Timorese condemn Ruddock's 'hampering' of inquiry

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Timorese condemn Ruddock's 'hampering' of inquiry

By Karen Fredericks

BRISBANE — The spokesperson for the Brisbane East Timorese community has hit out at the refusal by federal immigration minister Philip Ruddock to grant the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) access to refugees in safe haven facilities. Joe Teixeira says that he feared that the apologists for Indonesia in Canberra would raise their heads when they felt the tide had turned, and that Ruddock's actions are clear evidence of this.

Although refugees are permitted to leave the safe havens, Ruddock will not allow the ICJ entry to them, making its task more difficult.

The ICJ has been asked by UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson to gather statements from East Timorese refugees who witnessed atrocities and abuses of human rights by Indonesian-backed militias and the Indonesian military.

The ICJ's inquiries are vital to Robinson's efforts to establish a war crimes tribunal, which is already being hampered by some Asian and South American countries. The Human Rights Commission has given the ICJ until November 30 to provide statements to assist in its determination of whether to establish the tribunal.

The UN commission itself has been given only until the end of the year to report its findings to the Security Council, which will then decide whether a tribunal should be established. There are many governments that do not want this to happen.

"Ruddock has clearly decided that he will be a part of this campaign to destabilise and hamper the UN human rights commissioner's efforts", Teixeira told Green Left Weekly.

"Some family members, with whom I have spoken, have very clearly and unequivocally linked the Indonesian military hierarchy with the militias' reign of terror. We were lucky in Brisbane, because these people were family members who trusted me more than they trusted the Immigration Department, and so they willingly and unreservedly gave their testimony to the ICJ. Thankfully, the authorities were unable to lock the ICJ out", Teixeira explained.

Earlier, federal attorney general Daryl Williams attempted to stop members of the ICJ travelling to East Timor to gather evidence.

"The federal government are back-pedalling at a hundred miles an hour when it comes to human rights and East Timor", Teixeira alleged.

He called on Australians to reject Ruddock's action and to lobby the federal government and all federal politicians to ensure that it does not further hamper the ICJ's evidence-gathering.

"Many of those in the safe havens have already gone back to East Timor without the opportunity of being interviewed by the ICJ", Teixeira told Green Left Weekly. "Ruddock has already been successful to a great extent in hampering the international effort to bring the war criminals to justice."