Reporters Without Borders

Open letter to PM Kevin Rudd regarding the Balibo investigation

Open letter to PM Kevin Rudd regarding the Balibo investigation

Published on Wednesday 16 September 2009.
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The Hon Kevin Rudd MP Prime Minister Parliament House Canberra Act 2600 Australia

Paris, 16 September 2009

Dear Prime Minister,

Judicial independence is one of the pillars of democracy and the rule of law. It is a requirement that should be applied without restriction in the Australian police investigation into the murder of five British, Australian and New Zealander journalists in October 1975 in Balibo, East Timor. The international community and journalists throughout the world are following the progress of this investigation and your government’s support for the work of the police and judicial authorities.

While we welcome the announcement by the Australian federal police on 9 September that it is opening a criminal investigation, we are worried about the statements made by certain Australian officials in response to the Indonesian government’s reactions.

The hostility expressed by Indonesia President Susilo Bambamg Yudhoyono and foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda as regards any cooperation with the Australian police’s new investigation is contrary to international justice and the obligation to combat impunity.

We urge you to find the political, diplomatic and judicial means to bring the perpetrators and instigators of this multiple murder to justice. It is of course important to maintain good relations with neighbouring countries, but the need for justice must prevail. And we are convinced that you will find support in Indonesia for the requirement that the truth be known and justice rendered.

Some of the authorities in Jakarta have constantly treated the Australian investigation into the Balibo murders with contempt. But the impunity enjoyed by certain Indonesian soldiers and paramilitaries is an insult to the victims and their families.

On 16 November 2007, New South Wales coroner Dorelle Pinch issued the conclusions of her inquest into the deaths of British cameraman Brian Peters, British reporter Malcolm Rennie, Australian reporter Greg Shackelton, Australian soundman Tony Stewart and New Zealander cameraman Gary Cunningham on 16 October 1975 in Balibo.

Two other foreign journalists, Australian Roger East and Dutchman Sander Thoenes, were killed later in East Timor.

The very detailed inquest clearly showed that Indonesian army officers committed war crimes. In particular, it established the involvement of special forces officers Yunus Yosfiah and Christoforus da Silva, and the head of the Indonesian special forces, Maj. Gen. Benny Murdani.

More than two years ago, on 6 June 2007, Reporters Without Borders asked the Australian government to do everything possible to ensure that those responsible for these murders were brought to justice.

We urge you, Prime Minister, not to yield to Indonesian diplomatic blackmail, which for too long has resulted in your country remaining silent on this matter.

We trust you will live up to our expectations.

Sincerely,

Jean-François Julliard Secretary-General

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