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Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676

‘. . . And the Truth Shall Set You Free’: Confessional Trade-Offs and Community Reconciliation in East Timor
Ben Larke1

Abstract In East Timor, as with many nations dealing with the legacies of colonisation and occupation, divisions and allegiances forged in the past are combining with other contemporary factors to destabilising effect. The civil unrest of 2006/2007 provides the most recent example of the propensity for violence to escalate rapidly in such a climate. In this context, past experience in promoting and facilitating re-integration following the mass displacement in 1999 in East Timor may offer lessons for those seeking to address social cohesion in the wake of more recent displacement. This paper assesses the work of the Community Reconciliation Process implemented by the Commission of Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (Commonly known by the Portuguese acronym CAVR) in order to provide a reflection on what was achieved and highlight some of the shortcomings that might similarly befall current, and future, attempts. In doing so, the process, and particularly the use of narrative, is considered in terms of its performative elements: the circumstances in which the scripts were written; the stage on which they were acted out; the actors who voiced them, and the audience who listened. It is argued that the Community Reconciliation Process, through its mechanism that synthesised customary reconciliation procedures and elements of the formal justice system, facilitated a reintegrative process that had at its core the exchange of confession, apology and shaming for the right to re-enter the social group from which perpetrators had been excluded. This process, however, may have occurred at the expense of the competing needs of those who had been victimised. Keywords reconciliation, truth commissions, East Timor, conflict resolution, traditional justice, narrative

1 The author was employed as the Adviser to the Community Reconciliation Process from September 2002 to December 2004. Since 2006 he has worked as an adviser to the Government of Timor-Leste on recovery issues and, in 2007, led the technical writing team that drafted the National Recovery Strategy Hamutuk Harii Futuru (Tetum: Together Building our Future). More recently he has been employed as a social reintegration specialist for UNDP Timor-Leste. The views expressed in this paper represent his personal views and do not necessarily reflect the institutions he has worked for.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2009

DOI: 10.1163/156853109X460237

B. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676


Introduction The most recent cycle of violence in East Timor,2 which began in April of 2006, with further flare-ups around the Presidential and Parliamentary elections of 2007, saw a characteristic response by the UN, its agencies and other international actors. As the initial wave of violent destruction subsided, an internationally-led emergency humanitarian response swung into action providing food, shelter and other emergency services. The Timorese state meanwhile struggled to stabilise and then to begin to identify what went wrong. The troubles in the nation’s capital and in some of its outlying districts proved challenging in the immediate aftermath. However, the current AMP (multi-party alliance) government seems to have largely overcome the initial hurdle of assisting the estimated 100,000 or more people, who were displaced to relocate and resettle, so far, with no significant resurgence of violence. A key aspect of the government-led recovery strategy to date has been the part played by a variety of state and non-state actors in securing community stabilisation and promoting dialogue, mediation and other strategies for diffusing conflict.3 At this juncture the nation is in a position familiar to many less-industrialised nations that have experienced conflict ‘stutters’ on their path toward development: the violence is over, its most visible impact — in this case, IDP camps — are no longer to be seen, and much work (as previously mapped out in national development plans, etc.) remains yet to be completed. However, amongst many of those engaged in the recovery process to date there is recognition that in order to secure these achievements and lay more firm foundations for stable development, significant work remains. Although much of the commentary, both internationally and domestically, cites the summary dismissal of a third of the Timorese defence force as the trigger for what has come to be known as ‘the Crisis’, with the political infighting amongst senior politicians as a significant catalyst in the escalation of preceding tensions, a number of other factors combined to provide the enabling environment in which hostilities grew and multiplied before, during
2 For the sake of convenience, this paper will refer to what is now the Republica Democratica de Timor Leste as ‘East Timor’ throughout, irrespective of the era. The country has variously been known as Timor Leste during its period as a Portuguese colony (1520−1974), Timor Timur during the Indonesian occupation (1974–1999) East Timor by the United Nations during its period of administration (2000−2002) and, by many Timorese, as Timor Lorosa’e in the native language of Tetum throughout these periods. 3 The AMP Government launched its National Recovery Strategy Hamutuk Harii Futuru in January 2008, the strategy includes five pillars of which Hamutuk Harii Konfiansa (Tetum: Together Building Trust) is conceived as an integral part.


B. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676

and after the Crisis. Addressing some of these factors — which include uncertainty over land and property status, perceived regional divisions based on stereotype and mythology, widespread disenfranchisement of young people, and the legacies of a colonial/occupied past where national identity has been defined as much by the act of resistance as anything else — remains a work in progress. Whilst the preceding range of issues is not unique in post-conflict nation building, it is especially urgent in the Timorese context, where observers have noted a cyclical quality to incidences of post-Independence violence linked to unresolved legacies of impunity and injustice4 that suggest that resurgence of conflict is less of an ‘if ’ than a ‘when’. Contemporary peace-building strategies have adopted a range of approaches towards social reintegration many of which focus on the need for securing broader social stability and appear cognisant of the complex context in which they are operating. Whilst initial signs are positive, meaningful reintegration processes are by their nature time-consuming and subject to continual reassessment and adaptation. In this setting, East Timor’s past experience in promoting and facilitating re-integration following the mass displacement in 1999 may offer lessons for those seeking to address social cohesion in the wake of more recent displacement. This paper examines past attempts to assist reintegration in East Timor as embodied within the Community Reconciliation Process facilitated by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor. This analysis is undertaken in order to provide a reflection on what was achieved and highlights some of the shortcomings that might similarly befall current, and future, attempts. In doing so, the process, and particularly the use of narrative, is considered in terms of its performative elements: the circumstances in which the scripts were written; the stage on which they were acted out; the actors who voiced them, and the audience who listened. It is argued that the Community Reconciliation Process, through its mechanism that synthesised customary reconciliation procedures and elements of the formal justice system, facilitated a reintegrative process that had at its core the exchange of confession, apology and shaming for the right to re-enter the social group from which perpetrators had been excluded. This process, however, may have occurred at the expense of the competing needs of those who had been victimised.

4 See comments from Joaquim Fonseca in Kingston (2007), comments from Clinton Fernandes in Murdoch (2009), and more generally ICG (2009).

simply viewing pain as something unknown and unknowable has potential to lead to the limiting of anthropological investigation of its effects and particularly of those social institutions and forums that concern themselves with its transformation by promoting processes of speaking about political violence (Ibid. are often casualties of violence. The claims of such institutions to provide palliative relief are often made on both individual and collective levels. and with it identity. processes of remembering. 2003:367). much recent theorising has explored the ‘relationship between violence and the dialectical unmaking and remaking of life-worlds’ (Wilson.B. 2003:267). as Scarry points out. as Wilson observes. However. premeditated and factual) (Cowan. Others have argued that pain and its memory is not merely a suppressor of language but. to the sounds and cries a human being makes before language is learned” (Scarry. immediate and visceral) represents the opposite of language (intellectual. Crucial to the thinking underpinning institutionalised attempts to come to terms with violent pasts is the act of public testimony. due to their fundamentally different natures. truth commissions are certainly the most commonly associated with processes of speaking about past periods of political conflict and through this purportedly repairing the lingering effects on the state and the psyche of its citizens. It is at the juncture of collective and individual experience of trauma that anthropology has been well-placed to comment on the phenomena of the social suffering of individuals in pain. bringing about an immediate reversion to a state anterior to language. and to subsequent attempts at articulation. as well as on the effects of institutions and initiatives that have as their goal trauma healing. 2003:287). The beliefs underpinning the enthusiasm with which victims’ testimonies are often broadcast in the aftermath of periods of transformative political violence follow on the theorisation outlined earlier. Of these institutions. “Physical pain does not simply resist language but actively destroys it. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 649 Violence and Silence Following in the wake of Elaine Scarry’s (1985) exploration of the relationship between the experiential understanding of pain. that language. 1985:4). These studies have centred on the difficulties in the employment of language and the construction of narrative when. pain (sensory. . Narrative Building and Identity Reclamation Much of the work that has been produced on the post-traumatic articulation of violent acts has understandably focussed on the experiences of the victims themselves and their attempts to reconstruct lives and a sense of self through narrative building.

