An Australian intelligence officer ordered interrogators to extract a videotaped confession from a Timorian man after he was allegedly tortured at a secret interrogation center in East Timor in 1999.
- Bartolomeus Ulu says he made a false confession under pressure from being an Indonesian special forces operative
- A US interrogator says Australians wanted to release videotaped confessions to television
- However, an Australian intelligence official concluded that Mr Ulu was not a “full COPASS member”, a secret document shows.
Australian soldiers believed the man was an Indonesian Special Forces soldier linked to militia violence.
However, Bartolomeus Ulu has told Four Corners that he falsely confessed, under pressure, to being a Kopasas special forces operative after several days of abuse in Australian custody.
He was among 14 Timorians who were interrogated over three-and-a-half days at a secret, Australian-run facility at the heliport in Dili.
A Military Police special investigation later recommended that torture charges be brought against the facility’s three Australian commanders.
Four Corners has been told that legal advice held that the evidence supported the allegation. However, it said that it was not appropriate to prosecute the commanders of the interrogation center as they were following their training.
A heated isolation room and blacked-out ski goggles
Documents seen by Four Corners show that intelligence officers continued to interrogate Mr Ulu after the group was taken from the heliport interrogation facility to an official detention center run by military police.
An Australian military policeman told investigators he was upset by how Mr Ulu was treated, leading to a rift between military police and intelligence officers interrogating the detainees.
Military police guards said Mr Ulu was kept in an isolated room with covered windows, deprived of sleep and forced to wear blacked-out ski goggles and ordered to bang ration tins.
“I remember it was very hot in the isolation room, the windows were covered,” said a military police officer.
A guard said Mr Ulu was given sips of water at regular intervals but only food as a reward.
“I want to point out that these incidents disturbed me,” the MP told investigators.
At one point while Mr. Ulu was in the detention centre, intelligence officers told military police guards to keep him awake by banging a tin of rations.
“We didn’t do it because we didn’t believe it was a military police act,” a military police guard told investigators.
“He was given food and water and allowed to sleep. [Intelligence] Came to know about it the next day and it bothered him.”
One intelligence officer was furious that the guards had ignored his instructions on how the captive should be treated.
The intelligence officer told investigators, “This man was allowed to sleep for 10 to 12 hours, and then we had to wait another – I think it was another 70 hours … we had to put him down again.”
“Actually, I thought [the military police guards] ***** Should have been charged and sent home.”
Order to take confession on tape
About 12 days after Mr Ulu was captured, an order came from an intelligence officer asking interrogators to film him in secret while confessing to being a member of the Kopasas (Indonesian Special Forces) on a mission in East Timor. .
A memo from a senior Australian intelligence officer, seen by Four Corners, ordered interrogators to set up “debrief” sessions to allow “secret taping/recording to be ensured”. [the detainee’s] Face in plain view. The memo ordered that, if an American interrogator is used, their uniform should not be visible.
The Chief American Interrogator in East Timor, assisting the International Force for East Timor (Interfate), told the Four Corners of the Australian Army, then asked his superiors in the United States Pacific Command whether the video was publicly available for broadcast on television. can be issued.
The interrogator, who asked not to be named, said the Australian military wanted the video to be “used politically to reinforce the Australian position that Indonesia was actively interfering in the transition to East Timor”.
“They asked permission to use it on TV,” he said. “They asked the American people for permission and the American people said, ‘Absolutely not.
Publicly releasing images of prisoners may be a violation of the Geneva Convention, which states that prisoners must be protected from “public curiosity”.
While the ADF was not bound by the Geneva Conventions in East Timor, it was publicly committed to those standards.
The memo asked interrogators to ensure Mr Ulu was “made comfortable, dressed in a presentable manner and provided with a cold or hot drink”.
An intelligence report suggests that by the time Mr Ulu was ordered to film, interrogators had already determined that he was not a “full Kopassus member”.
American interrogators told Four Corners that it was decided Mr Ulu was an “assistant”, meaning he was recruited by Kopasas to gather information.
During interrogation, Mr. Ulu confessed to being a member of Copas.
He says that it was a false confession, which was done under pressure.
“When I confessed to having copassas, the torture subsided,” he told Four Corners.
The US interrogator said he “did not see anything that would constitute torture” during the interrogation.
Australians have ‘no right to interrogate’ Indonesian soldiers, says former legal officer
An Indonesian soldier, Celestinos de Andrade, was also detained with Mr Ulu and questioned several times.
He says that he immediately told the INTERFET soldiers that he was a private in the TNI (Indonesian National Armed Forces).
Records of the interrogation show that intelligence officers immediately admitted that the soldier was telling the truth, saying that he “was frank and honest throughout the session … [and] We have nothing more to tell”.
Mr De Andrade told Four Corners that he had been tortured when caught by Australians.
“We were hit, kicked, we stood. If we didn’t sit properly, they would kick us,” he said.
“Kicking, torturing the military is not allowed. [They should] Just take the information down,” he said.
Former INTERFET legal officer David Freeman – who was not consulted and knew nothing of Mr. De Andrade or Mr. Ulu’s interrogation – told Four Corners: “We had no right to interrogate TNI soldiers. “
“They were their own sovereign force and … Indonesia allowed us to be there to fulfill the United Nations mandate at the United Nations.”
Mr Freeman said that, under Interfate policy, people can only be detained on suspicion of criminal activity or a threat to safety.
“My legal advice, and my command advice would be, once we understand that he is not a security threat and that [was involved in] No criminal offence, I believe he should have been sent home in a proper, polite, diplomatic manner.”
Cosgrove repeatedly ordered the detention of two men, documents show
Secret documents seen by Four Corners showed the then INTERFET commander Sir Peter Cosgrove repeatedly ordered that Mr Ulu and Mr de Andrade be held in custody, defying a legal officer who had recommended their release.
On each occasion, the detainee’s report stated, for both men, “there was no evidence of criminal activity … [and] No [intelligence] interest”.
In a statement to Four Corners, Sir Peter said that the men were not detained for “criminal activity” but “suspicion that they were TNIs, in light of possible further links between the militia and TNIs inside East Timor”. were worried about”.
Asked about the legality of detaining and interrogating an Indonesian soldier, Sir Peter pointed to a UN resolution that called on INTERFET to “take all necessary measures” to restore peace and security. was permitted.
At the time, Indonesia was denying that its soldiers were behind the attacks on civilians, but it was widely believed that TNI soldiers were working with militias to perpetrate the violence.
Both men were released in early November, 1999, a month after their capture.
Sir Peter told Four Corners that he did not recall any requests for video of Mr Ulu’s confession and that any questions regarding the request were a matter for the intelligence officers involved.