Subject: ABC: Questions over investigation into Dutch journalist's death

EAST TIMOR:Questions over investigation into Dutch journalist's death 19/06/2002 17:20:00 | Asia Pacific Programs Audio:

The Dutch Government claims it has secured an agreement from Indonesia that it will continue to investigate the murder of a Dutch journalist in East Timor, almost three years ago. Earlier reports from the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta said Indonesia's Attorney General's Department had shut down its investigation into the murder of Financial Times journalist Sander Thoenes, because of lack of evidence.


FITZGERALD: The killing of 30 year-old Dutch journalist Sander Thoenes was just one amongst many carried out in East Timor in 1999. Sander was riding pillion on a hired motorbike in Dili when he was shot in the back, and his mutilated body was found the next morning. His motorbike driver said their bike had been stopped by uniformed Indonesian soldiers, who'd opened fire on Sander using automatic weapons. The UN and Dutch police have identified a serving Indonesian military officer as the man named by witnesses as Sander's killer. That hasn't influenced Indonesia's Attorney General's Department though. It notified the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta last week, the case has being closed due to lack of evidence. Angry Dutch officials however now appear to have secured an assurance from the Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda that the case will remain open. Dutch Foreign Minister Jozias Van Aartsen.

VAN AARTSEN: Contrary to what has been published at some stage in Jakarta, Wirayuda assured me that the charges have not been dropped and the procedure has not stopped, and that is important for international journalism and for the Netherlands government of course because those responsible for the murder of Sander Thoenes should be put on trial before the ad hoc tribunal. Anyway that is our stance.

FITZGERALD: The news that this investigation isn't shut must come as a relief to you, but it does contradict reports that are emerging from the Indonesian Attorney General who says that the case is closed due to lack of evidence. That seems to conflict.

VAN AARTSEN: Well it's quite clear to me, I have to deal with my colleague of foreign affairs in Jakarta, I trust the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Wirayuda that the case has not been dropped and that they are going further to investigate the case. And the proof is that the Attorney General's bureau invited the Foreign Minister. asked me to send over the Dutch policeman who was investigating together with the Indonesian authorities last year.

FITZGERALD: Despite the Dutch Minister's optimism it's unlikely Indonesian police will arrest suspects in the killing. The Indonesian soldier identified by the UN and the Dutch as the chief suspect, has been recently promoted in the military, and responsibility for the crime may go higher up the chain of military command. U-N reports have detailed the murder of eleven East Timorese people on the same day Sanders was shot. And the killings are thought to have been carried out by Indonesia's 745 battalion, which was retreating from the Los Palos area at the time and had carried out an attack near where Sander's died, less than an hour before his killing. The Dutch Foreign Minister says the next step is for the UN and Dutch evidence to be reconciled with Indonesian evidence.

VAN AARTSEN: To bridge the gap between the UN, the Dutch experts and the Bureau of the Attorney General in Jakarta, and if we can help them we're happy to do that.

FITZGERALD: But wouldn't you have already done that over the past as you say almost three years?

VAN AARTSEN: Well we have done everything that we could do and the Indonesian government knows that the progress in this case is of much importance for the enhancement of bilateral relationship between Indonesia and the Netherlands, and is in fact of importance for the Indonesian government in the eyes of the world.

FITZGERALD: Dutch courts for those involved in Sander's death to face a human rights court are also unlikely to eventuate. The current courts have yet to bring down a verdict in the case of three civil and military officials charged with serious human rights abuses in East Timor and as yet strong independent witnesses, such as UN officials and journalists have not been called to give evidence.

Transcripts from programs "AM", "The World Today", "PM", the "7:30 Report" and "Lateline" are created by an independent transcription service. The ABC does not warrant the accuracy of the transcripts. ABC Online users are advised to listen to the audio provided on this page to verify the accuracy of the transcripts.

19/06/2002 17:20:00 | Asia Pacific Programs

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