment so that a more egregious case could be tried in its place. The motion was denied on 19 November 2004.

The Court of Appeal denied the Prosecutor leave to appeal the decision of the Special Panel on 16 December 2004.

The trial commenced on 28 January 2005.

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Legally relevant facts

On 9 September 1999, members of the DMP militia were ordered to accompany a sergeant of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) to a village where they were to kill all the individuals who had succeeded in escaping a prior massacre. 13 persons were killed. The Accused also caught one individual as he attempted to escape and stabbed him with his sword; the victim died as a result of his wounds (p. 3).

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Core legal questions

  • Can the burden of proof be satisfied with the testimony of a single eyewitness?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Section 5.1(a) of UNTAET Regulation 2000/15.

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Court's holding and analysis

The testimony of the only eyewitness of the crime was contradictory having provided multiple accounts of the same set of events. The other witnesses called by the Prosecution were not present at the scene of the crime and could not therefore describe the Accused’s involvement (p. 3).

The testimony of the only eyewitness could not lead to a conviction and as the Prosecution could not call any further witnesses, the Panel acquitted the Accused (p. 4).

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials