Subject: Not just Balibo that is unjust about East Timor's past

Brisbane Times

Not just Balibo that is unjust about East Timor's past


September 24, 2009 - 4:51PM

In seeking the truth behind the deaths of six Australian Journalists in East Timor in 1975, actor Anthony LaPaglia and Kevin Rudd have something in common.

LaPaglia's portrayal of journalist Roger East in the movie “Balibo” is compelling.

Kevin Rudd was also convincing when he took centre stage on November 17, 2007 to deliver this heroic pronouncement on the fate of the Balibo five.

“I believe this has to be taken through to its logical conclusion. I also believe those responsible should be held to account.”

“My attitude to this is dead set hardline. I've read a bit about what happened in Balibo, I've been to Balibo, walked up there, I've seen the fort, I've seen where these blokes lost their lives. You can't just sweep this to one side”

No, Prime Minister, you can't. However, you can do the next best thing: launch an AFP investigation. Then, should journalists ask questions which embarrass you in front of your good friend and Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, you can respond “it would be inappropriate to comment until such time as the Australian Federal Police's investigation has concluded.”

It may seem impertinent to suggest that our Prime Minister and his government would conspire to ignore our nation's obligations under the Geneva Conventions to appease the Indonesians. However, the case of Guy Campos suggests this is a plausible argument.

In June 2008, Campos, an East Timorese man, entered Australia on a World Youth Day Visa as a pilgrim to see the Pope. Campos is not a holy journeyman.

He is a self confessed child beater, and numerous witnesses have recalled in acute detail his acts of torture - allegations he has denied.

The former Principal Analyst on East Timor for the Australian Defence Force's Intelligence Corps, Dr Clinton Fernandes, confirmed Campos as a key collaborator with the Joint Intelligence Unit of the Indonesian military during their occupation of East Timor between 1975 and 1999.

Today Tonight broke the news of Campos' illegal entry to Australia on the 9th September 2008.

We reported he was living 1 kilometre from Joanna Ximenes. She claims her 11 year old brother was bashed to death by Campos.

Then there was Odete Alves. At 16, she watched as Campos, dressed in military fatigues, abducted her father. He was never seen again.

Now in her forties, Odete, like many East Timorese refugees, fled to Australia for a new life and protection from the atrocities they endured in East Timor. Odete and Joanna were deeply distressed when they learned our government granted Campos entry into Australia to live less than 5 km from their homes in Sydney.

When we confronted Campos, he denied killing Francisco Ximenes. Amazingly though, he confessed to beating the child on the night he died.

Samantha Wills, spokeswoman for the Attorney General and Minister for Home Affairs told me Today Tonight's report “didn't have much”. Immigration spokesman, Sandi Logan, issued statements justifying Campos' entry on the basis that immigration was unaware of any charges, convictions or allegations that Campos had been involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity. Within one hour of arriving in East Timor, we uncovered court documents showing that Campos had been convicted of “maltreatment leading to death of a child”, namely 11 year old Francisco Ximenes. These court documents were supplied to the Australian Embassy in 2006. Immigration has personnel at the Embassy.

We reported Campos' alleged involvement in a massacre and attended the exhumation of nine resistance heroes from a mass grave. All nine were said to be nominated for execution by Campos, a story told to us by their families and corroborated by Jamie Maia, a former collaborator with the Indonesians who admitted to working alongside Campos.

We interviewed several East Timorese resistance members who say they were personally tortured by Guy Campos.

We asked the Immigration Department how Campos had managed to enter Australia despite a history of torture and war crimes. The Department stated that it vetted individuals based on sources such as international criminal tribunals and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Yet there has never been an international criminal tribunal for East Timor, and the ICJ hears proceedings between states, not individuals. It has nothing to do with the issue of war crimes and torture. The department's answers were evasive and misleading.

Furthermore, East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation provided its report to the Australian Embassy in Dili in February 2006. Three years later, the Immigration Department seems to have taken no steps to identify individuals named in the report in order to deny them a visa to visit Australia. There are some pretty evil characters listed in the report ­ why would Immigration not use it as a point of reference?

Guy Campos lived freely in Australia for more than a year. During that time, numerous victims gave detailed statements to the AFP. At ground level, the war crimes unit of the AFP headed by Bruce Pegg did an impeccable job. It is understood they were confident of a successful prosecution. The alleged perpetrator was alive and within reach. Eye witnesses to his alleged acts were also in Australia and his alleged torture victims were willing to testify. Jose Belo and Naldo Rei travelled from East Timor to Australia to give detailed accounts of their torture at Campos' hands.

The AFP does not take the unilateral decision to lay charges in these matters. This decision rests with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Chris Craigie. Craigie and his department stated more information was needed before they could make the decision to launch a prosecution. However, if Campos was to leave the country the police investigation would lapse. Last week Guy Campos left Australia. The AFP's investigation was suspended.

The Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth speaks of “openness” and “accountability”. This means that those who make the decisions on whether to prosecute can be summoned to explain and justify their actions. The AFP investigation into Guy Campos has come to a halt. The investigation into the Government's handling of the case should now begin. Kevin Rudd and his fellow thespians will not want a part in that play… It has no heroes.

James Thomas is a reporter for Channel Seven's Today Tonight

Back to September Menu

World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu