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Vidal Doutel Sarmento

Manatuto district head (bupati); Mahadomi militia commander

Vidal Doutel Sarmento was indicted for crimes against humanity before Dili’s Special Panel in October 2002.[1]

The Mahadomi militia was formally inaugurated on 18 May 1999. It brought together two existing militias, Mahadomi based in Manatuto town and Morok based in Laclubar and Siobada subdistricts, both in Manatuto district. Presiding at the ceremony was Indonesia’s roving ambassador for East Timor, Francisco Lopez da Cruz, who was born in the district. Sarmento was appointed commander of the combined militia.

Also present were four section commanders, each local and in charge of at least a hundred men:

  • Filomeno Brito, civilian employee at the district military command
  • Antonio Doutel Sarmento (related to Vidal Sarmento?)
  • Thomas dos Reis
  • Alexio Carvalho, civilian employee at the district military command

These section commanders were indicted in Dili with Sarmento. None were in detention. They were in Indonesia, which refused to cooperate with the East Timorese legal process. The indictment said Vidal Doutel Sarmento and his section commanders frequently met together as well as with military, police, and civil servants in the district, and they had effective control over their forces.

Two days before this ceremony, section commander Filomeno Brito shot dead pro-independence supporter Humberto Casamiro Baros in Laleia village. He and fellow section commanders Antonio Doutel Sarmento and Alexio Carvalho had led a militia group there to arrest another Falintil supporter. On the way they randomly shot and injured Victor Cajat de Sousa on the Manatuto bridge.

In his capacity as district head, Sarmento joined other 'pro-integration leaders' in a high-powered meeting with Indonesian armed forces commander Gen Wiranto in Dili on 20 April 1999.[2] According to the Dili indictment he afterwards used government money to fund the Mahadomi militia.

The Mahadomi (Madomi) militia had a close relationship with the military. Vidal Sarmento was an honorary member of Kopassus, and he wore his full Kopassus uniform during the destruction of Manatuto after the ballot. Its section commanders openly carried and used firearms. Sixteen Mahadomi members captured by Falintil and handed over to Interfet after the ballot said they had been recruited by 'an Indonesian soldier' in Manatuto.[3]

The territorial command in Manatuto district was held in 1999 first by LtCol Sulastiyo and then by LtCol Lexi Herson Pontoh. The Dili indictment said Vidal Sarmento held almost daily meetings with these commanders between April and October 1999.

However, non-territorial combat soldiers, under the separate command of Combat Sector B commander LtCol Tatang Zaenuddin, also seemed to have intimate links with the militia. The Manatuto militia were trained in May and June 1999 by Tatang Zaenuddin’s deputy commander, Kopassus officer LtCol Nus Rahasia.

On 11 May Mahadomi militia members arrested pro-independence supporter Antonio Campos Soares at one of their posts at the Manatuto bridge. They took him to the military intelligence office (SGI) in Manatuto, where he was severely tortured. SGI was a non-territorial operation that seems in Manatuto at the time to have been controlled by LtCol Nus Rahasia. Afterwards Antonio Soares was transferred back into Mahadomi custody where he was detained for eight days, tortured continuously. He was then transferred to the police (commanded in Manatuto by Maj (Pol) Johan Anggelo Sumampouw), where he was detained another twelve days.

Mahadomi-SGI cooperation was again evident two days later when Mahadomi section commanders Filomeno Brito and Antonio Doutel Sarmento arrested clandestine Falintil supporter Joao da Costa in Manatuto town. They handed him over to the SGI. The next day, 14 May 1999, Filomeno Brito and his militia men arrested clandestine Falintil supporter Paulino Soares and also handed him over to SGI. There both detainees were tortured every day until they were handed over to the police - Da Costa after six days, Soares after two weeks. Paulino Soares suffered serious injuries as a result. On 31 May 1999 Vidal Sarmento and the Manatuto police chief (Sumampouw) told the three detainees they would be released, and they should be ‘good boys’ and support autonomy. 

