CAVR UPDATE, April-May 2003


NB:  this Update is also available in Indonesian and Portuguese.



  1. Public hearing on women and conflict
  1. Truth-seeking
  1. Community reconciliation
  1. Reception and victim support
  1. Public information and community outreach
  1. Leadership and management
  1. Finances
  1. Visits and visitors
  1. Amendment


Appendix: full report from Public Hearing on Women and Conflict

The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR – the Portuguese acronym) is a national, independent, statutory authority. The Commission is mandated to undertake truth-seeking, facilitate community reconciliation, report on its work and findings and make recommendations for further action. For further information, visit the CAVR website at

Comissao de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliacao de Timor Leste (CAVR)

PO Box 144, Dili, East Timor

Mobile 723 0699




 CAVR UPDATE, April – May 2003

‘Sometimes I got the feeling that my father wanted to talk about what had happened in the bush. On the Maubere Radio I had heard news about the Indonesian campaigns and about the atrocities committed. He had been there and I longed to know the truth. Acts of heroism and betrayal, people dying and abandoned, suicides and murders. But he was travelling back in time, avoiding my questions and mixing up the war against the Japanese with the war of Manufahi. When I tried to broach the subject of his painful experiences in the bush, he would shut up like a rock. Then he would weep silently. Like morning dew falling on stones’.

Luis Cardoso, The Crossing, A Story of East Timor, (1997) p. 145

1.  Public hearing on women and conflict

CAVR conducted a two-day public hearing on ‘Women and Conflict’, 28-29 April 2003. Held at the former Balide prison which now serves as the CAVR national office, the hearing exposed the realities of human rights violations against women in East Timor during 25 years of political conflict and war between 1974-1999.

The Hearing, which was presided over by the seven CAVR National Commissioners, led by Chairperson Aniceto Guterres Lopes, heard from 14 women who were both victims of violations and witnesses to violations against others, and a number of independent witnesses. Victims represented the whole period 1974-1999 and violations by all parties to the conflict at various stages.

Two women recounted being raped in 1975 by FRETILIN and UDT members respectively.  Another woman had three homes burned over the 25 years of the Commission’s mandate: in 1974 UDT members burned her home and took her possessions, in the 1980s the Indonesian military burned her home, and in 1999 the MAHIDI militia burned her home. A victim told that she was repeatedly violated by the Indonesian military after men from her village were exiled to Atauro island. 

Mr Mário Carrascalão, Governor of East Timor under Indonesia 1982-1992, gave sworn testimony. This is the first time that CAVR has heard direct and public testimony from a senior member of the Indonesian regime. Further submissions were made by the Indonesian National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), who sent a delegation from Jakarta for the hearing, a consortium of East Timorese women’s groups, a research team of Indonesian NGOs from West Timor who had studied conditions in 74 refugee camps in West Timor following the huge population movements of September 1999, and a former Indonesian civil servant involved in implementing the government family planning program in East Timor from 1983-1999.

The result was two days of compelling first-hand testimony from women, often deeply emotional and disturbing, mixed with a more studied analysis of the key institutions, policies and practices behind these violations. Across Dili, in homes, markets and workplaces, people followed the Hearing on television, and across the nation people were tuned in to the national radio live broadcast. As one foreign journalist travelling in the border district of Maliana on day two of the Hearings said, ‘It seemed like all of Maliana was tuned into the radio broadcast’.

The most lasting impression of the two days is the dignity and inner strength of the women who gave testimony. Again and again, as they relived the most terrible moments of their lives, women had to pause amidst tears to regain composure. They insisted that they wanted to continue speaking, that to tell their story was important to them and the time for silence about this was over.

‘My small village is in the hills where you can’t even drive a car. No leaders ever come to see us. But today, with the grace of God, the CAVR has opened a way for us women to come to the table and tell our stories to the nation’, said Olga da Silva Amaral as she opened her testimony to CAVR on the first day of the Hearing.

The Hearing is part of a wider inquiry into women and conflict being conducted by the CAVR Truth-Seeking Division. CAVR has commissioned the East Timorese NGO Fokupers and an international advisor, Karen Campbell-Nelson, to assist with this inquiry. The results of the inquiry will be included in the final report with recommendations.

Extra seating was made possible for the Hearing thanks to tents provided by the Japanese Engineering Group (JEG).

A longer report on the Hearing can be found at the conclusion of this Update.

Prime Ministerial visit

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri made an official visit to the CAVR National Office on 14 April. The Prime Minister asked to make the visit because he was unable to attend the opening of the new office, in the former Balide prison, on 17 February. The Prime Minister made a tour of the premises led by CAVR Chair, Aniceto Guterres Lopes, and took great interest in the historical features of the former colonial prison. The visit was also an opportunity to observe the work of the Commission close-up and meet staff in their workplace. The Prime Minister concluded the visit with a press conference. The PM told the media, ‘I am happy to see the CAVR at work because of the good results. There is still a lot to be done, but CAVR has the support of the Government… collecting our history will ensure that in future our children do not forget our story’.  (STL, 15 April 2003)

2.  Truth-Seeking

CAVR is obligated in law to inquire into human rights violations committed in East Timor on all sides between 1974-1999. Some 80 CAVR staff have been committed to this large and demanding undertaking. They include 52 statement takers (4 per sub-district, 2 men/2 women), 12 staff involved in reading, coding and entering statements in the data base, 12 research staff, and 4 international advisors. A range of methodologies are being used to undertake this inquiry including statement-taking, research, and public hearings. An active program of legal research on issues arising from this work is also underway, including discussions on international human rights law with researchers, led by the CAVR legal office. 

·         Statement-taking

To this point, CAVR has taken some 3700 statements from 39 of East Timor’s 65 sub-districts. These statements have been registered at the national office and are in the process of being read, coded and entered in the data base. Hugo Fernandes, Head of Truth-Seeking, expects statements taken to number 5400 by the end of June.  Three new staff joined CAVR as Statement-takers during April-May: Santiago F Belo (National Office), Octavio X Lopes and Gaspar de Sousa (both in the Lospalos district).  During this same period, Susana Barnes also joined CAVR to advise on statement taking and data processing, with particular reference to quality control. Susana formerly worked for Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) in East Timor and speaks Tetun. Ken Ward, who originally programmed the database, will return to East Timor in June to optimise a number of database issues as well as assist with other statistical database work.

