Subject: AU: Lawyers track proof of Timor atrocities

The Australian Lawyers track proof of Timor atrocities By chief political reporter RICHARD McGREGOR 6jan00

AUSTRALIAN lawyers have gone to East Timor to gather evidence of war crimes in an effort to make the Indonesian military answer to a UN tribunal for its alleged atrocities.

The team of four lawyers from the Australian chapter of the International Commission of Jurists is being led by Justice John Dowd of the NSW Supreme Court, a former Liberal politician who has been agitating for an investigation into the military and anti-independence militia.

The determination of the lawyers to press their investigations has put the federal Government, already struggling to repair relations with Jakarta, in an awkward situation.

The Government has said it will co-operate with any UN inquiry but made no specific commitments, especially on the ultra-sensitive issue of providing intelligence material on the Indonesians in Timor.

The Australian lawyers have already sent to the UN 22 interviews with East Timorese who fled to Australia.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is awaiting the report of a five-member commission of inquiry established in September by the UN Human Rights Commission to look into atrocities in East Timor.

Another UN human rights investigation has already recommended that the Security Council should consider setting up an international tribunal to try those suspected of war crimes in East Timor if Indonesia fails to investigate its army's involvement in atrocities there.

But if the Indonesians do not co-operate, the UN investigators said that a special tribunal should be established with jurisdiction over any crimes committed since the departure of the Portuguese in 1975.

NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC, one of the lawyers on the ICJ effort, said the federal Government had so far taken "extraordinary steps" to prevent their group from gathering evidence of atrocities.

He said the 22 statements had been taken despite the Government's refusal to allow the lawyers into safe haven camps when the East Timorese were in Australia.

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