When war criminals hide out in the open

By Piers Akerman

September 16, 2008 12:00am

THE Rudd Labor Government has dudded its constituency on almost every domestic issue and is now turning its back on core principles of humanity.

Four years ago, Labor MPs Nicola Roxon and Tanya Plibersek bared their concerns for the victims of war crimes living in Australia in an interview with the 7.30 Report and expressed the hope those victims would never have to worry about being confronted by their torturers in the streets of their adopted nation.

According to Roxon, now Rudd’s Health Minister: “This is a very important issue of principle, it’s an issue about bringing people to justice if they have committed terrible crimes, and we’re talking about some of the most horrific sorts of events that probably you and I or your listeners can’t even conceive of. I don’t want people who are fleeing from those sorts of circumstances overseas and trying to make a new life here in Australia to find that they are going to run into at the shops someone who was actually perpetrating that violence against them.”

And Plibersek, now Minister for the Status of Women added: “There are survivors of torture and abduction and many people who have lost family members in countries around the world who live in Australia and who can point to people in their own community whom they accuse of committing these crimes.”

All well and good, but Joanna Ximenes, an East Timorese woman living in Sydney, says she has identified the man who she believes was responsible for the death of her brother, and the Rudd Government seems reluctant to treat the matter seriously.

Channel 7’s Today Tonight reporter James Thomas last week aired two segments about an East Timorese man, Guy Campos, who Ximenes accuses of contributing to the beating death of a young boy in 1979 and another woman, Odetty Moniz Alves-Platt, accuses of assisting Indonesian soldiers in seizing her father in 1979 and placing him aboard an Indonesian military helicopter, never to be seen again.

Thomas’ files contain further accounts from others who claim that Campos collaborated as a spy with the Indonesian special forces and participated in a number of acts of torture.

Naldo Rei, author of Resistance: A Childhood Fighting for East Timor, identified Campos as one of a number of intelligence officers who beat him with an iron rod until he was unconscious. Jose Belo, another East Timorese, says Campos was among the collaborators who tortured him with electric shocks, kicking and beating in 1995.

But it would seem that is insufficient for Home Affairs Minister, Bob Debus, to take an interest and not good enough for the Australian Federal Police, who seem to be dragging their feet even though Campos is in Australia on a 90-day pilgrim’s visa issued in connection with World Youth Day and is scheduled to leave the country next month.

East Timorese MP Jose Teixeira, the former minister for the East Timorese sea negotiation, told me he believes Campos should be held in Australia under Australia’s war crimes legislation, which, he says, was intended to ensure such accountability.

“One of Australia’s citizens is seeking to hold such a person accountable for his actions. It is fair and reasonable to take the view that, at this stage, Timor-Leste’s justice system would not dispense justice to either the alleged victim’s family or the potential accused,” he said.

“The prosecutorial arm is notoriously slow and inefficient in bringing matters before the courts in a timely manner. Similarly, even the United Nations has reported that the office of the Prosecutor General is extremely susceptible to political interference. Though it is matter for the Australian justice system, it is with utmost certainty that I can say, on the balance of convenience, this matter, left to the Timorese justice system, would be extremely unlikely to be dealt with in a timely and just manner for all.”

The MP is not alone in this view.

Dr Clinton Fernandes, a former major in the Australian army and the former principal intelligence analyst on East Timor for the Australian Defence Force, now the senior lecturer in strategic studies at University of NSW at the Australian Defence Force Academy, told me: “I am certain he (Campos) participated in and supervised the administering of beatings with iron rods, torture through electric shocks, and by placing the leg of a table on someone’s foot, and jumping on it, in violation of the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture.”

Government sources say action against Campos was not initiated on his arrival here because the Immigration Department relies on material prepared by International Criminal Tribunals, the International Court of Justice and the UN. However, the East Timor conflict has never been brought before an international criminal tribunal, or the ICJ or an enquiry by the UN, and its 2006 commission of inquiry was not into war crimes but the conflict which led to the fall of the last government.

The argument is specious and leaves one with the conclusion that Rudd Labor talked the talk on pursuing war criminals while in Opposition, but is not prepared to walk the walk in Government.

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