·         Research

Research on the nine themes referred to in the February-March 2003 Update is in full swing. Field research, involving travel and interviews in many parts of East Timor, is being complemented by extensive literature review and collection of existing data inside and outside East Timor relevant to the themes. Dr Gerry van Klinken, an Indonesia expert currently based in the Netherlands, spent all of April at CAVR reviewing the research program and will return in July for a further review. Day to day research advice and back up is now being provided by Dr Akihisa Matsuno, an Indonesia and East Timor expert from Osaka University of Foreign Studies in Japan, who commenced work at CAVR on 28 April for a year working as a UN Volunteer supported by Denmark. Working with Hugo Fernandes, Head of the Truth-Seeking Division, Dr Matsuno is advising 7 East Timorese research staff and also working with 5 researchers from Fokupers, assisted by Dr Karen Campbell-Nelson (a lecturer from Artha Wacana Christian University in Kupang), responsible for the ‘women and conflict’ theme.  Dr Doug Kammen, an expert on the Indonesian military and currently a Fulbright lecturer at Universidade Nasional Timor Lorosae (UNATIL), is advising CAVR on its research into the structure, policies and practices of the Indonesian military/police. Dr Geoffrey Gunn has also recently joined CAVR volunteering his time for 3 months between teaching semesters at Nagasaki University in Japan to assist with research on international actors and self-determination.

The whole research team has a 2-hour discussion every week. This session allows researchers to know what other researchers are doing and assists in capacity-building. Discussions cover many topics, from the ABC’s of research to sophisticated methodological issues.  In early May CAVR recruited 26 East Timorese UNATIL students to undertake a cemetery survey to assist in research on the death toll during the period 1974-1999. Technical advice for this project is being provided by Dr Patrick Ball and his associate Romesh Silva of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). During April-May, extra efforts have been made to obtain published literature on East Timor, particularly in Indonesian, and to translate relevant parts of English-language literature to make this information more accessible for East Timorese staff. 

·         Public hearings

The CAVR Public Hearing on ‘Women and Conflict’, 28-29 April, is reported elsewhere in this Update. The next Public Hearing will be held 28-29 July on the theme of ‘Famine and Displacement’. This will be followed by a Public Hearing on ‘Political Party Conflict 1974-1976’, 25-27 August. In April, Julião da Costa Cristovão Caetano was appointed CAVR Public Hearing Officer.

·         Legal research

In addition to dealing with the day-to-day legal matters of the CAVR, the CAVR Legal Team – led by the CAVR Principal Legal Counsel, Patrick Burgess – is also responsible for providing legal assistance to the Truth Seeking and Reconciliation Divisions. The legal team is currently working with the Research Team to develop legal reference sheets on each of the nine research themes. These reference sheets provide legal definitions of human rights violations falling within that theme, summarise the relevant issues of international law, and provide suggested questions to ensure that witness statements cover every element of the violation. The legal team is also working with the Statement-taking, Coding and Database Teams to clarify a number of definitional issues which have arisen during the coding process. Clarifying these definitions will help to ensure accuracy in data entry, so that this data can be used to provide a reliable indication of the broad patterns of human rights violations in East Timor. 

Organising CAVR’s collection

CAVR is obligated in law not only to inquire into human rights violations 1974-1999 but also ‘to organise the Commission’s archives and records, as appropriate, for possible future reference’ (Regulation 2001/10, Section 43). Accordingly, CAVR is obligated to preserve the primary documentation it is generating, including reconciliation and truth-seeking statements and its voluminous research, for future generations and, therefore, to invest resources, space, and labour in this undertaking.  Added to this collection, which is growing rapidly, will be all the documents, books, periodicals, and other multi-media material bought or donated by organisations and individuals in and outside East Timor to assist CAVR’s truth-seeking function.

CAVR feels an acute sense of responsibility for this unique and comprehensive collection. It has recently set aside a room in the West wing for this purpose and, in May, met with Australian Volunteers Abroad (AVI) to request recruitment of an experienced records manager, with appropriate language skills, to advise CAVR on designing, equipping, setting up and managing a documentation centre and to provide capacity building for East Timorese staff.             

3.  Community reconciliation

As CAVR district teams moved into their third sub-district in April, the total number of perpetrator statements received stood at 369. Over the two month that have elapsed since then, the number has risen to 577. As at the end of May, CAVR has held 51 hearings for 264 of these cases. Two comments can be made. First, the figures show there is a high demand for these hearings. Perpetrators see them as an effective mechanism to be properly welcomed back into their communities, while victims and communities see them as both culturally relevant and due process for dealing with past violence. Second, the figures also show that demand is exceeding response and a backlog is developing.

However, following the joint assessment in March (see February-March Update) by the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and UNDP, funding has been approved to employ additional staff for the reconciliation process. This funding, expected early-mid June, will enable the number of direct CRP staff to be doubled and the processing of cases to be accelerated. It is envisaged that the new staff will assume the responsibility for ‘mopping up’ the cases still waiting hearings in previous sub-districts, as well as going ahead to any future sub-districts and setting up demonstration hearings which can serve as a clear model of what the process involves when a team first arrives in a new area.

CAVR has decided to give priority to people newly-returned from West Timor. This decision is based on the expectation that potential deponents from this group may intend to make use of the process following socialisation about reconciliation options  by CAVR teams working in West Timor. CAVR will therefore continue to meet returnees at the Batugade Transit Centre and to work closely with IOM and UNHCR to ascertain identities and addresses so that potential deponents can be invited to decide whether or not they wish to participate.

The evaluation of the reconciliation process referred to in the February-March Update  was completed in April. Interviews were conducted with 39 people who had participated in the reconciliation process - whether as deponents, victims, panel members or community observers. A report documenting the findings and recommendations of this study will be finalised in early June. Initial findings show an encouragingly high degree of reported satisfaction with the process from the communities interviewed. Criticisms received focussed on perceived limitations both in relation to the scope of the crimes that the Commission is mandated to deal with and in relation to the success the district teams have had in reaching all the potential deponents in each community.

·         7 April: Liquiça - Tibar: 1 Deponent, 1 Victim.

Reason for Hearing: Carrying weapons, accidental injury.

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         9 April:  Manufahi - 1 Deponent, 1 victim

Reason for Hearing: forced detention & intimidation.

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         16 April:  Dili - Fomento: 3 Deponents, I victim & community

Reason for Hearing: house burning, destruction of livestock, theft of food

Community Reconciliation Act: 1 day a week community service for three months,  Apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         23 April:  Covalima - Maucutar: 9 Deponents, 6 Victims & community

Reason for Hearing: house burning, theft of livestock, beatings, intimidation.

