Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: IANSA: East Timorese Refugees in Militia-Controlled Camps

East Timorese Refugees in Militia-Controlled Camps 
by Diane Farsetta, ETAN

from The Devastating Impact of Small Arms & Light Weapons on the Lives of Women: A Collection of Testimonies, Edited by Magdalene Hsien Chen Pus, WILPF for Int'l Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) Women's Caucus

On August 30, 1999, the East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia in a United Nations (U.N.)-supervised referendum, ending 24 years of brutal, illegal Indonesian military occupation. Immediately following the ballot, the Indonesian military (TNI) and militias it formed, armed, and trained conducted a scorched earth campaign in East Timor. Some 300,000 East Timorese were forced to flee into the mountains and more than 260,000 were moved across the border into West Timor (Indonesia), often at gunpoint. In addition to displacing 70 percent of East Timor’s population, the TNI and its militias killed an unknown number of people at least 1500 in September 1999 alone and raped hundreds of women and girls. While East Timor is now free of Indonesian troops, TNI and militia terror remains the daily reality for the approximately 100,000 East Timorese who remain in refugee camps in West Timor. One of these refugees is Juliana dos Santos of Suai, East Timor.

Juliana was fifteen years old on September 6, 1999, when militia attacked the Suai churchyard, where thousands of East Timorese had taken refuge from the violence. Juliana saw militia leader Igidio Mnanek kill her brother in the attack, and she hid with her aunt in the priest’s house. Igidio found them and seized Juliana, proclaiming, “This is the one I want to be my wife.” When the women tried to resist, he fired his gun into the air and took Juliana away. Later that day, Igidio took Juliana to see her mother and aunt. While the four people faced each other, he placed a gold chain around Juliana’s neck, saying “now she is officially my wife.” He then forced Juliana, his “war prize,” into West Timor.

Juliana’s distraught mother was later able to arrange a meeting with her sole remaining child. However, Igidio insisted on being present. “Igidio Mnanek was there with four of his goons. Juliana didn’t say anything but was in tears,” reported Galuh Wandita, a senior U.N. human rights official following the case.

Kirsty Sword-Gusmâo, an Australian human rights activist and wife of East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmâo, has worked to gain Juliana dos Santos’ freedom, bringing her case before the U.N. Human Rights Commission. “What Juliana has endured to date is inhumane by anybody’s standards,” she stated. After being gang-raped in West Timor, it is reported that Igidio paraded Juliana around the refugee camp, saying, “This is the scum of the pro-independence fools who crow like roosters and die like mice.”

Sword-Gusmâo stresses that Juliana’s case is, unfortunately, not unique: “Other East Timorese women being held by militias in similar circumstances must also be returned… Juliana is one of many hundreds, perhaps thousands. They have no voice.”

The January 2001 U.N. Women and Human Rights report stated: “According to refugees who have returned from West Timor, women are regularly taken from camps and raped by soldiers and militia members. An Indonesian soldier reportedly held a number of refugee women captive in his house.”

On June 6 and 7, the Indonesian government carried out a sham registration of the refugees in West Timor. With the Indonesian police and military providing “security”, militia-associated groups asked refugees if they wanted to return to East Timor or resettle within Indonesia. There were only twelve international observers (accompanied by TNI) present for over 500 registration sites. Domestic observers reported widespread disinformation, intimidation, and fraud. The final results indicated that over 98 percent of refugees wish to resettle in Indonesia, which contradicts the experience of the U.N., other international and local humanitarian organizations in the West Timor camps. Unless the international community rejects the registration, and the militias are disarmed and disbanded, the plight of Juliana dos Santos and many others will continue.

see also: ETAN speech at "Guns Know No Borders" Rally at UN

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