Subject: Australian military chief admits East Timor lapse

Australia Network News

Australian military chief admits East Timor lapse

Australia's military chief, Angus Houston has admitted there was a lapse by Australian forces in East Timor. [ABC News]

VIDEO from Australia Network News

<> Lapse in Australian handling of East Timor death

Created: Wed, 10 Feb 2010 09:56:23 GMT-0500

Linda Mottram, Canberra correspondent

Last Updated: 20 hours 46 minutes ago

Australia's military chief has admitted there was a lapse by Australian forces in East Timor, in the case of a woman who died from injuries sustained after being struck by an Australian military vehicle in Dili.

65 year old Gracinda da Costa died in a Dili hospital on December 18, just hours after she was hit by an Australian military vehicle.

An Australian medical official attended the hospital initially and was told by doctors she was stable with leg fractures and scalp lacerations. The officer then made two phone calls in two weeks to check on her.

Only after two weeks did the Australians learn she'd died.

At a Parliamentary committee, Australian Defence Force (ADF) Chief Angus Houston called it a lapse.

"Unfortunately our people didn't keep track of how she was" he said.

But opposition Senator Russell Trood was scathing of the ADF's handling of the case.

"Not just a lapse they would appear to have been delinquent in the matter."

Senator Trood says the incident could undermine Australia's work in East Timor.

"These are matters of immense sensitivity and they're the kinds of things that undermine all the good work we do both in Afghanistan or East Timor or everywhere else," he said.

"So I would have thought there might have been some interest taken in her condition to ensure that she was making a good recovery and that everything was being done to ensure that her interests were being protected."

ADF Chief Angus Houston has promised to put better processes in place.

The ADF has yet to launch an inquiry into handling of Gracinda da Costa's case.

So far the only inquiry has been a traffic accident investigation by the East Timorese police.

Australian researcher Anna Powles, a former advisor to East Timor's government and a specialist in Australia East Timor civil military relations, says the admission of a lapse has raised questions among the Timorese community.

"There is this expectation on the part of the international community here that standards of accountability and transparency will be upheld by the Timorese security forces.

When these standards have not been similarly upheld by international security forces such as the ADF it does raise some questions amongst the Timorese community here."

Discussions over compensation for the family are continuing. 

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