Australia, East Timor in UN court

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East Timor wants the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order Australia to hand over all the documents it seized during a raid on the office of one of its lawyers.


Domestic spy organisation ASIO in early December raided lawyer Bernard Collaery’s office in Canberra and seized documents relating to an East Timor dispute with Australia over a $40 billion oil and gas treaty.

Dili argues the documents belong to East Timor and it has the right to protect them under international law.

East Timor wants the court to provisionally rule that all of the documents seized be immediately handed over to the ICJ.

It also wants all copies to be destroyed and a list of which documents were passed to which people, along with their job description.

“In addition to the return of our property, Timor-Leste is seeking the protection of all its communications that attract legal privilege,” said East Timor’s Minister of State Agio Pereira in a statement.

The documents relate to East Timor’s challenge to the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea.

Dili has accused Australia of bugging its cabinet office during 2004 treaty negotiations.

Attorney-General George Brandis approved warrants for the December 3 raid on Mr Collaery’s office and another raid on the home of a former spy who is a key witness in East Timor’s pre-existing case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, established to adjudicate on disputes between States.

A final decision on the case could take a year or more.

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