Also in May 1999, Vidal Sarmento compiled a list of civil servants he suspected of pro-independence sentiments and threatened them with expulsion if they did not sign a declaration of support for Indonesia.

Assisted by locally based soldiers, the militia destroyed the CNRT office in Manatuto on  19 August 1999.[4] The attack followed a threat by Vidal Doutel Sarmento at a rally three days earlier that all civil servants without exception had to choose autonomy, and that if the pro-autonomy option was rejected Manatuto would turn into a sea of blood ('lautan darah'). It also engaged in some looting on 31 August 1999.[5] The indictment says Vidal Sarmento frequently reiterated at meetings with militia members before the ballot that Manatuto would be destroyed if independence won the vote, and the people taken to West Timor. He also promised them more firearms.

On 4 September 1999, after the ballot result had been announced, Vidal Sarmento ordered his section commanders to commence burning Manatuto. They did so over the next three days, starting with the houses of known independence supporters and ending with all public buildings as well as many other houses. Vidal Sarmento toured the city to inspect their work.

Vidal Sarmento also arranged to forcibly collect people from around Manatuto district and transport them to West Timor on trucks obtained from TNI and elsewhere. Of the 4,000 brought to Manatuto town, 3,000 were taken away, the remainder staying behind due to lack of transport.

Vidal Sarmento had firearms stored at his house, and he gave them to his section commanders on 5 September to enable them to force people from the surrounding mountains to come to Manatuto for transportation. In the following days, Mahadomi militiamen killed five individuals.

On 7 September, Filomeno Brito and another member of the militia group he was leading opened fire on a group of civilians at Laclo. The civilians had been watching the local military detachment (see LtCol Lexi Herson Pontoh) pack up and depart for West Timor. The shooting left two dead, Jacinto Correira and Gilberto da Costa (de Carvalho), and two injured, Joao Caceres and Manuel Correia.

On 11 September, a joint Mahadomi-TNI patrol intercepted fleeing refugees in the mountains near the village of Kakurut Liden. They shot dead Antonio Pinto, a refugee from Manatuto town.

On 13 September, Mahadomi militiamen led by Thomas dos Reis killed Nazario Lino Pereira Belo, CNRT coordinator from Sau village, at the militia’s headquarters. He had been arrested after a hunt for him ordered by Filomeno Brito.

On 16 September, Filomeno Brito and Antonio Doutel Sarmento shot dead Sebastiao da Costa, a clandestine resistance leader, at Manatuto beach. Da Costa had been captured after he left his refuge in the mountains looking for food.

Filomeno Antonio Brito (also spelled Barreto, Britto, or Bretto) caused a stir in the Indonesian and international press by claiming (fallaceously) that Interfet had doused eight of his members with petrol and set them alight upon arrival in Dili.[6]

Extra Information

Current Status:
T - Committed for trial in East Timor, some already sentenced.

See map of location

This individual is also mentioned in these profiles:
LtCol Lexi Herson Pontoh
LtCol Nus RN Rahasia
Abilio Soares
LtGen Sugiono
LtCol Sulastiyo

[1] Indictment online at; see also 'Ingin Nobel, dapat penjahat perang', Xpos, No. 34/II/2, 8 October 1999.

[2] 'Wiranto gagal temui kubu prokem', Jawa Pos, 21 April 1999.

[3] John Martinkus in Waimori, for AAP, 'Dispatches: Falantil fighters saddened by destruction of East Timor', Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1 October 1999.

[4] 'Gelombang kekerasan adalah sabotase terhadap jajak pendapat: Laporan pemantauan 22 Agustus 1999', Yayasan HAK, 20 August 1999.

[5] 'Fortilos> Laporan harian Timor Lorosae: Apa rencana TNI dan Polri? (3)', MateBEAN, 29 August 1999.

[6] 'Australia coba kaburkan', Waspada, 25 September 1999; Tim Dodd, 'Official news service claims UN atrocities', Australian Financial Review, 25 September 1999.


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