Background on East Timor

CNN reports that East Timor has declared a state of emergency (2/12/08) after a new wave of violence, including a brace of assassination attempts on President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao; Australia is sending security forces to the country. A Not-So-Distant Horror: Mass Violence in East Timor by Joseph Nevins is a definitive and chilling account of East Timor’s terrible struggles for independence from Indonesia. In the Japan Times, Jeff Kingston wrote of this book:

“This is a gripping and powerful saga rooted in the horrible atrocities and deprivation endured by the East Timorese following Indonesia’s invasion in 1975. Indonesian security forces ruled ruthlessly until 1999, causing nearly 200,000 conflict-related deaths, imprisoning and torturing thousands more, while raping and plundering with abandon. A generation of East Timorese grew up where the rule of law was a distant rumor and human rights were routinely violated. Joseph Nevins briefly recapitulates this history, focusing on international complicity in these crimes against humanity, but mostly dwells on the troubling failure to secure justice.”

Another Cornell University Press title that puts this conflict into context is In the Shadow of “Just Wars”: Violence, Politics, and Humanitarian Action, by Médecins sans Frontières (edited by Fabrice Weissman). In the Virginia Quarterly Review, Patrick LaRochelle wrote:

“With insightful case studies of conflicts ranging from East Timor and Afghanistan to Sudan and Colombia, and thoughtful considerations of issues such as the responsibility of humanitarian aid workers in war crimes trials and the growing tension between Islamic, Christian and secular humanitarian NGO’s, In the Shadow of ‘Just Wars’ is a significant and sobering work that should be engaged by humanitarians, politicians, and responsible global citizens alike.”

Background on East Timor