13 Feb 2007

Australian rights activists criticise pact with Indonesia

10:38 am on 13 February 2007

Australian rights activists have criticised the government's security pact with Indonesia, telling parliament that it could help Jakarta put down separatist groups in the country.

The pact, signed in November, aims to improve relations between the two neighbours and underline Australian support for Jakarta's sovereignty over restive provinces like Papua.

But pro-Papuan independence groups and the Australian Civil Liberties Union told the Treaties Committee of the Australian Parliament, which must approve the pact, that parts of the document were at odds with the Australia's democratic values.

Civil Liberties Australia chief executive Bill Rowlings said the Australian parliament should insist on a yearly reporting and monitoring role in Papua, where separatists are waging a low-level insurgency against Jakarta.

He said monitoring is required to ensure the new treaty does not provide a cover for alleged human rights abuses in Papua.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last year the pact would lead to stronger anti-terrorism cooperation and joint naval border patrols, as well as joint civilian nuclear research and Australian sales of uranium to Indonesia.