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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6591


Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) (3:01 PM) —Mr President, I have some further information in answer to a question from Senator Ridgeway on 14 November re the human rights tribunal on East Timor. I seek leave to have that incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows—

Senator Ridgeway asked about the current state of play with proceedings in the Indonesian ad hoc human rights tribunal on East Timor and Australia's position on tribunal outcomes.

Response

Australia continues to monitor tribunal proceedings closely. Nine trials remain before the tribunal and appeals are in train in the three cases for which verdicts were handed down in August 2002. As Senator Ridgeway indicated, Mr Downer has expressed disappointment with aspects of the way the first trials were handled, but has emphasised that the tribunal and appeals processes should be allowed to play out. Australia's position remains that it is essential the remaining trials proceed independently and with integrity.

Senator Ridgeway asked in a supplementary question if Australia had been in contact with the East Timor Government regarding the tribunal outcomes and whether Australia would support establishment of an international tribunal to try those accused of human rights violations in East Timor.

Response

The people of East Timor were the victims of the human rights violations. It was for this reason that Mr Downer has said we would want to consult with East Timor's leaders about possible international action, bearing in mind that current processes should be allowed to play out. We are maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the East Timor Government on the ad hoc tribunal process and on broader justice and reconciliation issues in East Timor. Mr Downer himself has discussed these issues with his East Timorese counterpart. The East Timor Government has yet to come to a final view on the need for an international tribunal and is moving forward with its own National Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation. Australia has provided support to that Commission and to the UN sponsored Serious Crimes Unit which is taking forward prosecutions of priority cases of crimes against humanity perpetrated in 1999.