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Australia denies UN its secret files of Timor terror

Sydney Morning Herald

December 20, 2000

Lindsay Murdoch, Jakarta -- Australia has with held from United Nations prosecutors hundreds of hours of secret communication intercepts, which implicate dozens of people, including former armed forces chief General Wiranto, in last year's violence in East Timor.

Evidence collected by Australian and United States spy agencies include photographs of massacre sites and those involved, according to a Canberra-based defence intelligence specialist, Professor Desmond Ball.

Professor Ball says the Howard Government has a wealth of information documenting atrocities in East Timor, including unreported mass killings of Timorese students whose bodies were dumped at sea in the days after the UN-sponsored ballot. "The Australian intelligence agencies were able to provide the Government with a ringside seat at the mass killings and forced deportations that began when the result of the ballot was announced on September 4," Professor Ball says.

But Professor Ball, of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University, says that Australia has handed over only a "minuscule" amount of the evidence.

In a paper to be published next year in the London-based Pacific Review, Professor Ball says that despite sensitivities about releasing secretly gathered material "ensuring that evidence concerning gross violations of human rights will be brought to bear against war criminals not only serves justice but may also deter future violations".

Indonesian military officers are refusing to co-operate with UN investigators and Indonesian prosecutors, pursuing separate investigations, have failed to name General Wiranto.

Professor Ball says secret briefing papers prepared for the Government last year cited intelligence material revealing that General Wiranto's chain of command remained intact during the military-sponsored violence, with officers loyal to him in operational control. But Australian Government ministers insisted that they believed "rogue elements" within the armed forces were behind the violence.

A September 9 report by the Defence Intelligence Organisation obtained by Professor Ball said that the Indonesian military had used East Timor as a vehicle for its broader aspirations.

The report said that while the military's immediate aim was to retain East Timor as part of Indonesia "its broader and longer-term aim was to strengthen the position of the TNI [military] and Wiranto in the Indonesian political system."

It said the military was to employ all necessary force but with maximum deniability. "Wiranto has destabilised Indonesia by reintroducing violent confrontation and repression as a means of doing business."

The report said the military had embarked on a co-ordinated process of revenge, destruction of infrastructure and records, killing of key pro-independence leaders and both short and longer-term destabilisation of East Timor".

Throughout the violence many Indonesian communications were intercepted then decrypted by Defence Signal Directorate's station at Shoal Bay, near Darwin. Professor Ball says the United States provided additional intelligence.

At different times the US realigned one of its satellites controlled from Pine Gap, near Alice Springs. Among the dozens of Indonesians implicated by the evidence, Professor Ball says, is Major General Syafrie Syamsuddin, who prepared the plans for the military and militia operations.

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