Media Release 26 March 2004

Final National Public Hearing of the CAVR in Timor-Leste

The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR) will close its public activities with its final national public hearing on 29 and 30 March. The hearing will be held at the CAVR Dili headquarters in the former Balide prison, examining the theme of Children and the Conflict.

The seven Timorese National Commissioners will hear testimony from 10 survivors of serious human rights violations, testifying to what happened to them as children at different periods of the CAVR’s mandate from 1974-1999, plus 3 expert witnesses. All but one witness are now adults.

The painful stories of violations suffered by Timorese children span the 24 years of the CAVR mandate, and will demonstrate the vulnerability of children in conflict situations. The CAVR will hear testimony from survivors of forced child logistical support to Indonesian combat forces; from a girl survivor of the 1983 Kraras massacre and a boy survivor of the Santa Cruz massacre of 1991; a young girl who witnessed her father being killed in the Liquica church massacre of April 1999; and from children taken by Indonesian military from their families to Indonesia throughout the 24 year period.

Alexandrino da Costa was a 10 year old boy marching in the ceremony to the Santa Cruz cemetery on November 12, 1991. He was in the cemetery when Indonesian soldiers opened fire on those marching. Shot three times, he will tell of how Indonesian police were preparing to kill him when someone told them to leave him as he was only a child. Instead they beat him till he was unconscious, loaded him into a truck full of bodies and took him to the hospital. He tells of how he was operated on there without anaesthetic, and later taken to Jakarta for three years to “change his thinking.” He tells of how upon return to Timor, he was arrested again. Telling how he still suffers flashbacks about these experiences, he says it feels like he is being “tortured for the rest of my life.”

Testimony will include submissions from UNHCR about children in West Timor and those taken away to other parts of Indonesia, and UNICEF about the impact of the conflict on Timorese children.

Chair of the CAVR, human rights lawyer Aniceto Guterres Lopes, says

“This hearing is especially sensitive, as it examines how the most vulnerable in our society suffered terribly over years of the conflict. Families shattered, children left alone and vulnerable who were then abused, often over years. So many children died during the conflict. It is important to remember these children of Timor, and offer our support to their families. The trauma of this suffering continues to shape the lives of many Timorese people today. We hope that by talking about this, we can help in a process of recognizing this suffering and ease the pain of so many individuals and families. We hope also to show how it is that children suffer in conflict, and in this way make our contribution to guaranteeing that this never happens again in our land.”

This hearing marks the end of the CAVR’s public programme. Commissioners and a smaller staff team will now compile the final report of the Commission, which will detail findings about human rights violations over the 24-year mandate period, with recommendations for future action in relation to justice, reconciliation and ongoing work with victims of violations. This report will be handed to the President of the RDTL in October this year, and later presented to the Parliament and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

For more information see the CAVR website at or contact Kieran Dwyer at or on mobile phone +670 723 4705