. 5 See Freud and Breuer (1952). We all stand in need of healing. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 In order to address a violent past and its post-traumatic legacies. nor do whole nations suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and to assert otherwise is to psychologise an abstract entity” (Hamber and Wilson 2003:145). all of us. which frequently employ rhetoric highlighting their role in healing — both of individuals and of nations: We are meant to be a part of the process of the healing of our nation. and are not the blank slate that much social-psychological theorising implies” (Ross. The supposed cathartic qualities of speech have been championed by Truth Commissions. so too have observers noted that such considerations should be afforded to those testifying publicly. 2003:332). which can be healed. it would appear that a crucial part of the therapeutic value of speaking about the past is not just who is doing the talking. 2003:144) Such claims have not been without criticism. We are a wounded people . (Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s opening address to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995. 2000:472-473). the social fields in which testifiers are located are complex. They highlight the tendency to psychologise nations as embodied entities that had been ‘wounded’ in the past and could be ‘healed’: “Nations do not have collective psyches. .650 B. Perpetrator Testimony By comparison to the attention paid to the narrativisation of victims’ sufferings and the process of telling the wider ‘national story’ in transitional settings. These principles are prevalent in Western psychiatric models many of which can trace a genealogy to the Freudian psychoanalytic practice of understanding neuroses through unlocking the narratives around past trauma. Observers have noted the failure in much Truth Commission rhetoric to recognise the array of social diversity and disparate opinions that comprise nations. but other listeners may be able to identify with shared experience and overcome feeling of isolation. . but also who was doing the listening and indeed how they were listening: “. it is argued that by affording victims forums to speak about their past experiences not only will they be able to ‘find themselves’ within these narratives. cited in Hamber and Wilson. In such cases. shaped by historical processes and traduced by relations of power. since every South African has to some extent or other been traumatised.5 In much the same way that psychiatrists have highlighted the need to provide a safe environment and skilled staff for individuals to be carefully supported in discussing their past psychic wounding (Allan and Allan. . of our people. .

. Such instances. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 651 very little has been produced on the narratives supplied by those who inflicted harm on others. perpetrators’ confessions provide for the first time confirmation of victims’ accounts from within the repressive apparatus. Yet. although they arrive at the same destination by very different roads.B. however. the need for reintegration and the removal of liminal status and uncertainty is likely to be felt acutely by both parties. for the victims of those acts. however. former perpetrators of violent acts may find themselves the subject of informal sanctioning and alienated from wider society. when the departure of the preceding authoritarian regime takes with it the source of much of their personal power and status. both victims and perpetrators may find themselves occupying liminal spaces in the aftermath of periods of conflict: branded by their past experiences they may find themselves both a part of society and apart from it. In the new social circumstances which they now find themselves in. . establishing exactly what was done to them and by whom may offer a route to gaining closure — hearing a frank confession from the perpetrator can offer the definitive ‘proof ’ needed by them. not least because of a relative scarcity of instances where those in the role of victimiser have spoken openly about their own experiences. perpetrators may find themselves occupying a similar position to victims in the post-conflict setting. With the loss of their power-base the fictive nature of much of their previous authority dissolves and those who were widely known to be complicit in the degradation of others may find themselves degraded in the eyes of their peers. This paper will explore the ways in which the competing needs of perpetrators and those they had victimised played out in the ‘Community Reconciliation Process’ (CRP). In circumstances where perpetrators continue to live in close proximity to those that they have previously victimised as part of a close-knit community where bonds of interdependency are high. have a particular potency in societies emerging from the rule of authoritarian regimes where much of the effort of the outgoing authority is dedicated to ‘damage limitation’ by refuting reports of their previous abuses of power as exaggerations or the stuff of rumour. an initiative launched by East Timor’s Commission for Reception Truth and Reconciliation in August 2002. . In these contexts “. The process sought to facilitate a reintegrative process by eliciting confessional testimony from those who had previously harmed their communities and community members and presenting this testimony in a public forum in which it could be challenged by those that it concerned. specifically confirming that the security systems committed systematic violence against citizens” (Payne 2004:227). such needs are obviously likely to be competing: perpetrators may feel that the key to reintegration may lie in denial and avoidance of the scale and severity of their past acts in order that others can accept them. Thus. In an ironic twist of circumstance.