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         23 April: Oecusse - Sakato: 9 Deponents, 7 Victims, community

Reason for Hearing: Beatings, threats

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat, payment of tais

·         25 April:   Maliana – Saburai: 3 Deponents, 6 Victims

Reason for Hearing: Slander, threats, giving of false information

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat

·         30 April: Aileu - 4 Deponents, 10 Victims & community

Reason for Hearing: forced detention & intimidation, house burning, destruction of property, beatings

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         1 May:  Oecusse – Taiboko: 4 Deponents, 2 victims & community

Reason for Hearing: house burning

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         3 May: Dili – Fomento: 2 Deponents, 2 Victims, community

Reason for Hearing: house burning, carrying weapons.

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         5 May:  Oecusse – Pante Makasar: 3 Deponents, 5 victims, community

Reason for Hearing: militia membership, house burning, theft of livestock

Community Reconciliation Act: Fined 1 cow, 25kg rice, ceremonial money, apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         9 May:  Ainaro – Cassa 2 Deponents, community

Reason for Hearing: low level militia members

Community Reconciliation Act: Recommendation to attend forthcoming church activities, Apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         13 May: Liquiça – Fatumasi: 1 Deponent, I Victim, community

Reason for Hearing: House burning,

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat

·         13 May:  Ainaro – Suro Kraik: 2 Deponents, community

Reason for Hearing: militia membership, passing information to Indonesian military

Community Reconciliation Act: community service, cleaning church grounds 1 day per week, Apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         14 May:  Liquiça – Maumeta: 1 Deponent, community

Reason for Hearing: House burning, driver for militia, theft of livestock

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         23 May: Maliana – Beamarae: 3 Deponents, 1 victim & community

Reason for Hearing: militia membership and associated activities, destruction of property

Community Reconciliation Act: payment of 1 cow to one of the victims, a ceremonial breastplate to another, apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         23 May: Liquiça – Darulete: 5 Deponents

Reason for Hearing: Militia membership, carrying weapons

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat.

·         26 May:  Dili – Laskabubur: 2 Deponents, 2 Victims, community

Reason for Hearing: Militia membership, collusion with Intel

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound to repeat, attend church activities for a year.

·         27 May: Lospalos – Com: 10 Deponents, 1 victim & community

Reason for Hearing: theft, intimidation, low-level militia involvement

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat

·         27 May: Liquiça – Loidahar: 3 Deponents, 2 Victims & community

Reason for Hearing: Militia membership & carrying weapons

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat

·         30 May:  Liquiça – Dato: 10 Deponents, 6 Victims

Reason for Hearing: Militia membership, beatings, intimidation, membership of Indonesian police force

Community Reconciliation Act: Apologise, bound not to repeat.

4.   Reception (Acolhimento) and victim support

During the last two months, staff from the Reception/Victim Support Unit of CAVR  have helped facilitate the repatriation of a number of East Timorese from West Timor and have maintained a watching brief on returnees in several areas. This work on the East Timor side of the border has been complemented by a statement-taking program in West Timor which has involved intensive contact with the refugee community, including by CAVR National Commissioners and senior national staff.

·         In April, CAVR undertook comprehensive monitoring of returnees in the Suai area. Returnees in three sub-districts reported no security problems (thanks to the CAVR reconciliation program and the presence of PNTL) but had shortages of food.

·         On 14-15 May, CAVR visited a number of locations along the Oecusse-West Timor border to check on returns with local communities and administrators and to monitor how they are being received. 

·         On 22 May, CAVR staff joined UNHCR at the Batugade Transit Centre to receive 14 returnees on their way home from Kupang to Laclubar, Viqueque and Lospalos. CAVR staff welcomed the returnees at the border, briefed them on CAVR’s work and its relevance to their situation, and accompanied the largest group on their return journey to Laclubar.

·         On 29 May, 7 returnees passed through the Batugade Transit Centre en route to Baucau, Laga and Com where their arrival was witnessed by PNTL and UNPOL. As with other returnees, this group, which comprised family of ex-militias still serving with TNI, was welcomed by CAVR staff and briefed on the work of the Commission.

·         Victim hearings have been held in 13 sub-districts at the conclusion of the 3-month work program part in each sub-district.

Background on current repatriation situation

The movement of returnees from West Timor to East Timor continues but only at trickle strength. Indonesia has not allocated any further funds for repatriation purposes since December 2002, which means that persons willing to return have to do so by their own means (‘repatriasi mandiri’ or self-repatriation) or opt for resettlement in Indonesia (thus far Sumba and other islands). A meeting of agencies and Indonesian Government officials held in Bali on 10 May agreed, however, that organised repatriation is still in the interest of Indonesia and East Timor in order to stabilise the border areas. In the absence of funding from Indonesia, IOM has agreed to cover some costs, including registration fees and some of the administrative costs of SATLAK (the Indonesian Government body which serves as the Repatriation Focal Point and coordinates the repatriation activities of immigration, police, military and other departments), and to fund a factual information campaign amongst the refugee population conducted by local NGOs. The agreement struck in Bali also includes IOM support for a local Indonesian Government survey of East Timorese still in West Timor. The results of this survey, which will also collect data on how many wish to return to East Timor, will be available in June 2003.  According to the Indonesian authorities, approximately 9000 East Timorese families remain in West Timor of whom some 5300 families are ex-army, police and civil servants who benefit from pensions or salaries and are considered unlikely to repatriate. Indonesia estimates that about 2000 families (mostly unemployed subsistence farmers) constitute those most likely to return. 

