Subject: SMH: Australia blamed in East Timor report

Australia blamed in East Timor report

By Jill Jolliffe in Dili

April 5, 2004

An international expert says Australia "shares some responsibility" for the 1999 atrocities in East Timor, despite its leading role in the United Nations peacekeeping force.

The claim comes in a suppressed report on the violence commissioned by the UN, to which the Herald has had exclusive access.

The author is Geoffrey Robinson, a prominent Canadian specialist on Indonesia who served with the UN mission in Dili in 1999.

He said that Australia and the United States had influenced the UN on backing Indonesia's demand that UN troops be kept out of East Timor before the August referendum.

"The feeble position taken during the negotiations was evidently influenced by the posture of a few powerful states," he said, adding that "[UN envoy Jamsheed Marker] has noted, for example, that UN negotiators faced strong pressure from the US and Australian governments not to push too hard on the security issue".

The author recommended that 75 senior Indonesian officials, including Wiranto, the presidential candidate and retired armed forces chief, should stand trial for war crimes.

He also chided the UN for failing to bring perpetrators to justice, saying a special international court should be set up.

The controversial report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Commission with no restrictions specified.

Dr Robinson was given free access to internal UN documents. He also drew on secret Indonesian payroll documents and intercepted military cables - held by the human rights foundation Yayasan Hak in Dili - to demolish the idea that Indonesian Army "rogue elements" were responsible for organising the violence, an idea upheld by the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer.

Since completion in July 2003, the report had been restricted to UN circles until Thursday, when it was given to the UN-funded Reconciliation and Truth Commission in Dili with a label advising "due discretion" in distribution.

The commission's chairman, Aniceto Guterres, said it would be treated confidentially and released only after the commission finishes work in October. He refused an interview.

Dr Robinson argued that the US and Australia had been the countries "best placed" to curb Indonesian excesses, but "actually facilitated the occupation and violence" that began in 1975, showing "overt support, inaction, and silence" to abuses until 1999, in order to maintain friendly relations with Jakarta.

Dr Robinson said this complicity was continued in security arrangements for the 1999 referendum, alleging that "in spite of the mounting militia violence in early 1999 the most influential states made no serious effort to ensure that there would be effective security arrangements".

In talks in Lisbon with his Portuguese counterpart in early 1999, Mr Downer stressed Australia would not support armed peacekeepers, stating: "What we have in mind is not a heavily armed UN force landing on the shores of East Timor . . . we have a consensus with the UN taking a role but not in a sense of sending in a large armed force".

The result, the Canadian expert said, was a fatally flawed treaty signed between Portugal and Indonesia in May 1999, "which placed sole responsibility for maintaining law and order in the hands of Indonesian security forces", and led to killings, arson and mass deportations after voters opted for independence.

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