Media Release - 12 November 2003


CAVR Public Hearing on Massacres


19-21 Nov 2003  Dili, Timor-Leste


The Commission for Reception Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR) will hold its fourth thematic national public hearing in Dili, on 19-21 November 2003. The three-day hearing will investigate massacres which occurred in Timor-Leste over the CAVR’s mandate period 1974-1999, hearing testimony from 18 survivors and witnesses.


Between 1974-1999 the Timorese civilian population suffered an as yet untold number of massacres. CAVR research teams are investigating massacres which occurred across the country and throughout the 24 year mandate period. This hearing will focus on cases from a number of periods, including: the civil conflict of 1975, Indonesian invasion, the period of FRETILIN control in the mountains, surrender from the mountains, the 1983 Kraras massacre, the Santa Cruz massacre of 12 November 1991; and the 1999 period.


Aniceto Guterres Lopes, Chairperson of the CAVR noted the terrible impact of such massacres on the Timorese population:


“The deliberate killing of large numbers of civilians by armed forces, in massacres, was a tragic and repeated experience of the Timorese people over the years 1974-1999, the CAVR’s mandate period. In all of the terrible violations over these years, such mass killings were perhaps the strongest symbol of the terror Timorese people suffered, and the impunity the perpetrators thought they enjoyed.”


He continued:


“It is the work of the CAVR to provide a space for survivors, and families of victims, to speak of their experiences. To allow them to feel that what has been hidden and covered up in the past is now recognized. The dead honoured, the living recognized and helped in their long process of healing. It is also the job of the CAVR to examine why these massacres took place. Who committed them? Were they part of particular policies or strategies? We must identify these factors to help prevent such actions in the future inside and outside Timor-Leste, and to help the fight against impunity.”


The massacres being focused upon in the hearing represent a small number of the 121 massacres identified by the CAVR so far in its work. People will travel from the districts to give evidence before the CAVR. Testimony will be received by cameraman and witness to the Santa Cruz massacre, Mr Max Stahl. Ms Helen Todd, mother of Kamal Bamadhaj from New Zealand and Malaysia, a victim of the Santa Cruz massacre, will also give testimony.


This hearing is part of a wider enquiry into these events in relation to international human rights law. Ongoing research work will inform the final report of the CAVR, due in October 2004, which will include recommendations for future action in regard to such violations.


The hearing is open to the public and will be live broadcast throughout Dili on television, and live radio broadcast nationally. It will be simultaneously translated into English. There will be a press conference on Friday 14 November at 10am, at the CAVR national office in Balide, Dili.



More Information:


For more information, or to arrange an interview with a National Commissioner or other participant in these processes, please contact Kieran Dwyer at the CAVR

Mobile: +670 723 4705 Email:

CAVR website at