5.  Public information and community outreach

The CAVR Community Outreach and Public Information Unit maintains active contact with the media through press releases and regular press conferences. Recent press releases covered CAVR statement taking and visits to West Timor,  a meeting with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri on 9 April and the Prime Minister’s visit to CAVR on 14 April, and a briefing in advance of the Public Hearing on ‘Women and Conflict’ (see above). To deepen media understanding of CAVR, National Commissioners met with editors of local press and foreign correspondents on 16 April for a detailed discussion about the role of CAVR in reconciliation and truth-seeking. In preparation for the Public Hearing on women, East Timor Television (TVTL) telecast a one hour panel discussion on  ‘women and conflict’ on 26 April. Participants were Commissioner Jacinto Alves, FRETILIN Member of Parliament Cipriana Pereira and journalists. The Public Hearing on ‘women and conflict’, held 28-29 April, was broadcast live on Radio Timor Leste and Radio Kmanek, reaching across East Timor and into the border areas of West Timor. The Hearing was also televised on TVTL and covered extensively by the local print media including Suara Timor Lorosae, Timor Post, Talitakum and Assosiasi HAK. On 17 May, Radio Kmanek broadcast live the victims public hearing held in the Dom Aleixo sub-district of Dili. Following invitations from CAVR, district media also covered some CAVR activities in the field, including reconciliation hearings and the victim hearings which are held at the conclusion of CAVR’s 3-month program in each sub-district.                                    

The CAVR radio team produced 8 programs for broadcasting throughout East Timor in April-May. Programs were carried by the national broadcaster, Radio Timor Leste and the Catholic Church network, RTK, and syndicated to all local community stations, including West Timor. Since its inception, the Team has produced 23 programs. Programs report on public hearings, community reconciliation hearings, victim hearings, news relating to refugees, carry a weekly CAVR bulletin which includes interviews with Commissioners and others, and provide a message service between refugees in West Timor and community/family members in East Timor. This service has been made possible through a grant from USAID.

During April-May, the Community Outreach and Public Information Unit (COPI) also distributed 1000 t-shirts, 800 stickers, and 13 CAVR banners, including in West Timor. The t-shirts carry the message: ‘CAVR: the road to peace’. In addition 20,000 posters and 20,000 brochures have been printed for distribution. These resources have been made possible thanks to a grant from the German Government.

In this same period, COPI staff collaborated with the New York based NGO, International Council for Justice, to produce a 40-minute video on justice in East Timor. CAVR district teams will show this video in villages throughout East Timor, commencing in June. 

Communication system

After taking delivery of a the final batch of equipment in May, the communications infrastructure is now complete in two wings of the Comarca and all sections are connected for voice and data. A wireless data link to UNDP is in the process of being installed to provide reliable internet access. A dialup connection to Timor Telecom is currently in use as an interim measure. Although it has taken longer to complete, using in-house expertise to install the voice/data infrastructure has saved the Commission an estimated US$50.000 and will leave a reliable voice/data system in place for years to come.

Installation of the communication system is being carried out by CAVR staff Romaldo Caetano and Steve Malloch. Steve Malloch commenced work on 28 April after being recruited as IT Advisor through the UNDP administered ‘200 list’ mechanism. Steve speaks Tetun, and as well as extensive computer and internet experience, including work with digital libraries, he has skills in electronics, including audio and video production. When complete, the new system will provide a secure internal computer network to enable efficient sharing of information with the Commission and the reliable backup of important data.

6.   Leadership and management

CAVR welcomed the following new East Timorese staff to its ranks during April-May:

·         Santiago F Belo (Statement-taking, National Office)

·         Octavio X Lopes (Statement-taking, Lospalos district)

·         Gaspar de Sousa (Statement-taking, Lospalos district)

·         Arthur Egas (Administration/Finance, Baucau Regional Office)

·         Maximiano Casimiro Luis (Logistics, Ermera District)

·         Julião da Costa Cristovão Caetano (Public Hearings/Statement-taking, National Office. Cris formerly worked for CAVR in Lospalos).

Responsibility for leading the CAVR, deciding policy, overseeing the implementation of the CAVR mandate, and maintaining links with major stakeholders continues to rest with the seven CAVR National Commissioners who were sworn in on 21 January 2002. The seven Commissioners, now in their second year of office, are: Aniceto Guterres Lopes (Chair), Father Jovito de Araújo (Deputy-Chair), Jacinto Alves (Truth-Seeking), Ms Olandina Caeiro (Treasurer), Ms Isabel Guterres (Reception/Victim Support),  José Estêvão Soares (Truth-Seeking), Rev Agustinho de Vasconselos (Reconciliation).

National Commissioners held plenary meetings every two weeks during April-May and  numerous ad hoc meetings in between plenaries to deal with the many issues that arise and require an immediate response. Plenaries are usually full-day meetings, but sometimes run into a second day when major events such as public hearings require extra attention and preparation. In April-May, Commissioners have travelled extensively in East Timor, including to Oecusse, to support regional teams and Commissioners at reconciliation hearings and in other ways. They have also made extended visits to West Timor as part of CAVR’s outreach to the refugee community there. The Commissioners, in particular the CAVR Chair Aniceto Guterres Lopes, also handle all media briefings and comment (see elsewhere in this Update) and high level liaison with Government, donors and others.   

The April-May period has been a busy period for internal management activities aimed at developing and improving the performance of all aspects of the CAVR’s work. Key activities have been:

·                     Completion of an internal institutional review, involving all National and Regional Commissioners and staff from the national and all district offices in a participatory review process. The report from this review will be completed early June, with recommendations for institution strengthening and performance improvement.

·                     Regional Commissioner evaluation. National Commissioners have completed a process of evaluation of performance of Regional Commissioners, involving interviews with Regional Commissioners, citizens and office holders in district communities and CAVR staff. The report on this process will be completed early June.

·                     Consolidation of co-ordination mechanisms between national and regional/district teams. This includes bi-weekly meetings at the national office between Regional Co-ordinators from teams across the country with the Senior Management Team at the National Office. This has greatly enhanced information flows and co-ordination across the commission.

·                     During this period no new staff positions were created. However, nine (9) Timorese staff were recruited for positions as staff left the commission or to fill positions of staff on maternity leave – three at the national office, one at a regional office and five in district teams.

·                     The Commission, with support from UNDP, consolidated at least in the short term a number of its key international advisor positions during this period. International advisors have been recruited, and have commenced work, in the following positions:

*                                Information Technology Advisor (Steve Malloch, commenced 28 April, to be funded by European Commission, currently bridge funding by UNDP)

*                                Community Reconciliation Advisor (Ben Larke, commenced 9 May, to be funded by European Commission, currently bridge funding by UNDP)

*                                Historical Research Advisor (Akhisa Matsuno, commenced 28 April, funded by Danish Government)

*                                Statement Taking/Processing Advisor (Susana Barnes, commenced 21 May funded by Danish Government).

·         The recruitment process for a senior advisor to the Truth Seeking Division has been completed with UNDP, and a preferred candidate selected. However, recruitment has been delayed as donor funds are not yet available.

