Table of Contents in the Asian Legal Encyclopedia
Jose Ramos-Horta in Asia
Introduction to Jose Ramos-Horta
José Ramos-Horta, born in 1949, leader of the resistance movement that battled the occupation of East Timor by Indonesia. Ramos-Horta won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his efforts to win self-determination for East Timor, a former Portuguese colony in Southeast Asia. He shared the prize with East Timorese bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo. He later held office as prime minister (2006-2007) and as president (2007- ) of East Timor.
Ramos-Horta was born in East Timor’s capital, Dili. In 1970 he was deported from the island of Timor by the Portuguese authorities for his involvement with the East Timorese independence movement. While in exile, he lived in several different countries. In 1983 he studied international law at The Hague Academy of International Law in The Netherlands. That same year he also studied human rights law at The International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. In 1984 he earned a master’s degree in peace studies from Antioch University in the United States. In 1987 Ramos-Horta became a senior associate member of St. Anthony’s College of the University of Oxford in England.
Shortly after Portugal withdrew from East Timor in 1975, Ramos-Horta became the foreign minister for the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Frente Revolucionária do Timor Leste Independente, or Fretilin), which declared East Timor’s independence and established a provisional government. Indonesia invaded East Timor late that year and forcibly annexed the region in July 1976. In the brutal occupation that followed, approximately one-third of East Timor’s population died, including Ramos-Horta’s sister and brother. Ramos-Horta left East Timor on a diplomatic mission just days before Indonesia invaded. In the following years Ramos-Horta, like many other leaders of the pro-independence movement, struggled for East Timorese independence from abroad.
Ramos-Horta represented Fretilin at the United Nations, which never recognized Indonesia’s annexation of East Timor, from 1975 to the mid-1980s. He was also the leader-in-exile of the National Council of Maubere Resistance (CNRM), the coordinating body of all East Timorese resistance groups. In addition, he directed the East Timorese Resistance Diplomatic Front Coordinating Commission. During the mid-1990s Ramos-Horta served as the executive director and a lecturer in the Diplomacy Training Program at the University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He also worked with the International Service for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 1999 the Indonesian government agreed to allow the East Timorese to decide whether East Timor should remain part of Indonesia or become an independent nation. In August of that year the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence, and the territory was subsequently placed under the transitional administration of the United Nations. In December Ramos-Horta returned to East Timor after 24 years in exile. He called for the prosecution of Indonesian military leaders for their alleged role in killing hundreds of East Timorese after the independence vote and for human rights abuses committed against the East Timorese under Indonesian rule. Until June 2001 he served as vice president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), which in mid-2000 established a reconciliation commission to investigate human rights violations committed between April 1974 and October 1999. Ramos-Horta also served as the foreign affairs minister in the transitional government of East Timor. When East Timor gained full independence in May 2002, he retained the position in the new government. After a period of violent disturbances in the country, Ramos-Horta stepped down from his ministerial post in June 2006. The following month he was appointed prime minister, replacing Mari Alkatiri, who resigned from the position amid escalating political unrest.
In 2007 Ramos-Horta was elected president of East Timor. He defeated Francisco Guterres, leader of Fretilin, the party that had governed East Timor since independence. As the country’s second president, Ramos-Horta succeeded former guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmão, who did not seek re-election. Although the post of president is largely ceremonial, hopes rose that Ramos-Horta could bring stability to the troubled country.” (1)