Subject: Refugees quizzed on war crimes; New footage supports claims ofmassacre

also: New footage supports claims of Timor massacre

The Australian 10 October 99

Refugees quizzed on war crimes

REFUGEES at Leeuwin Barracks will be invited to tell their stories to lawyers documenting alleged war crimes in East Timor.

Eighty Perth lawyers have volunteered to participate in the project, which is being planned by a committee set up by the WA branch of the International Commission of Jurists.

"One of our goals is to enable victims of atrocities to tell their stories as part of the healing process," said committee co-ordinator Mark Cox.

Project spokeswoman Penelope Giles, a barrister, stressed that the committee was keeping an open mind on whether war crimes had been committed.

"Our brief is simply to collect evidence without fear or favour," she said.

The ICJ is devoted to the furtherance of human rights and the rule of law around the world.

A non-government organisation, without political or religious alignments, it is made up of judges, lawyers and legal academics.

Ms Giles said the situation in East Timor directly involved questions of the rule of law and crimes against humanity.

"In the short term we want to make it known to the people concerned that evidence is being gathered and hopefully to play a deterrent role," Mr Cox said.

"Our long-term objectives, in line with the charter of the ICJ, are to stop human rights atrocities and to stop the growing trend for states to act with impunity, as we have seen in Rwanda, Kosovo and the former Yugoslavia."

Mr Cox said that while human rights abuses were always important, the historic relationship between the East Timorese and Australian people made this a particularly significant case in Australia.

"East Timorese people fought alongside Australians in World War II," he said.

"We can't stand by and see human rights abuses happen in a country which is so close to us and with which so many Australians have had good relations."

Evidence gathered by the committee will be assessed by a panel of eminent lawyers headed by the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery QC.

If it constitutes prima facie evidence of war crimes, it will be forwarded to an international panel of eminent jurists or to the UN.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation Sunday, October 10, 1999 [includes several reports]

New footage supports claims of Timor massacre

Further details are emerging in East Timor of an apparent rampage by pro-Indonesia militias in the south-western city of Suai, close to the border with West Timor.

Newly-released graphic footage of the town and its destroyed church appears to back up claims of a massacre.

The church has been destroyed but its stairs remain blood-soaked.

Reports of a massacre emerged shortly after the outcome of the independence ballot last month.

Parish priest Father Helerio had tried to seek UN assistance calling the beseiged compound in Dili asking for help.

He has since been reported to have been killed.

Australian commandos are now in the town. They have set up operations although they remain a very small presence. Militia are still believed to be active in the area.

It was on the outskirts of Suai that Australian commandos were ambushed by militia earlier this week.

Two Australians were severely wounded with two militiamen killed in the counter attack.

Cosgrove

The commander of the international force in East Timor (Interfet), Major General Peter Cosgrove, has held talks with the territory's long-term independence fighters on laying down their weapons.

A three-step plan has been proposed beginning with the progressive handing in of weapons.

Major General Peter Cosgrove met with the guerilla movement's most senior leader in his mountain camp in the Central Highlands.

It was there he proposed that weapons be handed in bit by bit.

General Cosgrove says it is a strategy based on 'give a little and get a little.'

He says the second stage of the process proposed would result in guerillas being selected into government service, as members of the territory's new defence force.

He says the third step in the process would be reconciliation.

General Cosgrove says the hand of friendship has also been extended to the militia, although he is yet to receive a reply to an offer to hold talks.

W Timor refugees

A fourth emergency relief flight carrying East Timorese refugees home has left the capital of West Timor, Kupang.

Today's two flights have seen some 195 men, women and children heading back to Dili, anxious about returning home to devastated East Timor.

About 400 people have been repatriated on United Nations-sponsored flights which began yesterday.

But with 250,000 refugees, repatriation by air, sea and land could take months.

Many returning today were anxious about going back to East Timor's capital, Dili.

They have spent weeks in refugee camps and houses of friends and there are widespread reports of intimidation by pro-Jakarta militias.

Aust lawyers

An army of Australian lawyers is being readied to gather evidence of criminal activity by militia and the Indonesian military in East Timor.

More then 700 Australian lawyers have volunteered to assist the International Commission of Jurists undertake the East Timor evidence project.

Australian Commission President Justice John Dowd says the legal system has a moral obligation to seek out those responsible for murder and torture.

"This is the year ... that the Pinochets of this world learnt there are not many safe places in the world," he said.

"We want to send a message to the tyrants, to the military regimes such as Indonesia that they no longer can assume they are safe."

Jakarta protests

An effigy representing Australian soldiers has been set on fire during another protest outside the Australian Embassy in the Indonesian capital.

Some demonstrators attempted to climb the fence into the embassy but were turned back by police.

It was another protest in an ongoing series, this time mostly by the children of Indonesian soliders who have served in East Timor.

They burnt a cloth effigy daubed with slogans such as 'Aggressors of Timor' and 'Stupid Solidiers'.

Others carried posters saying:'Australian soliders have you ordered your body bags yet?'

Today's demonstration is just one of a series outside the embassy over the past few weeks.

Already two Australian consulates in Indonesia have been closed because of the threat of violence.


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