International profile

As the Commission is in full operation, increasing interest has been shown by international media, NGOs and educational institutions.

The national public hearing on women in April drew international media interest and reports by BBC Radio, Associated Press, Sydney Morning Herald, the Jakarta Post, and Suara Pembaruan. The ABC (Australia) Radio National programme Asia-Pacific produced a feature on the work of the Commission.

The first anniversary of the Restoration of Independence brought renewed international media interest on Timor Leste, and the Commission featured in many reports. BBC World Service TV covered the activities of the Commission, especially the community reconciliation hearings, Time Magazine ran a story on the Commission, and Associated Press distributed  a story on the Commission.

Regional NGOs visited the Commission in this period, including Focus on the Global South (a Bangkok-based, Chulalongkorn University, social policy rights based organization, operating across the Asian region), Corso (NZ NGO with a background on Timor Leste), International Initiatives for Dialogue (Philippines-based advocacy NGO with a background on Timor Leste). All expressed much interest in the work of the Commission, and of maintaining ways of sharing information about the work and lessons of the Commission to their countries and regions especially in terms of human rights, peacebuilding and reconciliation.

Universities and publishing houses are also showing interest in the Commission. Oxford University Press will publish a book on international justice in coming months, and Commission staff have been involved in advising and assisting in the compilation of a chapter on the Commission’s work for this book. Professor Spencer Zifcak, Deputy President of the Australian Chapter of the International Council of Jurists (ICJ), recently presented a paper at a regional ICJ conference on the CAVR. This will soon be published. Commission staff are supporting research by a number of other academics into the work of the Commission, including Dr Helen Hill whose forthcoming book on East Timor includes a chapter on reconciliation.

7.  Finances

At CAVR’s request, the Office of the Inspector General commenced its second audit of CAVR finances in May. The audit is a major undertaking because CAVR has grown substantially since the first audit in 2002. Following the completion of the audit in June, the Inspector-General’s observations and recommendations will be communicated to donors.

On 22 May, the New Zealand government announced a generous, unearmarked grant of US$260,000 to CAVR. Also in May, USAID and CAVR signed an MOU for a third in-kind grant of US$24,162 towards CAVR’s weekly radio program and for media coverage of three public hearings. During the same period, CAVR engaged in discussions on funding with the Governments of Japan, Ireland, Switzerland, and Sweden, the European Commission and UNDP. 

During this period, CAVR commenced retrospective payment of taxes on five properties to the Land and Property Unit of the Ministry of Justice. 


President Xanana Gusmao praises ‘innovative’ work of CAVR

President Xanana Gusmao made special mention of the work of CAVR in a public lecture at the University of Melbourne, on 7 April 2003. Addressing the theme of ‘Challenges for Peace and Stability’, President Gusmao described the work of the Commission and said CAVR was ‘the first reconciliation Commission established in the Asian region’ and that ‘in this way, the small nation of Timor-Leste is leading in the promotion of human rights, and making a real contribution to the issue of how to build peace after years of conflict’.

Responding on behalf of the University, Professor Marcia Langton, Professor of Australian Indigenous Studies, praised President Gusmao’s inspirational contribution to the general cause of reconciliation. ‘I want to say here today how inspirational your work has been to many Aboriginal people… Your leadership in matters of reconciliation is a beacon which others could do no worse than follow’, she told the President.

The full text of President Gusmao’s lecture is available at


8.   Visits and visitors

2 April: briefing to US Ambassador, Joseph Rees.

7 April: discussion on funding with Ms Susannah Gordon, Consul-General for New Zealand, Ms Barbara Williams, NZ Aid Asia Program Manager and Ms Lynn de Silva, NZ Aid Program Manager for East Timor

8 April: meeting with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

9 April: meeting with President of the Parliament, Francisco Guterres “Lu’Olo”

14 April: tour of CAVR National Office by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri

24 April: Colin Stewart, UNMISET Political Affairs

April: Shalmali Guttal (Focus on the Global South, Bangkok)

April: Sue Cullen, CORSO (New Zealand NGO with background on East Timor)

7 May: Ruby Rose L. Lora, APCET – Asia Pacific Coalition for East Timor -International Initiatives for Dialogue (Philippines-based advocacy NGO)

13 May: visit by Christine Perkins, Australian Volunteers International, to discuss archiving needs of CAVR

14 May: briefing at CAVR for John Michell, Counsellor, Australian Mission

19 May: tour of premises and briefing for Intrepid tourist group

19 May: visit by John Waddingham, CHART, to discuss archiving.

21 May: meeting with ANTAR, Australians for native title and reconciliation

22 May: discussion on archiving with Pedro Fernandes, Director Government Archives

23 May: participation in Prime Minister’s Restoration of Independence Day celebration

27 May: meeting on funding with Ms Carol Hanna, Representative of Ireland Aid

27 May: tour of premises and briefing for Dr Gerhard Fulda, German Ambassador and Colonel Bruno Hasenpusch, German Military Attache.

28 May: meeting with John Pitt, Pitt and Sherry Consulting Engineers

29 May: meeting with Dr Rui Quartin Santos, Portuguese Ambassador, to discuss CAVR inquiry into 1975

9.  Amendment

The amendment to Regulation 2001/10 referred to in Update February-March 2003 was the subject of CAVR briefings and discussion in the National Parliament in May. The amendment provides for the update of language in the Regulation post-UNTAET, a 6-month extension for CAVR, presentation of CAVR’s final report to the President and the estabishment of a Committee to monitor and report on report recommendations. 

The amendment has been agreed to in principle by the Parliament and is expected to become law in June.   



Women and Conflict

National Public Hearing, 28-29 April 2003

CAVR National Headquarters, former Comarca Balide, Dili

There was never a day without rape’.   Olga da Silva Amaral

Timorese women recently completed two days exposing the realities of human rights violations against women in East Timor over the 25 years of political conflict and war between 1974-1999. In a national public hearing conducted by the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), women were given centre-stage to tell of their experiences.

During the two days the CAVR, presided over by the seven Timorese National Commissioners chaired by prominent human rights lawyer Mr Aniceto Guterres Lopes, heard from 14 women who were themselves victims of human rights violations, as well as related to victims and witnesses of violations against others. In addition, the CAVR heard submissions from a number of expert witnesses.

