UNITED NATIONS, April 5 (Reuters) - U.N. officials are negotiating with Indonesia to free a 15-year-old East Timorese rape victim, one of many abused as a sex slave by violent militia, a human rights campaigner said on Thursday.
Kirsty Sword Gusmao, the Australian-born wife of Timorese freedom fighter Xanana Gusmao, has been been publicizing the case of Juliana dos Santos since September.
“Juliana is one of many hundreds, perhaps thousands. They have no voice,” Sword Gusmao said.
She told a news conference that Indonesian authorities “after a horrific silence” recently agreed to remove Juliana to a safe haven, but set conditions no one could accept.
Juliana, who now has a child, was kidnapped in September 1999 from a church in the town of Suai in East Timor following the territory’s overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia, which invaded the half-island in 1974.
To protest the vote, armed gangs supported by the Indonesian army went on a rampage, killing, looting, raping and burning nearly every building to the ground.
They marched 240,000 East Timorese across the border to Indonesian West Timor within a month. About 100,000, some 10 percent of the East Timorese population, are still there.
Sword Gusmao, who appeared at the news conference with her husband and baby son, said Indonesian authorities contacted the United Nations after she testified at a recent U.N. Human Rights Commission session in Geneva.
They suggested a family meeting on the border under the supervision of the Indonesian army, but did not mention whether Juliana’s baby could also come.
But the United Nations, which is administering East Timor, insisted that Juliana be left alone with family, without Indonesian guards. If Juliana decided to return home, she had to be able to leave “on the spot,” Sword Gusmao said.
“It is rather a ridiculous situation,” she said. “But in the absence of any international presence in West Timor, we are obliged to negotiate.”
Sword Gusmao said she feared Juliana may have “Stockholm syndrome”—the attachment of prisoners to their captors. With militia telling refugees that U.N. peacekeepers would rape them and then leave them to die, “she is probably unable to make an informed decision on whether she would like to remain,” Sword Gusmao said.
Nancy Soderberg, who was a senior American diplomat under the Clinton administration, brought up Juliana’s plight when she visited Jakarta last November. “Everyone gave Ambassador Soderberg their solemn word that they would follow up on Juliana’s case. Again silence,” Sword Gusmao said.
She said Juliana’s kidnapper was well known as he paraded her before other victims after she was gang-raped, saying, “This is the scum of the pro-independence fools who crow like roosters and die like mice.”
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