Text of NSW
Coroner's Report on the Inquest into the Death of Brian Raymond
Peters (PDF) November 16
Australian Inquest into Balibo Journalists Killings in
Shows Ongoing Need to Pursue Justice and Accountability
Contact: John M. Miller, +1/718-596-7668; +1/917-690-4391
Shirley Shackleton, +61/3-9699-1002
November 15, 2007 - The current coroner's inquest into the death
of an Australian-based journalist killed by Indonesian troops in
October 1975 highlights "the need to pursue justice for the many
tens of thousands killed during Indonesia's illegal invasion and
occupation of East Timor," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator
of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).
On Friday, the New South Wales coroner's office will announce the
results of its investigation into the death of Brian Peters, one of
five journalists shot in Balibo, East Timor, on October 16, 1975,
during the lead-up to Indonesia's full scale invasion of the
"Whatever the coroner's conclusion, the inquest reminds us that
the killers of more than 100,000 Timorese who died as a result of
Indonesia's illegal invasion and occupation of East Timor have yet
to face justice," said Miller. "It is never too late to pursue
justice and accountability."
"With the exception of this inquest, no formal investigations or
proceedings are currently underway into the many serious crimes and
massacres committed prior to 1999 in occupied East Timor; a de facto
impunity exists for horrendous crimes against humanity," he added.
"Crimes committed by the Indonesian military (TNI) against their
own citizens are rarely addressed, let alone punished judicially,"
said Shirley Shackleton. "Why would anyone expect TNI officers
suspected of murdering British, New Zealand and Australian citizens
to be brought to justice?" Shackleton's husband, Greg, was another
of the journalists killed 31 years ago while investigating
Indonesian military cross-border attacks.
"The Australian and Indonesian national government's ongoing
refusal to acknowledge these crimes or to fully cooperate with the
inquest have shown that both governments are, at best, only willing
to pay lip service to human rights accountability," said Miller.
"Where was the official Australian protest about Indonesia's lack
of co-operation with the coronial inquiry?" asks Shackleton, who has
long advocated for justice for the East Timorese people.
"Regrettably, the struggle against impunity can take years," said
Miller. "But it is necessary to ensure support for human rights and
democracy not only in East Timor, but Indonesia as well. In recent
weeks, perpetrators of serious crimes in Peru and Cambodia are being
called to account. It is time for those responsible for brutal crimes related
to Indonesia's invasion and occupation to be held
"Prior to the slayings in Balibo, deliberate targeting of
journalists was unusual. Allowing the Indonesian military to get
away with these murders and that of Roger East, has resulted in
journalists all over the word being killed with impunity," said
Shackleton. East was murdered in front of more than 100 witnesses,
the day after Indonesia launched its full scale invasion on December
The five journalists -- Brian Peters, Greg Shackleton, Gary
Cunningham, Malcolm Rennie, and Tony Stewart -- were of British, New
Zealand and Australian nationalities. They were working for
Australian television networks while in East Timor. The inquest
focuses on Peters, a New South Wales resident at the time of his
The Australian and Indonesian governments have claimed that the
journalists were caught in the crossfire during the attack on
Balibo. But evidence presented to the coronial inquiry demonstrates
that the journalists were captured and then killed in an effort to
cover up evidence that Indonesian troops were violating East
Timorese territory. Lawyers for the family have said that the deaths
were premeditated murder and that those responsible should be tried
for war crimes.
Evidence also shows that Australian officials were complicit with
Indonesia in covering up the crimes at the time. The overt lack of
concern by the Australian government over the deaths continues to
the present. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer advised the
Indonesian government not to worry about the Balibo inquest.
Retired-General and Jakarta mayor Sutiyoso -- a captain in Team
Susi, the Indonesian military unit, that assaulted Balibo -- was
served with an invitation from the coroner to appear at the inquest
while in Sydney. He quickly fled back to Jakarta, loudly protesting
the perceived insult. Australian officials, including its ambassador
to Indonesia, were quick to take Sutiyoso's side.
Indonesia has said that the Balibo Five case is closed.
"Basically, for the Indonesian Government, it is a closed case, as
simple as that," an Indonesian foreign affairs ministry spokesman
recently told the
Recently, top-level perpetrators of human rights violations were
arrested in Peru and Cambodia. Peruís ex-President Alberto Fujimori
and several top Khmer Rouge leaders are now in prison awaiting
trial, decades after brutalities they oversaw were committed.
ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East
Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to
prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975
to 1999. For additional background, see www.etan.org.
Additional Balibo inquest news and analysis
Interview with Shirley Shackleton on The Wire (November 16)
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