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NZ Govt. Must Back "Balibo Five" Trial In Timor

3 February, 2001

Indonesia Human Rights Committee,

Box 68-419,

Auckland

MEDIA RELEASE: New Zealand Government must back an international trial for the killers of the 1975 "Balibo Five" in East Timor

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee is calling for the Government to throw its support behind the United Nations investigators who are seeking international warrants for the arrest of 3 men for the murders of Australian based journalists (including a New Zealander- Gary Cunningham) on October 16, 1975.

After a 7 month long investigation which included extensive interviews with witnesses and the gathering of forensic evidence, the UN investigators are recommending the arrest of Yunus Yosfiah, a former Indonesian military commander and former cabinet minister, Christoforus da Silva and Domingos Bere. They want these men to be tried under crimes against humanity provisions in the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

"New Zealand must back this trial and work with the UN to ensure that Indonesia cannot get off the hook on this pivotal case," said Maire Leadbeater speaking for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee. " The relatives have been pleading for justice for 25 years - their calls must now be heeded."

"The murders at Balibo took place just before Indonesia's full scale invasion, when East Timor was still under Portuguese control, and the crime was hushed up at the time by the pro-Indonesian governments of Australia and New Zealand. So this case will go right to the heart of the matter - the very beginning of East Timor's tragedy."

"This is also a very welcome development for justice in East Timor and in Indonesia. In the eighteen months since Indonesia's brutal occupation of East Timor came to an end, only one lowly militia man who returned to East Timor has been convicted for a crime committed during the violent post referendum rampage"

"Justice and an end to impunity are essential to peace and reconciliation in East Timor and for democracy and stability in Indonesia. All we have seen so far of human rights trials in Indonesia has been a complex farce of investigations and 'questioning' but no convictions. Even the notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres remains free and treats his court appearances as self-promotion opportunities."

"The case could be tried either under Portuguese jurisdiction or under the provisions of an International Criminal Tribunal such as that set up for those responsible for crimes in the former Yugoslavia or for Rwanda."

for further information: Maire Leadbeater 09-376-9098 or cell phone 025-436-957

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