Subject: East Timorese accuse militia of widespread rapes

East Timorese accuse militia of widespread rapes

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Abducted East Timorese women were being used as sex slaves by pro-Jakarta militia now operating out of West Timor, said Kirsty Sword-Gusmao, wife of independence leader Xanana Gusmao.

Sword-Gusmao said 33 pregnant East Timorese women recently returned from West Timor after being abducted, raped and forced into sexual slavery by militia.

"These women told how they were forced into being sex slaves for the TNI (Indonesian military) backed militia. They are all pregnant," Sword-Gusmao said on Friday.

In launching a memorial for women raped in war, Australian Sword-Gusmao cited the case of 15-year-old Juliana Dos Santos, who she said was still being held as a sex slave in West Timor.

Juliana was kidnapped on September 6, 1999, from a church in the town of Suai in East Timor -- site of a militia massacre.

Aged then 14, she was raped by a militia leader who had killed her brother and was then taken into West Timor.

"Her captor paraded her when pregnant at the border in front of her parents, family and friends as a war trophy," she said.

"Very recently, with TNI present, she signed a statement claiming she loves her captor...and wants to remain in West Timor, Indonesia with him," she said.

"Juliana needs to be home with her mum and family so that she can feel safe and start the healing process from her dreadful ordeal."

Sword-Gusmao said it was impossible to know how many East Timorese women had been raped or were being kept as sex slaves, partly because humanitarian agencies had limited access to West Timor's refugee camps and because of the stigma attached to rape.

She said the rape of East Timorese women had been a problem since Indonesia first occupied the territory 25 years ago, but that it had escalated dramatically following last year's independence vote which sparked a rampage of violence by militia.

Militia in West Timor continue to launch attacks into East Timor despite assurances from Jakarta it is acting to halt them and despite the presence of U.N. peacekeepers in East Timor.

Sword-Gusmao said an East Timorese women's organisation had found that before and after the independence ballot women were systematically raped by militia and Indonesian soldiers.

"These acts of violence were planned, organised and sustained with the militia and soldiers conniving together to abduct women and share them like chattel," she said.

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