Sir Peter Cosgrove ‘dismayed’ to learn of New Zealand’s secret probe into allegations of torture by Australian soldiers in East Timor

Former governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove says he is “dismayed” at the revelation of Australia’s closest ally, New Zealand, secretly investigated torture allegations against soldiers under his command in East Timor in 1999.

Four Corners has revealed the New Zealand military ordered its legal officer within the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET), Andrena Gill, to discreetly investigate claims that details were tortured in a secret Australian-run interrogation center in Dili in 1999.

Secret documents seen by the program reveal Captain Gill’s report raised alarm bells in the top ranks of the New Zealand Defense Force, with a senior official contemplating the extraordinary step “that we do not hand details that we have captured to INTERFET for interrogation”.

Sir Peter – who at the time was an Australian general and commander of the widely lauded INTERFET peace-making mission – told Four Corners in a statement after the program aired that this was “the first I have heard” of New Zealand responses to alleged detainee mistreatment.

“I am dismayed to see it alleged that a New Zealand legal officer was instructed to conduct a secret investigation into Australian actions in INTERFET,” he said.

“Equally, I am dismayed at the claim that any people detained by NZ personnel would not be placed in the INTERFET Detention facility.”

Andrena Gill sitting at her table
New Zealand legal officer Andrena Gill was ordered to discreetly investigate claims that Australian soldiers had tortured detainees in East Timor.(Four Corners: Dave Maguire)

Four Corners also revealed the chief of the New Zealand Defense Force despatched an envoy to meet the then-Major General Cosgrove in East Timor to reinforce the Kiwi “unease” about the allegations.

Sir Peter – who said he “did not see the Four Corners episode where this issue was raised” – has denied any senior New Zealand military official raised concerns with him.

The New Zealand Defense Force told Four Corners that its then-chief, Carey Adamson, ordered a senior military official to raise concerns with Major General Cosgrove.

“The New Zealand Defense Force was made aware of concerns of detainee mistreatment that were raised by the NZDF Legal Officer in October 1999,” it said.

“Upon receipt of the concerns raised, in November 1999, the Chief of the New Zealand Defense Force at the time instructed the NZ senior national officer to raise issues with [Major General Cosgrove] and recommended [Major General Cosgrove] initiate an investigation.

“This was an appropriate response consistent with our obligations under international law.”


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