East Timor


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East Timor is a territory of 19,000 km2, located between Australia and Indonesia.

The eastern part of Timor—an island among many in the Pacific Ocean—was a Portuguese colony from the 16th century to 1975. In December that year, Indonesia—its giant neighbor, with almost 200 million inhabitants, against the 700,000 of Timor - invaded the territory by air and sea.

Many were immediately killed, while their villages were burned down to the ground. Others run to the mountains in the heart of their land, and organized a resistance movement. These brave peasants—and their sons—have opposed the barbarian Indonesian soldiers for 23 years now. Tortures, rape, all kinds of physical, sexual and psychological violations, violent repression and brutal murder have been the daily life of the Maubere people (the original people of East Timor) since.

Timor voted for independence in 1999 and is now administered by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor. UNTAET is empowered to exercise all legislative and executive authority. The main parties are united in the National Council of Timorese Resistance. BACK TO TOP

Links on East Timor

Women's situation
Domestic violence against women is a significant problem in East Timor.  It is alleged widely that TNI-backed militias raped numerous women during the September 1999 violence in East Timor, and kept many as sex slaves. Kirsty Sword Gusmao, wife of East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao, reported to the international press in November that 33 pregnant East Timorese women returned to East Timor and claimed that they had been abducted and forced to serve as sex slaves for the TNI in West Timor, Indonesia.  Rape is a punishable offense, as specified by Indonesian law.  Few cases of rape have been prosecuted in the courts, although there was one indictment and numerous charges during the year.  The NGO FOKUPERS offers some assistance to women who have been victims of violence.

Customary practices in East Timor discriminate against women.  For example, in some regions or villages where traditional practices hold sway, women may not inherit or own property.  More importantly women's groups are concerned that the CNRT is encouraging women to resolve rape and domestic violence cases through traditional rules, which usually provide only for compensation to be paid to the victim.  UNTAET regulations implement the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; however, discrimination complaints were not a priority during the year, and no cases are known to have been reported. There were no reports of gender-based employment discrimination during the year.  Women usually deferred to men when job opportunities arose at the village levels.

East Timor Women against Violence (ETWAVE) is an East Timorese human rights NGO that advocates on behalf of women.  FOKUPERS, a women's organization, has set up a women's and children's shelter for victims of domestic violence and incest.

Read more about East Timorese women's situation


Political situation
East Timor made significant progress in establishing its institutions of democracy and governance; however, during its first full year of independence from Indonesia, reconstruction and recovery from the September 1999 violence that ravaged the territory was a central focus of activity, and numerous problems remained.  In a U.N.-administered consultation vote on August 30, 1999, an overwhelming majority of East Timorese voted against autonomy (and, in effect, for independence from Indonesia), and in early September 1999, the U.N. Secretary General declared the ballot results to be "an accurate reflection of the will of the East Timorese people."  As a result, in October 1999, the Government of Indonesia approved revocation of the 1978 Indonesian parliamentary decree that annexed East Timor, allowing for the establishment of the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which is mandated by the U.N. Security Council to establish a democratic government in East Timor.

UNTAET established a governing structure, the East Timor Transitional Administration (ETTA).  With the addition of the Foreign Affairs portfolio in October 2000, the ETTA cabinet consisted of nine ministries, four of which were headed by UNTAET officials and five of which were headed by East Timorese.  UNTAET appointed members of the NCC and the cabinet in close consultation with the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), a political umbrella of pro-independence parties.  An UNTAET-appointed National Council (NC) replaced the NCC in late October.  The NC is comprised entirely of East Timorese.  In the latter part of the year, divisions within the CNRT complicated the political situation.  Under UNTAET regulations, Indonesian law applies throughout East Timor, except in areas in which UNTAET specifically has repealed laws or superceded them with its own regulations.

On 30 August 2001, the people of East Timor held an election for a Constituent Assembly that will lead the territory to full independence in 2002. The Assembly has 88 members, 13 elected in single seat constituencies and 75 elected by proportional representation. The Frente Revolucionaria do Timor Leste Independente (Revolutionary Front of an Independent East Timor) won a landslide victory garnering 55 seats in the Assembly.

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao sworn in on 20 May 2002 the first sovereign government of this brand new country. Gusmao, who himself was sworn in after the independence declaration just after midnight swore in Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and a 24-member cabinet. Dignitaries from 92 nations, including former US president Bill Clinton and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, attended the ceremony, held in front of the former Portuguese governor's palace which will house the new government.


Major parties  
  • Frente Revolucionária do Timor Leste Independente (Revolutionary Front of a Independent East Timor)
  • Partido Socialista Democrata (Social Democratic Party)
  • Partido Democratico
  • Associação Social-Democrata Timorense (Timorese Social-Democratic Association)

Political resources on East Timor


Links on East Timor

Women's situation

Political situation

Political resources