BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home  April news

[Statements in the US and Indonesian press quoting Xanana Gusmao as saying that an international crimes tribunal is not a priority for the East Timorese give the impression that he does not consider a tribunal as important to the East Timorese. However, these and other comments by Xanana reveal that he considers that the establishment of an international crimes tribunal is a role that the international community must play since East Timor doesn't have the resources to do it themselves. - BD]

[excerpt: 18 min 56 secs into interview]
"DN: What about real War Crimes tribunals for the Indonesian military? Where does that now stand Xanana Gusmao?
XG: I don't know. We hope that the international community can do the job. You can understand we are in a very difficult phase, in a very difficult transition to independence. We know that we will face other difficulties in the last period of independence, and we believe that if the international community follows the example of the United States court about Lumintang it will not only help us East Timorese, but essentially to help the democratisation in Indonesia, because I believe that the Indonesian society also is waiting a chance of clarifying all the problems in the past.
DN: The Indonesian government says they'll try the people who they feel committed crimes but they are yet to do this. Do you think an international war crimes tribunal should be set up?
XG: It is the job of the international community. We East Timorese, and East Timor is a very small country and, we cannot be ambitious to be, to be a model of justice, but we hope the international community can do that. I believe that the (?) project of searching all the genocide crimes in East Timor from 1975 can give to the international community enough proof of the involvement of certain generals. Now, international community is more looking at August and September 1999 events and forget all the past from 75 from the invasion." links to RealAudio of broadcast of April 4, 2001 edition of Democracy Now!



In August 1999, the overwhelming majority of East Timorese voted to end more than a quarter century of Indonesian occupation. From the time of its invasion in 1975, the Indonesian military killed one third of the population, more than 200,000 Timorese. Throughout, the Indonesian army was armed, financed and trained by the United States. This, right though the independence vote.
As the Timorese went to the polls, the Indonesian military and its militias razed East Timor to the ground, thus turning the birth of the fledgling nation into a humanitarian disaster.

The man who led the resistance from the mountains and eluded the military for 17 years was Xanana Gusmao. In November 1992, he was captured and imprisoned in Jakarta. His contact to smuggle out information was Kirsty Sword, a young Australian woman working underground. Her nom de guerre was Ruby Blade. When Timorese students took over foreign embassies in Jakarta to call attention to the genocide occurring in their country, Sword was their contact to the outside world and the media.

When Gusmao got out of prison in 1999, she worked with him in Indonesia.  They married last summer and recently had a baby. In March, Kirsty Sword Gusmao testified before the United Nations Human Rights Commission about violations against East Timorese women that continue to this day. Although the Indonesian occupation is officially over, 100,000 East Timorese are still in refugee camps in neighboring West Timor. Indonesian military and militia forced many of them out of East Timor after the vote. The most vulnerable are the women, many of whom have been raped and turned into sexual slaves of militia members.

Last week, independence leader Xanana Gusmao, widely predicted to become the nation’s first president, quit the National Council. This move caused an up roar.

This is the only interview they have granted on this trip to the United States.


Kirsty Sword Gusmao, longtime underground activist. She was Gusamao’s contact while he was imprisoned in Indonesia and is currently campaigning for the release of Juliana Dos Santos and other Timorese women being held by Indonesian militiamen in East Timor.

Xanana Gusmao, independence leader, president of CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance) who just resigned as head of the National Council.  E-mail:

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