|Subject: RT: Australia SAS Charged for
Kicking Corpse in E.Timor
SMH: Former elite soldier charged amid claims of a battlefield execution
Australia SAS Charged for Kicking Corpse in E.Timor
Fri February 21, 2003 02:07 AM ET
CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian soldier has been charged with misconduct for kicking the corpse of a militia fighter during a mission in East Timor in 1999, the Defense Department said Friday.
The charge is the first to emerge from an investigation into allegations Australia's elite Special Air Service (SAS) troops tortured pro-Indonesian militia members and shot one in the head execution-style during the high-profile peace mission.
"I can confirm that one serviceman has been charged with misconduct with relation to corpses, in that he kicked a body," Chief of Army Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the Defense Department declined to name the soldier or say when he had been charged, but said the investigation was continuing.
The military revealed two years ago it was investigating about 18 incidents of alleged misconduct by the elite SAS troops relating to an ambush near Suai in East Timor's far west, in which two militiamen were killed and others captured.
The United Nations exhumed militia corpses as part of the investigation into the cause of one man's death on October 6, 1999, and into claims some of the prisoners were treated brutally and tortured during interrogation.
The incident threatens to sully the highly praised role Australia played in leading a United Nations force in East Timor after a vote for independence from Indonesia sparked violence and up to 1,000 killings by pro-Jakarta militias.
East Timor celebrated its full independence as the world's newest nation in May 2002 but a scaled-down U.N. peacekeeping mission is still active there as the country grooms new leaders to assume its responsibilities.
Former elite soldier charged amid claims of a battlefield execution By Deborah Snow
February 21 2003
Charges are understood to have been laid against a former senior soldier in the Special Air Service after a long investigation into allegations of serious misconduct by members of the elite unit in East Timor.
The charges are believed to relate to allegations dating from October 1999, when a battle broke out near the town of Suai between an SAS patrol and members of an Indonesian-backed militia group opposed to Timorese independence.
The allegations are understood to centre on three issues: whether one of the militia members was killed in an execution-style shooting; whether there was any misuse of the corpses of the two militia members who died; and whether other captured members of the militia unit were beaten or otherwise mistreated during their later interrogation by SAS members.
It is understood that the charges were laid earlier this month and are the first to be brought in connection with the investigation, which has dragged on behind closed doors in the Defence Department for more than three years.
At the time of the battle, members of the SAS were part of the United Nations-backed mission to restore order to Timor after the violent upheaval sparked by the vote for independence.
The department has been circumspect about the investigation, which has been conducted against the backdrop of the Timor mission, the subsequent engagement by the SAS in Afghanistan and deployment of some of the unit's members to the Gulf ahead of the looming war on Iraq.
When the Suai allegations originally surfaced in late 2000, General Peter Cosgrove, who headed the Timor mission and is now Chief of the Defence Force, said an initial investigation had found the claims to be groundless but that he had reopened the inquiry after the "rumours resurfaced".
He pledged at the time that the inquiry would be "comprehensive" and "impartial" .
Australian Federal Police and UN investigators became involved and late last year it was revealed that the bodies of two militiamen had been exhumed from a mass grave outside Dili as part of the investigation.
At the time, the department said a dozen of 18 allegations had been dismissed, but it is believed that a pathologists' report on the bodies went to Defence headquarters just before Christmas.
A spokeswoman for the department yesterday refused to respond directly to questions about whether any charges had been laid. "The army is conducting an investigation into the allegations and the results will be made public when it is complete," she said, but could not say when that might be.
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/02/20/1045638427919.html
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