Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 09:04 GMT

Journalists Killed in 1999 - Motive Confirmed: Sander Thoenes

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date January 2000
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Journalists Killed in 1999 - Motive Confirmed: Sander Thoenes, January 2000, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

September 21, 1999, in Dili, East Timor

The body of Thoenes, 30, a Dutch freelance reporter on assignment for The Financial Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Dutch newspaper Vrij Nederland, was found on the morning of September 22 by United Nations forces in the Dili suburb of Becora, where Indonesian military and anti-independence militia forces had been active.

Thoenes was shot dead on the evening of September 21, when his motorcycle taxi attempted to escape a group of armed men blocking the road, according to investigators with the U.N. civilian police force in East Timor. Eyewitnesses, including Thoenes's Timorese driver, Florindo da Conceicao Araujo, told investigators that six gunmen wearing Indonesian army uniforms shot at the motorcycle, causing it to crash. Araujo said he fled when he saw that the gunmen were preparing to fire again. He last saw Thoenes lying in the middle of the street.

Australian peacekeepers discovered Thoenes's body the next morning. Investigators determined that he was most likely murdered by members of Indonesian army Battalion 745. Thoenes died of a gunshot wound through the back, but his killers had also sliced off his left ear and made several cuts in his face, according to a coroner's report released on January 27, 2000. The mutilation is reportedly a signature of Battalion 745.

Thoenes, a seasoned journalist who had experience working in East Timor and Indonesia, was believed to be the first foreign reporter killed in East Timor since 1975, when six Australia-based reporters were killed during the Indonesian military invasion of East Timor.

Job:Print Reporter
Beats Covered:War
Local or Foreign:Foreign
Type of Death:Murder
Suspected Source of Fire:Military Officials
Taken Captive:No


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