18 December 2008

East Timor uneasiness on troops

The Age East Timor uneasiness on troops Lindsay Murdoch 18 December 2008 - MANY complaints against Australian soldiers in East Timor remain unresolved because there is no formal means to deal with them, Australian MPs have been told.

In one case, the family of a Timorese man killed when his motorcycle and an Australian army truck collided in August 2007 has received no direct condolence or compensation even though UN police found the Australian driver "bore the greater responsibility for the accident as he was speeding".

The victim's family has been unable to pursue civil damages or settlement because Australian soldiers serving in the International Stabilisation Force in East Timor are not answerable to either the country's court system or the UN mission in Dili.

Human rights activists say Australian soldiers serving in East Timor effectively have immunity for any crimes they commit, both on and off duty.

In 2006, the Howard government refused requests by the government in Dili and the UN for Australians troops being sent to Dili to quell violence to be put under UN command.

Under the UN's system of accountability, national forces operating in foreign countries must answer to an outside body.

La'o Hamutuk, a Timorese non-government organisation, told the Australian Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence the Australian forces in East Timor should be integrated into the UN peacekeeping force chain of command.

La'o Hamutuk told the committee's Inquiry into Human Rights Mechanisms in Asia-Pacific there needed to be a "clear, independent and transparent process for Timorese citizens to report to resolve complaints against the Australian military".

La'o Hamutuk's submission cites repeated efforts by human rights lawyer Natercia Barbosa de Deus to arrange a meeting between the ISF and the family of the dead motorcyclist, but each time the meetings were cancelled.

Ms de Deus was told the driver of the ISF vehicle was scared of meeting the family and left the country soon after the accident.

The man's death meant his wife could not meet rental payments for where she was living with five children. They now live in a shack with 20 to 30 others.

La'o Hamutuk also criticised the Australian soldiers for the way they patrol the streets.

"Carrying long arms at all times, on and off duty, even where there is a low security risk, such as speaking to small children, playing sport, shopping in supermarket, eating at a restaurant or relaxing at the beach, is inappropriate and insensitive to a population traumatised by a brutal military occupation," it said. "It makes people feel unsafe."

About 750 Australian soldiers are deployed with New Zealand troops in the ISF.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"It makes people feel unsafe."?? I think you mean "it makes people feel safe" because....it eliminates the risk that they will be murdered or maimed by rampaging F-FDTL soldiers or rogue PNTL officers or civilians carrying weapons that have been illegally transferred to them....because it eliminates the risk of gang violence - killings and arson and mob rule in the streets of Dili rather than the rule of law....because it means that they have been rescued and for the time being secured from calamitous politics and disasters orchestrated by the elite - many of whom have a long history of waging violence as a means of achieving political goals at the expense of the lives of many thousands compatriots...because the soldiers are not there to commit a genocide as was the case with the illegal Indonesian occupation. Is all of this not so? Would they feel safer were the Australian soldiers not there? Would they feel safer with F-FDTL soldiers maintaining peace and order? Or the PNTL, perhaps? Such a submission is clearly absurd and deserves to be rejected and ignored.