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Troops accused of sexual harassment

South China Morning Post - February 21, 2000

Reuters in Dili – Australian troops in East Timor have been accused of sexual harassment of local women, the second such incident since multinational troops were sent in, a force spokesman said on Monday.

Major Mark Tanzer said the allegations said that "four to five" Australian soldiers had exposed their genitals and solicited sex from a group of East Timorese women. The soldiers had yet not been identified, he said. "The nature of the allegations is very disappointing," he said. The incident was alleged to have occurred at a roadside kiosk in Maliana, southwest of the capital Dili, on January 9. The soldiers, from the force called Interfet, were said to have been drinking beer.

It is the second report of sexual harassment by Australian soldiers in East Timor and comes two days ahead of Interfet's official handover to a UN peacekeeping operation, in which Australians will still play a major part.

Major Tanzer said it had not yet been possible to substantiate the claims in the Maliana case. The case was originally reported to UN civilian police in the area and is now being investigated by military police.