Mr Mário Carrascalão, Governor of the then Province of Timor Timur under the Indonesian regime from1982-1992, gave sworn testimony. This is the first time the CAVR has heard direct and public testimony from a senior member of the Indonesian regime. Further submissions were made by the Indonesian National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), who sent a delegation from Jakarta to the hearings, a consortium of Timorese women’s groups, a research team of Indonesian NGOs from West Timor who had studied conditions in 74 refugee camps in West Timor following the huge population movements of September 1999, and a former Indonesian civil servant involved in implementing the government family planning programme in East Timor from 1983-1999.

The result was two days of compelling first-hand testimony from women, often deeply emotional and disturbing, mixed with a more studied analysis of the key institutions, policies and practices behind these violations. Across Dili, in homes, market places and workplaces, people followed the hearing on television, and across the nation people were tuned into the national radio live broadcast. As one international journalist traveling in the border district of Maliana on the second day of the hearings said, ‘It seemed like all of Maliana was tuned into the radio broadcast’.

The most lasting impression of the two days was the dignity and inner strength of the women who gave testimony. Again and again, as they relived the most terrible moments of their lives, women had to pause amidst tears to regain composure. Again and again they insisted that they wanted to continue speaking, that to tell their story was important to them, that the time of silence was over.

‘My small village is in the hills where you can’t even drive a car. No leaders ever come to see us. But today, with the grace of God, the CAVR has opened a way for us women to come to the table and tell our stories to the nation’,

said Olga da Silva Amaral as she opened her testimony to the CAVR on the first day of hearings.

Each testimony was compelling and gave different insights into the way Timorese women have suffered. In selecting women to give testimony to the hearing, the CAVR sought to demonstrate a broad picture of the different eras of violence within the 25 year period of the CAVR mandate, and of the kinds of situations women found themselves in within these eras.

1975 civil conflict

During the civil conflict in 1975, women were targets of violence because they or members of their families were thought to be members of an opposing party. For example, evidence was heard that FRETILIN members abused women associated with the UDT party, and vice versa. A dramatic moment of the hearing was when on the first morning, Rita da Silva was recounting her experience in 1975 of rape by members of the FRETILIN political party. As she paused in her testimony another woman waiting to give testimony stood and strode to the front of the auditorium, Victoria Henrique cried out:

‘My sister suffered rape by FRETILIN members. And I, a FRETILIN member, was raped by UDT members. We suffered the same at the hands of men …’

Victoria stood on the podium, embraced Rita da Silva in tears,

‘We earned independence, we suffered because of this flag (draping herself in the flag of Timor Leste) … we are sisters … we call on the political leaders of Timor to make sure that this never happens again …’

She said that independence was for all Timorese people, and called on political leaders to embrace the way she and Rita were. The packed audience cried and applauded all at once.

Fr Jovito Araujo do Rego, the Deputy Chairperson of the CAVR, summed up this session saying that this painful testimony was a reminder of the consequences of conflict to those Timorese men who thought it brave to have a warrior culture.

Indonesian military

Other women talked of the period after the Indonesian military conducted its full-scale invasion in December 1975. The audience heard how families ran to the mountains, and of how women often became separated from their husbands who took up arms to defend the country. Women talked of how family members, especially children, died in the mountains from lack of food or medicines.

Maria Cardoso, a slim woman in her 50s, spoke of years of trying to keep her family together while her husband was in and out of Indonesian military custody until he disappeared in 1982 in the Kablaki central mountain region.  A chilling episode occurred  when, after the disappearance of her husband, she was taken into custody by Indonesian military. Re-enacting how 10 soldiers marched her down to the river to be executed, she spoke the words of the ‘foreign soldiers’ barking orders for her to get on the ground and prepare for death.

‘Ten guns forced me to the ground, ten guns circled me, ten guns pointing at me … but I was able to say ‘Don’t kill me yet. Give me time to pray.’ Then I took a bit of earth and wiped it on my forehead, I made the sign of the cross and prayed ‘God, my husband fought for this land. If you want me to be handed over at this time, please, but if you are truly most powerful, make these weapons not explode on my chest or head.’ After I prayed … they pulled the triggers three times but the weapons didn’t give off any sound … They … took me back home’.

Maria Cardoso had three homes burnt over the 25 years of the commission’s mandate: in 1974 Timorese UDT members burnt her home and took all possessions, in the 1980s the Indonesian military burnt her home, and in 1999 the MAHIDI militia burnt her home.

‘All these experiences have made us suffer. The cost of everyday living is very difficult to get and the money to send my children to school I only get through selling small things. But from that little income I have been able to fund my children’s schooling through university so that they may become smart and useful in building our nation, the free nation of Timor Leste’.

Women told of their experiences during the 1980s, as the Indonesian military established its apparatus at the village level. The story of Olga da Silva Amaral brought the whole auditorium to tears with her as she recounted years of terrible abuse in her village, experiences she said were shared by many women in her area. Olga lives in the remote central mountains village of Mauxiga, which even today cannot be reached by car. She told of how in 1982 the men of her village were sent to the prison island of Atauro by the Indonesian military after a huge military operation, leaving the women of Mauxiga especially vulnerable. Olga spoke of the nightmare that continued for months.

‘At that time only women were detained at the Dare Military Command Post. We were tortured one by one by ABRI and Hansip (Civilian Guard under Indonesian military command). Before I was raped, they hit me in the head with a wooden chair until I bled, I was hit with a firearm in my left ribcage until I was injured, I was kicked in the back with military boots until I was unable to walk. But the torture continued. I was given electric shocks to my ears, hands and feet. I was jumped all over until I felt that my blood no longer flowed and I had no more strength. That is when they raped me … They tortured me like this for a month…’

‘At that time, ABRI erected a building they called a school to hold the women whose husbands had been exiled to Atauro. The women were ordered to live with the soldiers. Every day I was interrogated … I  was tortured and raped … pregnant women and nursing mothers were also raped. Their children would cry, but the soldiers didn’t pay any attention to that’.

Olga then told of how she was kept in a toilet for three months, where the torture and sexual abuse continued. ‘There was never a day without rape’. She was released in April 1983 and reunited with her husband who returned from Atauro later that year.

Beatriz Miranda Guterres gave testimony of how after the massacre of Craras in 1983, when she was two months pregnant, she and her family ran to the hills for safety. After being ambushed by military she surrendered. In the course of her testimony, Beatriz spoke of how, over a period of the following 10 years, she was forced to live with three different Indonesian soldiers. In each case, she became pregnant, and in each case the soldier returned to Indonesia leaving her and the child behind. When she was forced to live with the second soldier, she told herself:

‘Okay. I’ll cut myself in half. The lower half I’ll give to him, but the upper half is for my land, the land of Timor’.

