Human rights in East Timor

Freedom for East Timor has come at a heavy price. When an overwhelming majority of East Timorese cast ballots for independence in August, retribution from their Indonesian conquerors was swift. A wave of violence left between 70 and 80 percent of the country’s buildings in ashes and up to 10 percent of its 850,000 inhabitants missing or displaced. In November, resistance leader José Ramos-Horta stopped at Yale to speak at a conference on East Timor sponsored by the Yale-Griffin Center for Health and Human Rights and the Health and Human Rights Committee of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health. He was once asked, he said, if the struggle for freedom was worth a single human life. “If the people of East Timor manage to build a society that is free of abuse, a country based on the rule of law, a country of genuine equality,” said Ramos-Horta, co-winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, “if we are able to build a country where everyone has basic necessities, where everyone has access to education, health care and good nutrition, then maybe I will say it was worth it.”