Subject: SMH/E.Timor: UN may get access to Australian spy material

Sydney Morning Herald May 5, 2001

UN may get access to Australian spy material

By Mark Dodd, Herald Correspondent in Dili

The Federal Government is expected to give United Nations war crimes investigators access to classified intelligence material covering political violence in East Timor in 1999, when it is estimated up to 1,500 people were killed.

Federal eavesdropping agencies such as the Defence Signals Directorate are believed to have compiled large banks of electronic data, including telephone calls made by militia leaders and senior Indonesian Army officers based in East Timor before the 1999 referendum on self-determination.

Investigators working on the UN Serious Crimes Unit have long sought access to Australian Government intelligence files covering the ballot period. They see the material as a vital sources of information in helping their attempts to assemble war crimes evidence.

A senior UN official close to the investigation said access to the material would be covered by strict conditions. The official said no material would be be copied or removed or used as evidence in court proceedings. However, access to classified intelligence would enable investigators to more accurately fix dates and times when war crimes took place.

Last year, the Foreign Minister, Mr Downer confirmed Australia had already provided some classified intelligence material.

"We used the precedent of what the British and Americans did in supplying intelligence material on Bosnia," he said. There investigators were supplied with a limited amount of material that they had specifically requested.

However, Mr Downer said Australia did not have any evidence of the direct involvement in the violence by Indonesia's former defence minister and military chief, General Wiranto.

The serious crimes unit, set up by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor to investigate war crimes and other serious violent crimes, is reeling from a severe staffing crisis and a stream of resignations of experienced investigators complaining of poor management and lack of support.

The unit has concentrated on five priority cases that include the Liquica church massacre on April 6, 1999, multiple militia murders at the house of the independence activist Manuel Carrascalao on April 17, and the Maliana police station massacre of September 2-8, 1999.

Other cases include one of sexual violence committed in Lolotoi and the murder of priests and church workers in Los Palos. The cases could involve as many as 60 suspects, including 16 low-level militia held in UN detention

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