Beatriz lives today in her village with her children. She spoke of how at times she had been treated badly by her community for being an ‘army wife’ but that now her community accepted her and her children.

Impact of 1999

The CAVR heard also of the impact of the 1999 violence upon women.

Feliciana Cardoso was present at the massacre in the Suai church on 6 September 1999. She witnessed the murder of the local priest Fr Francisco by militia members who first shot and then stabbed him. She then witnessed her husband being killed, “his arms held out like Jesus Christ”, as he was sliced to death with a sword by a militia member. With other women and children she was forced to the military post and later taken by militia and police over the border to West Timor. She was held at the police station in Betun for two months before fleeing and returning to Timor Leste in November 1999.

Anguished testimony was given by Ines de Conceicao Lemos, the mother of former UNAMET local staff member Ana Lemos from Ermera, who was raped and murdered in September after the 1999 ballot. Dona Ines spoke of the terrible last days of her daughter, when the TNI and the local militia Darah Merah tortured and raped her in the front yard of her neighbour’s house, before she was taken away from her family and murdered. Ana’s clothes were returned to Dona Ines ‘from a grave without a name in the middle of the forest in Ermera’.

Message to nation

At the end of each woman’s testimony, National Commissioners asked them if they would like to give a message to national leaders, government members, or the nation as a whole. Something remarkable occurred each time one of the women paused to gather her thoughts for this message. After recounting deeply traumatic personal experiences, the women composed themselves and asked national leaders to think about women all over the country who had suffered like them.

‘Don’t just drive around in your big new cars, or fly around the world. In villages in all thirteen districts there are so many widows and orphans. I ask you to do something to help them in their daily lives,’ responded Victoria Henrique of Liquica.

Broadcast across the country, these messages were a direct and personal message to the nation by women who so often struggle to be heard even in village meetings. In a very basic way, the hearing fostered this democratic spirit.

Mário Carrascalão

In addition to the moving stories of women, the CAVR heard key expert submissions throughout the two days. In the first occasion of hearing from a senior member of the Indonesian regime in Timor Leste, former Governor Mr Mário Carrascalão gave testimony for over two hours. Mr Carrascalão read from a statement written in Portuguese, making explanations as he went in Tetum. He was very animated, and spoke very directly of his experiences as a Timorese within the Indonesian system.

Mr Carrascalão gave a wide ranging testimony, highlighting many aspects of how women were abused throughout the years of Indonesian occupation. He told of how until 1989, Timor Leste was entirely a military administration. “Intel (military intelligence officers) were everywhere.” Mr Carrascalão pointed out that prior to 1989 Timor Leste’s civilian administration had very limited power and could not call the military to account for abuses. He told of how the country was completely cut off from the international community.

‘Timor Leste was a closed land … it was a place of lies and falsities … the people that came here could do anything. It was secret.’

Mr Carrascalão said that the Indonesian military had a systematic approach to abusing women, that it was not in any way incidental or accidental. He gave many examples of practices of the military. He spoke of how lower ranking military personnel looked to further their careers by providing young Timorese women to higher ranking soldiers.

‘Senior functionaries were given women as if they were facilities.’

He told of the common practice of Indonesian military holding dance parties, where young Timorese women were forced to attend and entertain soldiers; these women were then vulnerable to sexual abuse. He said that women from mixed families, with a Timorese mother and a Portuguese father, were often targeted for such abuse. Mr Carrascalão said that the wives of Falintil soldiers were often forced into sexual slavery by the Indonesian military.


When he spoke of the Indonesian government family planning (KB) programme, he said that, in principle, it had the same aims in Timor Leste as in other parts of Indonesia. He pointed out that this was not a Timor Leste programme, but an Indonesian national programme. However, he said, proper implementation was impossible in Timor because it was a war situation and highly militarized. He said that in the villages, people were offended by this programme. He said that the people looked to the Church for guidance, and that it was against Church policies. Mr Carrascalão also spoke of the thousands of children dead from the war. Timorese people asked why on the one hand non-Timorese were brought to Timor as part of Indonesia’s transmigration programme, while on the other Timorese were made to stop having babies themselves. He also said that one of the problems of the family planning programme in Timor Leste, which made it different from other parts of Indonesia, was the secrecy surrounding the programme – he said that people did not understand or consent to participating in the programme.

Mr Carrascalão also spoke of the 1983 massacre in Craras, in the Viqueque district in the east of the country, in which hundreds of people are said to have been killed. ‘We call this village the village of widows,’ he said. Mr Carrascalão named Prabowo, the son-in-law of then President Suharto, as being a key figure in the massacre and told of how it involved a power struggle within the Indonesian military, in particular with General Murdani.

In the course of his submission, Mr Carrascalão gave some disturbing figures. He said that as Governor in 1985, he conducted a survey across Timor Leste and determined that at that time there were 40,000 orphans. He said that he was only able to gather support from the central government for 5000 of these orphans. He also gave population figures from the early years of the war, comparing them to a 1974 Church census. He said that in 1974 the Catholic Church in Timor Leste estimated a population of 640,000; but that in 1980 the estimated population was 500,000.

In summing up, the Chair of the CAVR asked Mr Carrascalão if he felt regretful about being the Governor of Timor Leste.

‘In my time as Governor of Timor Leste I never broke the Indonesian law. I tried to use the law to improve life for the people,’

he said to loud applause from the large audience.

‘I cried for the first time when the massacre of 12 November (1991) happened … I resigned from being governor in 1992 …’

Asked by the Chair of the CAVR what he thought the objective of violence against women was, he said,

‘The aim of this violence against women was to reduce the power of the resistance.’

Family planning

Mr Carrascalão’s submission was followed by a submission by Mr John Fernandes, an Indonesian civil servant who promoted the family planning programme in Manufahi district on the southern coast from 1983 to 1999. He testified as to how the programme was implemented at the village level by military and civil servants together, how this joint programme was ‘developed directly by military commanders’, and how it was carried out ‘continually from year to year’.

‘According to me the KB programme was a political strategy used … by the Indonesian government to bring in more Indonesians. Indirectly this programme also murdered the indigenous people of Timor Leste. I say this because there was special medicine to treat the side effects of KB. Nurses in the hospital would give this medicine to the wives of Indonesians whereas the people of Timor Leste were left to suffer.

