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District government Covalima

Col (Inf) Herman Sediono [Sedyono]

District head (bupati) of Covalima (based in Suai)

Sediono is a senior Kopassus officer who was seconded to the civilian government post of district head (bupati) of Covalima, in southwest East Timor, whose main town is Suai. He was born in Malang, East Java, on 12 October 1947, and became district head of Covalima in September 1994. Testifying to KPP HAM, eyewitnesses to the massacre of internally displaced persons sheltering at the Ave Maria Catholic church in Suai said that he, along with the local military commander Lt Sugito, directed the attack that began at 2:30pm on 6 September 1999. Witnesses said he and Sugito wore combat fatigues, carried M-16 rifles, and ordered the Laksaur and Mahidi militias, soldiers and police (Brimob Kontinjen Lorosae) to kill the refugees and priests. Sediono gave the signal for the attack by firing his weapon.

At least 40 and up to 200 people died in the attack, including three priests who had been negotiating with the military for days. Among the dead were Fathers Hilario Madeira and Francisco Soares, and newly ordained Indonesian Jesuit priest Father Tarsisius Dewanto. These priests held a reconciliation mass only days before the massacre. A pro-autonomy leader who agreed to reconcile was killed along with the others.

Herman Sediono is a former commander of Sector B based in Baucau - this is a combat command outside the regular territorial structure. He had served in East Timor since 1975. James Fox wrote about the district head of Covalima: 'By August, he was nearing the end of his period of service; his family had already returned to Solo and he was facing the prospect of a humiliating loss of all that he had devoted his career to achieving.'[1]

Sediono has denied responsibility, saying he instead tried to arrange safe passage for the refugees who were caught in 'factional fighting'. However, he told KPP HAM that several days before the poll results were announced on 4 September 1999 he had prepared transport to shift the population out. Government and military officials forced a large proportion of the Covalima population to flee to West Timor in the aftermath of the announcement.

Refugees had been sheltering at the church in Suai since January 1999, when the anti-independence militias were first formed by the local military and began harrassing villagers in nearby Zumalai and Maudemo. The East Timor press quoted Herman Sediono as promising thousands of Suai refugees in February 1999 that he would not allow the formation of militias in Suai, neither in his capacity of district head nor in his military capacity. He apparently did nothing to keep this promise.

Defecting militia commander Rui Lopes told an independent television station in Jakarta on 12 September 1999 that he (Lopes) had taken part in a meeting at the home of the district head in Covalima before the atrocity occurred. He said the district head and the district military commander (presumably LtCol Lilik Kushadiyanto) were present and conveyed orders that the militias were to burn down Covalima, drive Unamet out, and drive all the local residents into West Timor. He said the idea was to convince the outside world that the East Timorese were not happy with the ballot result, so that Unamet would be forced to conduct it again. Lopes also said that the militias in Covalima were full of SGI (army intelligence) agents.[2]

An assistant in his district administration, Joao Mendonca de Araujo (third deputy secretary), was arrested by UN police in March 2001 for involvement in the Suai massacre.

The names of other perpetrators of the Suai church massacre listed in Appendix 5 of the KPP HAM report are:

  • Americo
  • Juannico

Together with four other defendants (LtCol Lilik Kushadiyanto - further details are available there, LtCol (Pol) Gatot Subiaktoro, Capt Ahmad Syamsuddin, and Lt Sugito) Herman Sediono was indicted for crimes against humanity before the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Indonesia on 20 February 2002. All were indicted for failing to prevent their subordinates from carrying out the Suai church massacre on 6 September 1999. The indictment said the Covalima regency that Herman Sediono headed up was responsible for paying the Laksaur and Mahidi militias involved in the attack. However, after a trial criticised outside Indonesia for failing to address the evidence (including that of his own direct participation in the massacre), all were acquitted on 15 August 2002.[3]

