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AFP fails to question Jakarta in Balibo Five investigation

Sydney Morning Herald - October 13, 2014

Philip Dorling – Five years after opening an investigation into the Indonesian military's killing of five Australian journalists at Balibo in East Timor in 1975, the Australian Federal Police hasn't yet asked Jakarta to help pursue the people responsible for what's been described as a war crime.

The AFP made the admission in answers to questions asked by independent Senator Nick Xenophon about the Balibo murder probe at a Senate estimates committee hearing in February.

But it took the Federal Police seven months to advise the Senate that "an active investigation" into the murder of the Balibo Five was ongoing. The AFP says the investigation has "multiple phases" and results are still forthcoming from inquiries overseas. But the AFP has not sought any co-operation from Indonesia and "has not interacted with the Indonesian National Police".

The AFP said the ongoing nature of the investigation made it inappropriate to elaborate on what international inquiries had been made. But it did reveal that members of the families of the victims were last updated on developments in the investigation in June 2013.

In November 2007, after a lengthy coronial inquiry, NSW magistrate Dorelle Pinch recommended that the killings of Australian journalists Brian Peters, 29, Malcolm Rennie, 28, Gary Cunningham, 27, Gregory Shackleton, 29, and Anthony Stewart, 21, in October 1975 be investigated by the AFP as a war crime.

Ms Pinch found that the journalists were not armed, were dressed in civilian clothes, attempted to surrender and were not killed in the heat of battle. "They were killed deliberately on orders given by the [Indonesian] field commander, Captain Yunus Yosfiah," she concluded.

In November 2013, four years into the investigation, Fairfax Media reported key witnesses in East Timor were yet to be interviewed and that relatives of the murdered journalists were concerned that the investigation had effectively stalled.

The AFP tried to arrange a further briefing of relatives last week before the release of its answers to Senator Xenophon's questions. Shirley Shackleton, widow of Greg Shackleton, said she was insulted by the lack of progress, which she considered was part of the desire of successive Australian governments to avoid trouble with Jakarta.

"Every government stood by while murder and genocide took place in East Timor because they were concerned about one thing – trade. They've never been concerned about human rights," she said.

University of NSW associate professor Clinton Fernandes, a leading expert on Indonesian war crimes in East Timor, called on the Australian government to press the AFP to conclude the investigation and seek extradition of the former Indonesian military personnel responsible for the murders of the five journalists.

"Instead of shedding crocodile tears over journalists killed by repressive regimes on the other side of the world, this case should be pulled out of deep freeze, to which it's been consigned for political reasons,", Dr Fernandes said.

A secret United States embassy cable published by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that Yunus Yosfiah, who rose to become an Indonesian army general and later a government minister, was placed on an Australian government immigration blacklist to ensure he never enters Australia's legal jurisdiction.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/national/afp-fails-to-question-jakarta-in-balibo-five-investigation-20141013-115ayu.html