‘… It can be said that the KB programme was ‘forced’ because it was designed and regulated from above. … ‘

Earlier, on the first day of the hearings, the CAVR heard a submission from a group of Timorese women. These women highlighted that unequal power relations between men and women that existed in Timor Leste before the conflict were worsened by conflict. The submission examined the experiences of women since the conflict between Timorese political parties in 1975, the invasion by Indonesian military of 1975, during the time of resistance in the mountains and the following Indonesian occupation, to the period of the 1999 UN-organised referendum.

The group concluded that Timorese women experienced specific forms of violence such as rape, forced marriage and sexual slavery. Women became caught in a cycle of violence, where victims were further victimized and discriminated against by their families and community members following violations. In a series of recommendations, the group focussed on measures necessary to assist the healing and rehabilitation of women victims.

Indonesian testimony

To conclude the first day of hearings, the CAVR heard a submission from the Indonesian National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), formed in 1998 following the shocking violence against Chinese women during the period when President Suharto fell from power. The delegation from Komnas Perempuan included members from Aceh and West Papua, who in particular were warmly welcomed by the audience.

In giving submission to the CAVR, members of the delegation spoke of how patterns of violence similar to those used against women in Timor Leste are still occurring against women in Aceh and West Papua. Their testimony brought home the contemporary urgency of this hearing for women still suffering abuse in parts of Indonesia.

Komnas Perempuan Commissioner Ms Samsidar, herself from Aceh, spoke of the Indonesian military operations in Aceh between 1994-98 where women suffered terribly.

‘I am reminded of a house in Aceh which is a house of rape. In that house women are raped daily, their bodies violated. They are forced to cook and clean for soldiers, while in rooms throughout the house at all times of the day rape goes on … We have a situation where rape is accepted by armed forces who are supposed to be responsible for protecting the population. …

‘When the New Order was undertaking these programmes, including military operations, women were used like land. Why do I say this? Because they were like a field where violations could take place. In this situation women don’t feel themselves to be part of humanity anymore. What has been violated is their sense of who they are and their possibility of living without fear. These violations are carried out especially in areas of special military operations such as Aceh, Papua and Timor Leste  …

‘Whenever there is conflict, in Timor Leste, Aceh, Papua, in all these places - women are exploited.’

Ms Samsidar also talked of the wider social and cultural implications of violations against women:

‘ According to our cultures, women are responsible for the life of the family. When women are violated, this is a violation against the family. Women are a symbol of the morality of the community, and when they are raped and violated so too is the moral basis of the community.’

Mr Aniceto Guterres Lopes, CAVR Chairperson, asked the delegation how the CAVR might go about establishing institutional responsibility for these violations. Ms Kamala Chandrakirana responded:

‘Efforts to establish institutional responsibility is a new development. In Indonesia there is practical immunity, not only because there is a lack of political will but because the legal system is very underdeveloped. For example, it is almost impossible to gather evidence in rape cases.

‘We also work with village officials and leaders from all religions to open a dialogue about how to deal with violence against women.

‘In Indonesia we are still living in the cycle of impunity. We are working on cases in Aceh and Papua to deal with them legally, but realizing the limitations of the legal system we also work on cultural and political levels.’

Ms Ita Nadya of the delegation spoke of the need to work with local and national institutions to ensure that women victims of violence are included in society:

‘Justice comes from the voices of victims. In a new country we can only develop as a community if we include the victims as a part of the foundations of this new society.’

She also highlighted the need for a common basis in all national institutions, law and policy to prevent violence against women, and of how Komnas Perempuan’s “hands and hearts are open in solidarity with the women victims of Timor Leste to work for peace, justice”

Testimony from West Timor

The final testimony of the two-day hearing was the submission by the West Timor Humanitarian Team (TKTB), who conducted research in refugee camps across West Timor in 2000.

The team of researchers was comprised o 45 women members who worked in 74 refugee camps in West Timor. They spoke of the tense conditions in the camps, and challenges they faced to enter the camps and conduct their research. They spoke of how the situation in the camps for women was an extension of the violence many had suffered in Timor Leste.

The team told of how the camps are socially organized in a structure of concentric circles. On the outside, in overall control, is the Indonesian military. The next ring is the militia, followed by civil servants and with the inner circle being the ordinary people.

The team said that people living in the camps had been in a cycle of violence from the time they entered the camps until now. There is a lot of domestic violence, gambling, alcoholism and stress with people living on top of each other in the camps. They also said that there is a lot of aggression by members who have been recruited into militia groups in the camps. They said it seemed that many of the men were taking out their political frustrations through violence against women in the camps. It was clear to the TKTB that militia members mimicked many of the forms of violence used by the Indonesian military.

The testimonies were closed, as they were opened, with a prayer given by Sister Estochia who accompanied the West Timor Humanitarian Team – in itself a sign of the people to people reconciliation and solidarity developed by this process.

The following extracts are taken from a final reflection by National Commissioner Ms Olandina Caeiro at the end of the hearing.

‘What an honour I feel to be Timorese and to be a woman after experiencing this extraordinary event over the past two days. By opening their hearts to us our sisters have taken us on a journey through darkness we can only imagine, but also shown us the brightest light of their strength, character, and solidarity, in surviving.

‘… Each of the women who has come forward with great courage to speak to us speaks not only for herself, but stands in front as a representative of hundreds, in fact thousands of other women who have experienced similar terror and violation … Timor Leste, Indonesia and the world should know what has happened in Timor Leste, so that it may never happen again, here or in other places.

‘… A question which often arises in Timor Leste today is who deserves the benefits of independence? Who fought and suffered most for our freedom? In this discussion the role of women is never given the place it deserves. … Who owns our independence? The answer to this includes a major place for women, and we must not forget this.

‘… The past two days have been a painful experience for many. Yet we must go through this pain so we can learn to settle our past in order to build our future. The voices of those who have spoken here have been clear in one thing - they have asked our community, political, and religious leaders to help the people of Timor Leste to deal with the past of massive violations towards women, to learn from it so that our future will be without fear and we can grow without conflict into prosperity. In order to achieve this we need to change the values which allow violations against women to be tolerated. Perpetrators must be held responsible  and prosecuted for violations of women’s bodies and minds. Victims must be given the highest place of honour and must never, never be blamed in any way for the evil actions of these perpetrators. Let us indeed grow flowers from the mud of our painful past.’