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Subject: RT: Journalists killed to conceal invasion
Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998 09:15:32 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <etan@etan.org>

Newsmen killed to conceal 1975 Timor invasion-ICJ 04:50 a.m. Aug 24, 1998 Eastern

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Indonesian troops killed five Australian-based journalists in an East Timor village in October 1975 to conceal Indonesia's invasion of the territory, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said on Monday.

In a report on the killings, the Australian branch of the Geneva-based human rights body said a sixth foreign journalist was killed two months later by Indonesian troops in the East Timor capital Dili.

The ICJ report also said there was evidence Australia had foreknowledge of the attack and ``failed to warn them (the journalists) adequately of the imminent danger of the invasion.''

The Australian government has consistently said it had no prior knowledge of the Indonesian invasion of the former Portugese territory on December 17, 1975.

Jakarta formally annexed East Timor on July 17, 1976, in an action that has never been recognised by the United Nations.

Australia is the only western government to recognise Indonesian sovereignty over the territory.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on Monday denied any cover-up. ``I'm happy for any claims to be investigated,'' he told reporters.

Supreme Court Judge John Dowd, president of the ICJ's Australian section, called on Monday on the Australian government to establish a judicial inquiry into the deaths of the journalists.

``We call for a federal judicial inquiry into the deaths to be established with power to call witnesses and require documents,'' Dowd said in a statement. ``There is considerable information still to be obtained and many more witnesses available to be questioned.''

Indonesian foreign ministry officials were not available on Monday for immediate comment on the ICJ report. Jakarta has denied any responsibility in the deaths of the six Australian-based reporters, who were killed before the full-scale Indonesian invasion on December 17, 1975.

The five newsmen who were killed at Balibo in western East Timor were Australians Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, Britons Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters and New Zealander Gary Cunningham. They were covering fighting that had broken out after Portugal's withdrawal from the territory in 1974.

The sixth journalist, Australian Roger East, was killed when Indonesian troops went into Dili in December 1975.

``The Indonesian government is responsible for the deaths of the journalists... because there was a deliberate intention on the part of the military forces which set out from nearby Batugade to kill the journalists in Balibo,'' the report said.

The report said the killings were aimed at ``concealing from world scrutiny the activities of the invading forces as they began their clandestine offensive on 16 October 1975.''

The commission called for several retired Indonesian military officers, including current Information Minister Yunus Yosfiah, to be brought before an Australian judicial inquiry into the killings in Balibo village.

An Australian government report in June, 1996, found irregular Indonesian troops and East Timorese commanded by Indonesian officers killed the five journalists in Balibo during a border skirmish.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said on Monday Australia's department of foreign affairs had been involved in a 23-year cover-up of the killings.

It said it conducted an investigation that found evidence Australian diplomats were briefed by Indonesian intelligence officials on plans to attack the village of Balibo three days before the attack. The diplomats were also aware of Jakarta's invasion plans from late 1974, it added.

The Herald said the diplomats made no effort to check whether there were any Australians in the attack zone.


For further background on the Balibo killings, and the excellent articles of Roger East (one Australian journalist killed in East Timor), in the days leading to full-scale invasion see the ETRA (http://www.pactok.net.au/docs/et/) website.

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