The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins their Australian affiliate the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) in condemning and expressing strong outrage over the Australian Federal Police (AFP abandoning their war crimes investigation into the murder of five Australian journalists in Balibo, East Timor in 1975.
Last week, following the 39th anniversary of the killings, MEAA and the IFJ expressed their concerns over the slow progression of the AFP investigation following reports that the AFP were yet to ask Indonesian authorities to help pursue the people responsible for the murders of the Balibo Five.
In 2009, the AFP launched a war crimes investigation into the deaths of Brian Peters, Malcolm Rennie, Gary Cunningham, Gregory Shackleton and Anthony Stewart. The investigation was launched following the inquest findings by New South Wales deputy state coroner Dorelle Pinch in 2007 that “the men died from wounds sustained when (they) were shot and or stabbed deliberately, and not in the heat of battle, by members of the Indonesian special forces, including (Commander) Christoforus Da Silva and Captain Yunus Yosfiah on the orders of Captain Yosfiah to prevent (them) from revealing that Indonesian special forces had participated in the attack on Balibo".
Yesterday, October 21, the AFP confirmed that they were abandoning their investigation of the killing of the journalists, sighting insufficient evidence. In a statement the AFP said “The AFP has conducted an extensive review of the investigation and identified challenges associated with establishing jurisdiction. The AFP has concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to prove an offence and as a result, the AFP has exhausted all inquiries in relation to this matter and will be taking no further action.”
MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren said, “This is an outrageous decision. It means that those who murdered our colleagues are literally getting away with murder. Last week the AFP admitted that over the course of its five year investigation it had neither sought any co-operation from Indonesia nor had it interacted with the Indonesian National Police. This shameful failure means that the killers of the Balibo Five can sleep easy, comforted that they will never be pursued for their war crimes, never brought to justice and will never be punished for the murder of five civilians. Impunity has won out over justice.”
IFJ Asia Pacific acting director Jane Worthington said "The murders took place in 1975. It wasn't until 2007 that a coronial inquest took place that identified the likely killers. And even then, another seven long years since have gone by with little discernible enthusiasm to pursue the killers. It sends a dreadful message that no matter the scale of the tragedy, governments can find plenty of excuses to sit on their hands and do nothing. The families of the slain Balibo Five journalists have been denied justice for 39 years and it seems no one is prepared to stop the killers of their loved ones from getting away with murder."
"When Australian authorities take years on a murder investigation yet fail to speak to anyone in the country where the killers reside, then that sends a signal that impunity is more powerful than justice. And this rising tide of impunity means no country is safe for journalists."
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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