E Timor wants Australia to return documents

January 21, 2014 - 12:00:00 am
THE HAGUE: East Timor was “shocked” when Australian agents raided one of its lawyer’s offices, the top UN court heard yesterday, with Dili demanding the return of sensitive documents seized in the swoop.

East Timor has dragged Canberra to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague seeking the return of the documents relating to a controversial oil and gas treaty between the two countries which Dili wants torn up.

With billions of dollars in natural resources at stake, the cloak-and-dagger case could prove highly embarrassing for Australia, which yesterday again declined to comment on the case.

The raid “caused deep offence and shock to my country,” East Timor’s representative Joaquim da Fonseca told the first day of hearings at the ICJ, which rules in disputes between states.

“The government and the people of Timor-Leste feel a real sense of grievance at the manner in which they were treated by our large neighbour,” Da Fonseca said.

At the heart of the David and Goliath dispute is the treaty signed in 2006 between Canberra and Dili, shortly after East Timor’s independence from Indonesia. Australia allegedly used an aid programme as cover to bug East Timor’s government offices so it could listen in on discussions about the treaty.

The treaty “is invalid and ineffective because Australia secretly and unlawfully spied on Timor-Leste, bugging its government offices and listening in to highly confidential discussions,” East Timor said.