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UN uncertain, the killing of the Balibo five


UN uncertain, the killing of the Balibo five


6 February 2001

* Pacific Media Watch Online:
http://www.pmw.c2o.org
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UN Uncertain About Pursuing Indon Minister Over Balico Five

* See PMW item 3189

By Catharine Munro, South-East Asia Correspondent

JAKARTA, Feb 4 AAP - It is still unclear if the United Nations
will ever pursue a former Indonesian government minister for the
alleged murder of five Australian-based journalists in East Timor
in 1975, a UN prosecutor said today.

And it was unlikely Indonesia would cooperate in detaining
former Minister for Information Mohamad Yunus, formerly known as
Yunus Yosfiah, even if warrants for his arrest were issued.

The UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) is
investigating the killings of the so-called Balibo five during
Indonesia's occupation of the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

Killed by Indonesian soldiers were Greg Shackleton, Tony Stewart
and Gary Cunningham of Channel 7, and Brian Peters and Malcolm
Rennie of Channel 9. Mr Peters and Mr Rennie were British citizens
and Mr Cunningham was a New Zealander.

Serious crimes prosecutor Oyvind Olsen said investigators were
still working out whether the murders would be seen as war crimes
under international law or as crimes under either Indonesian law or
the law of Portugal.

If the murders were seen as war crimes, they would come under
UNTAET's jurisdiction.

However, it was too late to prosecute if they were seen as
crimes under Indonesian or Portuguese law, because of deadlines
under both countries' statues of limitations.

Contrary to weekend reports that investigators had sought
international arrest warrants, Mr Olsen said the investigation had
not yet been completed.

"The remaining investigation has to be done before any action
can be taken," Mr Olsen said.

"It's not clear whether they will be issued."

It was doubtful that Indonesia would help UNTAET pursue Yunus if
international arrest warrants were issued, according to Harold
Crouch, Indonesia project director for the International Crisis
Group (ICG).

"I think it would be almost totally unlikely," Crouch said.

"I would say they don't believe that the international court
should try an Indonesian officer."

Yunus, who delivered Indonesia much of its current press
freedoms as Minister for Information under President Habibie, is a
retired officer and now lives in the West Javan city of Bandung.

Indonesia has already shown its unwillingness to help UNTAET
prosecute serving Indonesian military (TNI) officers.

When UN prosecutors attempted in December to question TNI
members, with the permission of the Indonesian Attorney General,
the head of the TNI Admiral Widodo refused to allow his men to be
interviewed.

His position won strong support among many politicians in
Jakarta.

During the UNTAET delegation's visit to Jakarta at the time,
their car was attacked by a mob inside the grounds of the
Parliament.

In a highly critical report on Indonesia's record of prosecuting
human rights violations, the ICG said Indonesia's failure to allow
UNTAET prosecutors to question Indonesian witnesses and suspects
had damaged international confidence.

"While it is expected that Indonesia will not hand over military
personnel to UNTAET's prosecutors, failure to prosecute in
Indonesia would seriously impair international confidence in the
Indonesian government's commitment to pursue cases through the
Indonesian judicial system," the ICG report said.

"That confidence has already been damaged by Indonesia's failure
to allow UNTAET prosecutors to question Indonesian witnesses and
suspects in the way that UNTAET...had facilitated the questioning
of East Timorese witnesses in July."

Indonesia and UNTAET have signed a memorandum of understanding
to cooperate in their separate investigations of human rights
violations in East Timor during its vote for independence in 1999.

+++niuswire


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