The Commission for Reception Truth and Reconciliation, in collaboration with the Association of ex-Political Prisoners (ASSEPOL), has rehabilitated the former colonial prison with a grant from the Government of Japan. The new building was formally opened by President Xanana Gusmao on 17th February 2003.

Some photos and excerpts from speeches delivered at the inauguration follow.



From colonial prison to centre for reconciliation and human rights

"Firstly I would like to thank the Government of Japan whose generous funding of the reconstruction of the ex-Balide prison has made this day possible. When your Prime Minister presented the donation to our President in Tokyo we received not only the generosity of your nation but also support for the fundamental objectives of the CAVR. For this support we thank you from our hearts."

Aniceto Guterres Lopes, Chairperson CAVR

Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR). PO Box 144, Dili, East Timor.

Website: Phone: +670-723429

Inauguration Speeches

17 February 2003

Our special thanks to the Prime Minister of Japan for the donation, during my visit to Japan in January 2002, of the $1 million for the CAVR part of these funds have been used to renovate this building, and regional offices in five districts.

The donor community made it possible to get this process up and running. However, we need continued support to complete the work of the Commission.

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao

President Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.

I would like to pay tribute to the tireless efforts of everybody engaged in this historic project. Also I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations to the Commission for finally establishing a new Central Office, whereby its significant work will be further promoted.

His Excellency Mr. Hideo Fukushima

Head of Japanese Mission, Timor Leste.

I can say that we will continue to do everything in our power to demonstrate that the confidence which you have placed in us has been well founded. I can also say that the progress we have made up until this time indicates that you can be, and will continue to be, proud of your connection and support for the Commission.

Aniceto Guterres Lopes

Chairperson CAVR.

Visit of His Excellency Mr. Tetsuro Yano

Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan

15 December 2002

Mr. Jacinto Alves, National Commissioner CAVR, with Vice Minister Tetsuro Yano.

Touring the construction site.

National Commissioners Rev. Augustinho Vasconselhos, Ms Isabel Guterres and Mr. Jacinto Alves with Vice Minister Tetsuro Yano and East Timorese traditional dancers.

Some people might ask in bewilderment "Why would anyone choose to work in an old prison, which has been the site of so much injustice and pain?" To myself and to the other Commissioners and staff of the Commission this answer is quite clear and we are very grateful for the opportunity to work in this place. The very essence of the Commission's work is to assist transformation.

Aniceto Guterres Lopes, Chairperson CAVR.

Inauguration Ceremony

17 February 2003

Distinguished Guests, Excellencies (left to right):

Mr. Hideo Fukushima (Head of Japanese Mission), Mr. Jose Texeiro (representing the Prime Minister), Dr. Karmalesh Sharma (SRSG UNMISET), Mr. Manuel Abrantes (Deputy Minister for Justice), Dom. Basilio do Nascimento (Bishop of Baucau Diocese, Acting Bishop of Dili), Mr Aniceto Guterres Lopes, Kay

Rala Xanana Gusmao (President RDTL), member of public, Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak (Commander-in-Chief, Defence Force of Timor Leste).

Ilda Rudiana da Costa (age 7) and Ana Grecia Avelar da Silva (age 5) recite poems.

National Commissioners (left to right):

Ms Isabel Guterres, Rev. Augustinho

The New CAVR National Office

The new CAVR headquarters provides office space for different elements of the team around a central courtyard, with a traditional shelter designed for meetings and public hearings. This has created an open, communal feel to the workplace.

As you know this building was formerly a prison for the detention of political prisoners. It has undergone a transformation to become a human rights center. The work of the CAVR aims also to facilitate a transformation from trauma to peace of heart. The CAVR does not only search for the truth but seeks to facilitate transformation in the society from trauma to peace.

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, President RDTL

The New CAVR National Office

Inside, offices have high ceilings, providing ventilation and a sense of space. Exposed beams and buttresses provide character.

The United Nations has been in East Timor now for over three years in its peacekeeping capacity, and remains committed to this work throughout the mandate of UNMISET. But we all know that the work of peacebuilding is ongoing and often difficult, and can only be conducted by the people of Timor Leste. This is a daily challenge, a commitment that must be reinforced in the daily decisions of citizens, government, police officers and others. The CAVR is playing an important role in facilitating Timorese citizens to play an active part in building a commitment to human rights and peace in your new nation.

Dr. Karmalesh Sharma, SRSG UNMISET

The New CAVR National Office


Sixty-five original grafitti by Timorese prisoners, and sometimes by Indonesian guards and others, have been preserved. A Timorese artist has highlighted these with creative borders. From these grafitti, we hear voices from the past.

I have just walked through the building and saw the amazing evidence of the spirit of the struggle and suffering of the people. I would like to congratulate the builders on their work in preserving the graffiti. Congratulations to Julio Alfaro and his team and workers himself and many of them having been formerly detained in this prison.

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, President RDTL

CAVR Regional Offices

The Japanese government grant has funded the rehabilitation of five regional offices of the CAVR: in Dili, Maliana, Oecussi, Aileu and Baucau.




CAVR Regional Offices



From these regional offices, we support the work of 13 district teams in the communities.

Vision for the Future

A Human Rights Centre

I hope that this building, so long steeped in tragedy, can be a living center to document the history of Timor-Leste for future generations so that the youth can learn about the past and through that make a commitment to protect human rights forever.

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, President RDTL

We will show that flowers can grow in a prison

Fr. Domingos Maubere, Member of Steering Committee which established CAVR.

This building, which I hope and trust will be dedicated to the memory of our struggle against human rights abuses, can provide a symbol of a future based on the protection and promotion of these rights...

This building will not only be a symbol of our continuing transformation. It will also satisfy a number of practical needs. In East Timor we need a central place which will be a memorial to those who suffered human rights abuses. This building will be that place. It will house historical documents and other archival materials which relate to the abuses suffered by our people in the past … (It) will be the place where these things can be stored in safety. Now these strong walls will be used for a better purpose- to guard our history and our memories so that future generations of East Timorese can know their history and so that the world can know and remember what has taken place in East Timor.

Aniceto Guterres Lopes, Chairperson CAVR