Herman Sediono also played a key role in the forced evacuation of the Covalima population to West Timor. Indonesian trial documents for the Suai massacre say that he travelled to West Timor for the day on 5 September 1999 to requisition nine trucks from businessmen there in order to evacuate the population. On the same day he also spoke with the district chief of Belu, in neighbouring West Timor, requesting land in Betun sub-district so that he could accommodate and 'control' refugees from Suai there. The district police (LtCol (Pol) Gatot Subiaktoro) and the military (Capt Ahmad Syamsuddin) also played a part in the evacuation effort. On the day of the massacre 20,000 people were gathered at three local school grounds, and at the police and military headquarters, ready for evacuation. Indeed, the connection between the evacuation and the massacre could be that those sheltering in the church refused to be evacuated - a matter for repeated comment in the Indonesian court documents.

Herman Sediono himself abandoned Suai on 7 September 1999 for West Timor, saying 'everyone had left'.

Sediono was one of 16 Abri members indicted in absentia before the Dili special panel on 8 April 2003 for crimes against humanity totalling 31 counts throughout 1999, including the Suai massacre (see LtCol Lilik Kushadiyanto). The indictment said (clause 39) that Sediono and Covalima military district commander LtCol Ahmad Masagus had established the pro-autonomy organisation FPDK in Covalima in February 1999 and told them to form a militia, which was named Laksaur. FPDK reported to the district conference (Muspida), consisting of civil, military and police chiefs. Sediono encouraged civil servants to become members of FPDK and its militia. He appointed civil servant Alberto de Niri as the FPDK head. He twice disbursed official funds, and regularly provided rice allocations, to pay for the 500-strong militia.

Extra Information

Implicated in Events:
Suai - 6/09/1999 - Suai church massacre

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

A - (Indonesian) Attorney General's Department. Announced as suspects at various times (September 2000 - April 2001), some later dropped, some already sentenced.

K - KPP HAM. Listed in the 31/01/2000 report of the Indonesian commission of inquiry into atrocities committed in East Timor in 1999. More junior figures in Appendix 5 of the final report are added here under their superiors.

D - Dunn. The report of James Dunn, consultant to the Untaet Prosecutor General Mr Mohamed Othman, April 2001.

See map of location

This individual is also mentioned in these profiles:
LtCol Lilik Kushadiyanto
Igidio Manek
LtCol Ahmad Masagus
Olivio Moruk
Abilio Soares
LtCol (Pol) Gatot Subiaktoro
LtCol Yayat Sudrajat
Lt Sugito
Capt Ahmad Syamsuddin

[1] James J Fox, 'Ceremonies of reconciliation as prelude to violence in Suai, East Timor', paper presented at ASAA triennial conference 'Whose millennium?', Melbourne, 4 July 2000, p4; also 'Wiranto-Zacky koboi kebal hukum', Xpos, No.28/III, 16-23 September 2000; 'J Lumintang diperiksa soal telegram 5 Mei: Wiranto ditunggu Jumat ini,' Kompas, 24 December 1999;  'Menyeret Wiranto ke pengadilan', Xpos, No. 05/III,  13-19 February 2000; 'Pengungsi di paroki Suai menjadi 715 orang', Suara Timor Timur, 4 March 1999; 'Masters of terror', Sydney Morning Herald, 28 April 2001; James Dunn, 'Crimes against humanity in East Timor, January to October 1999: Their nature and causes', Sydney Morning Herald, 28 April 2001; 'Cova Lima district:1999 report', Dili: UN Human Rights Unit, (no date).

[2] 'Indonesia/ East Timor: Forced expulsions to West Timor and the refugee crisis', Human Rights Watch, Vol. 11, No. 7 (c), December 1999 (, quoting Carter Center Weekly Report on East Timor, No. 9, 13 September 1999.

[3] Indictment availabe on Other documentation on The weaknesses in this indictment are described in 'Indonesia: Implications of the Timor trials', International Crisis Group, 8 May 2002 ( Judgment dated 15 August 2002 available on JSMP website.


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