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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3243

(Question No. 700)


Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 27 November 1985:

(1) Will the Minister for Foreign Affairs outline the present situation of political prisoners gaoled in East Timor by the Indonesian Government.

(2) Are the results of a fifth inspection of their plight being made by the Red Cross yet available, if so, what are they; and if not, will the Minister make the facts available as quickly as possible.


Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Much of our information on the present situation of political prisoners in East Timor comes from the recent visit of Ambassador Morrison to East Timor. During the visit, the Chairman of the Court in Dili, Judge Siregar, handed him a series of documents which provided the names and personal details of all prisoners tried in East Timor for Fretilin-related offences between 16 December 1983 and 19 August 1985; the sections of the criminal code under which each has been charged; dates of sentence; and details of sentence. Judge Siregar also said that all prisoners on Fretilin-related charges had been tried, while Governor Carrascalao noted that, in addition to this, there might be `three or four' people still in detention awaiting the outcome of investigations before being formally charged or released.

Mr Morrison also visited Comarca prison, where prisoners on Fretilin-related offences are held. He reported that conditions have improved markedly since the new prison in Dili has been opened and is housing all normal civil prisoners. He reported that the more than 100 inmates he saw in Comarca were dressed in clean shirts and T-shirts and shorts, and none showed signs of physical abuse. In making his report, Ambassador Morrison also took account of the access of the ICRC to the prison.

Two other members of the Ambassador's party visited Atauro Island on 10 December 1985. The camp population was made up of 63 people from Manatuto area, 175 from the Same area, and 930 from the Viqueque area. It is planned to resettle those from Manatuto and Same back in their home area in the coming months. There are as yet no plans to resettle those from the Viqueque area.

(2) The ICRC has had access over the past 18 months to detainees in East Timor. The ICRC, however, treats its assessments and recommendations as a matter of confidence between itself and the host government. It does respond to specific inquiries from relatives but does not pass information to other individuals, organisations or governments. My government respects the need of the ICRC for this confidentiality, if its work is to have maximum effect. The ICRC has told the Australian Embassy in Jakarta that it is confident that it has had access to the great majority of prisoners in East Timor. Interviews without witnesses, mail from families abroad and from groups such as Amnesty International provide a good cross-check of information provided by the Indonesian authorities.