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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6372

Senator RIDGEWAY (2:24 PM) —My question is to Senator Hill, the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer. It relates to a question I asked earlier this year. Following the acquittal by the Indonesian ad hoc human rights tribunal of six defendants on charges of gross human rights violations in August of this year, Mr Downer expressed his disappointment with the decision but wanted time to review the judgment of the tribunal. Minister, has the government now evaluated the judgments from the tribunal? If so, does the government share any of the serious concerns that were expressed by the then Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, particularly in terms of the capacity of the tribunal to comprehensively investigate the Indonesian army's responsibility for human rights violations in East Timor? Given the global terrorist threat, isn't it more important than ever that governments work harder to promote and uphold human rights on all fronts, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I agree with the last point, not necessarily related to the horrible experience of Bali; it is important that we not only adhere to those values ourselves but do our best to work cooperatively with neighbours in further entrenching basic standards of human rights. The Australian government did express some concerns about aspects of the prosecutions. The result was mixed, as I recall it, but the reason that we were not prepared to expand further was that the process of the prosecutions had not been completed. I do not have a brief as to whether that has now been completed, but I will ask that question and return to the honourable senator with a response depending on the circumstance.

Senator RIDGEWAY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question and thank the minister for that undertaking. Is the minister also aware that Mr Downer has commented in the media that he wanted to speak with the East Timorese government, as the elected representatives of the people of East Timor, about how they intend to respond to the tribunal's findings? Has the government had discussions of this nature with the East Timorese government and, if not, does the Australian government intend to do so in the near future.? Finally, would the government be prepared to support East Timor if it called on the UN to act on the report of the international commission of inquiry, which recommended a tribunal to try those accused of human rights violation in East Timor?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I think I should also refer that back to Mr Downer and get his response, seeing as it followed from something that he undertook to do. I will do that and add that to my answer.