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Prosecution of East Timor's legal counsel


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I have read of the contribution the 2/2 Commando Battalion made to stemming the tide in Timor during the second World War.  My life and that millions of other Australians might have been very different otherwise.  I see that the people of Timor made major sacrifices to help our troops, but they suffered a lot without much help from our government from 1975 until Interfet in1999.  Paul Symon then of our army, but now head of ASIS, did much of the negotiation with the East Timorese Falintil organisation at that time.

There has been legal jousting between our government and that of East Timor right up until mid last year. Our government now seems to want to continue the legal battle further by prosecuting an Australian, Bernard Collaery, who was East Timor's legal counsel when it took its case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after it emerged that we might have used unfair tactics in negotiating a 2004 sea boundary and gas offtake agreement. Mr Collaery has served as Attorney General of the ACT. He also represented two East Timorese in court in 1992 after white crosses were erected in Canberra to remember over 100 East Timorese shot in a Dili cemetery the year before.

It is vital to our system of government, both nationally and internationally, that legal counsel are free to do their job without being punished for it. The UN spells out this immunity in relation to various  parties working for its different bodies, including the ICJ, and extends this protection to the time after they have finished their UN-related task. We have signed up to this.

Just as I, and I am sure others,  remember the debt of gratitude we owe to the members of the 2/2 Commando, I hope the association will remember the debt it owes to the people of Timor and ask for an end to the prosecution.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thank you Geoff.   This is an important contribution.  I do hope it might be possible for the Association to express concern about this action by Minister Porter.  The  actions by our government in 2004 brought no credit to our country and compromised the deep ties of friendship between the people of Timor Leste and Australia.   A just outcome has been achieved in finalising the maritime boundary between Australia and Timor Leste.   It is now time to deepen and strengthen the people to people and government to government relationships. 



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