The situation deteriorated markedly during the Indonesian occupation resulting in an insurgency against the Indonesians that had the support of the majority of Timorese. see the final report of the Commis- . as well as East Timor’s interactions with neighbouring countries. In line with other colonial experiences. This tended to exacerbate existing and even generate further internal tensions. Despite this. in particular the Republic of Indonesia which occupied the country from 1974 to 1999.652 B. the context in which those acts had been committed and the wider and sometimes competing needs for both justice and social harmony. manifestations and trajectories of these divisions and discord have been documented elsewhere. The testimony was performed in public. thus the factors influencing this process are considered as elements of a performative process. This is not to imply that testimonies were necessarily fictive. insecurities and mistrust had also characterised relations between local Timorese and the former Portuguese administration (which forged an association with the island in 1512 that continued until Portugal’s Carnation Revolution of 1974).6 6 For a detailed overview of the history of the political conflicts in East Timor spanning the Portuguese decolonisation in 1974. in just about every part of the country. and it is into these categories that this analysis of the CRP is compartmentalised. the 25 years of Indonesian occupation and culminating in the arrival of the UN-mandated INTERFET forces in 1999. The violence and conflict had profoundly affected both individual and group relationships between Timorese people themselves. normally in front of the group with which the testifier was seeking to reintegrate with. as their nation emerged from a period of pronounced conflict and repression that had affected every sector of society. there was a percentage of Timorese who worked with and were beneficiaries of colonialism and occupation. Setting the Stage: The Historical Context to the Creation of the CRP A Nation Divided The beginning of this century also denoted another benchmark in the lives of the East Timorese people. Detail on the origins. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 Central to the reintegration of perpetrators was a process of ‘confessional trade-off ’ whereby the narratives supplied by them were weighed against and influenced by a number of factors related the community’s perception of the perpetrator and the nature of the acts. merely that each comprised an actor with a script which was enacted on a stage in front of an audience. especially at a community level.

the severed relationships that were the legacy of past conflict cut across social and economic. remained East Timor’s primary battleground throughout the period of Indonesian occupation and was a primary issue for mobilisation and coercion.000 homes. No occupying nation was ever able to command majority support from the Timorese. 9 See also the ‘Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor to the Secretary General. internal conflicts are the result of organic and home-grown dynamics or outside manipulation remains contested territory. and the extent to which.7 Grave breaches of human rights were not new to Timor. Retbøll (1998).000 civilians to neighbouring West Timor and over 1.htm). as the Portuguese that had preceded it. 110. forced deportation of 250. pp. UN Doc. the international community was quick to condemn the atrocities and a UN-mandated intervention force was deployed in late October. 85. however. left behind a legacy of mistrust and hostility amongst a population that found itself facing the enormous challenges and hardship of building a newly independent whether. p. a myriad of related disputes and fault-lines evolved resulting in a generally polarised society. with the total number of deaths resulting from the 25-year occupation estimated at over 100. A range of social and economic considerations also shaped the dynamics of these evolving relationships. These collective experiences. arenas. 44 (available at: http://etan. sion for Reception. Also Dunn (1983). 44 (available at: http://etan. 2000’. available online at: http://etan. 7 Report of the CAVR. bringing to an end the carnage created and executed by the Indonesian military and their proxies. Truth and Reconciliation ‘Chega!’.org/news/2006/ cavr. The mostly state-sponsored violence included the destruction of the majority of public infrastructure and 60. McCloskey (2000) and Taylor (2003). resistance and repression. but the Indonesian state. 8 Report of the CAVR. In East Timor. Executive Summary. . In the context of occupation and deliberate policies of ‘divide and rule’. S/2000/59.htm).9 As external interests have always been able to secure some element of internal support in East Timor.htm. particularly Chapter 3 ‘The History of the Conflict’. Hainsworth. Some of these divisions had long histories that developed and mutated over news/2006/cavr.400 killings. while others were relatively recent. A/54/26. January 31. The contested politics of independence and integration.000 people. however. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 653 The most acute eruption of violence occurred between August and November of 1999 around the time that it became clear that the East Timorese had voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence from the Republic of Indonesia. as elsewhere. Executive Summary.8 Although notable by its absence in the aftermath of a referendum that it had sponsored. as well as political.

Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 was able to co-opt a significant number of individuals into its security and administrative apparatus. however. but had not returned fearing they might be held responsible for abuses by association. Chapter 4 ‘Regime of Occupation’ (available at: http://etan. . were not necessarily involved or implicated in the violence. many Timorese perceived this as a significant potential source of instability. their followers and family members. At the time West Timor remained a safe-haven.10 Those who were co-opted into Indonesia’s formal security forces and proxy militia structures were at the forefront of much violence and repression. the politics of integration. as they included many of those who actively opposed independence. created a clear spatial division between core opposing groups. many Timorese did work for the state. Many of those who remained behind in West Timor. 2004a). Understandably. For many in East Timor. Along with some indigenous and political figures. many thousands of Timorese remained across the border in neighbouring West Timor for several years after their departure. While some certainly news/2006/cavr. allowing them to point out that they were simply supporting the popular will of ordinary Timorese. 330−337. which saw over 200. Pp. Bridging the Gaps: Addressing Reintegration The violent displacement that followed the Popular Consultation. for the first time. the absence of their former community members for extended periods of time after the violence around the referendum was proof in itself of implicit involvement in the violence that had taken place. were seldom debated during the occupation and provided clearly defined lines of conflict in its aftermath. Indeed. although fiercely contested. 11 See UNHCR Global Report (2000) ‘Timor Operation’. at all levels from the national administration to that of the aldeia (sub-village or hamlet). as evidenced by the Indonesian authorities’ refusal to cooperate in extraditing those in their jurisdiction indicted by East Timor’s courts (JSMP. including militia leaders. such elements provided some backing for the state-constructed mythology that the Timorese supported integration with Indonesia. some of whom worked clandestinely with the resistance. This also provided a semblance of indigenisation.htm).654 B.000 Timorese returning to their homes. as evidenced by the 21. but evidently others had developed various levels of dependency on the largesse of the Indonesian regime. Despite the success of the subsequent repatriation process.5% who voted in favour of remaining an autonomous state as part of the Indonesian Republic in the Popular Consultation.11 10 See CAVR Report.

The workshop culminated in the decision to propose that such a commission be established at the upcoming national conference of the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT). . While a number actively sought reception and reintegration back into their communities. as well as contemporary violations. and. These were essential preconditions for the demanding process of establishing an independent Republic that would focus on building the state’s infrastructure and would pursue a development agenda to address an array of social and economic imperatives.B. many hundreds. in turn.12 The extent to which this decision was a ‘home-grown’ initiative is questionable — the UN’s human rights department and a Swedish university hosted the workshop whilst representatives of the International Centre for Transitional Justice 12 The CNRT was an umbrella organisation that had come to encompass the majority of groups who had campaigned for independence. 2000). As with many other countries in the process of democratic transition. the political leadership. raising concerns about possible instability and retaliation (UNHCR. there were some incidents of violent reprisals. although these appear to have been the exception rather than the rule (Pigou. Other Priorities: Establishing Social Order and Accounting for the Past The devastation wrought by anti-independence militias and their sponsors in the Indonesian security forces. 2004:16). gave considerable attention to issues of justice and accountability as an integral component of establishing effective governance through the rule of law. as an essential element of the peace and security package. possibly thousands of those who were involved in. The first public considerations of the Truth Commission model as one that held potential benefit for East Timor took place in a workshop on transitional justice mechanisms in June 2000. or associated with. This led to a great deal of discussion and investment in the establishment of a credible criminal justice system to address past. many others did not. meant the UN’s Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) installed after the 1999 referendum and Timor’s emerging political elite. and not surprisingly. This approach implicitly viewed justice as a precondition for reconciliation. comprised as it was at the time by officials of the UN and a Timorese government-in-waiting. were keen to prioritise the maintenance of peace and stability. it was subsequently dissolved in June 2001. Many remained ostracised from their communities. security force and militia-related violence and intimidation returned from West Timor to their home communities without incentive or promise of amnesty in the months following the mass exodus of September 1999. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 655 Despite this.

it is also a process which must involve the People of Timor-Leste so that the cycle of accusation. or CAVR) was inaugurated and recognised as a formal statutory body. and of particular interest 13 14 15 See Hayner and Van Zyl (2 July 2000. See Section 3 ‘Objectives and Functions of the Commission’. above all. must be seen as a process where truth must be the outcome. Reference to the Commission was included within the East Timorese Constitution. following a precedent established by previous truth commissions is unsurprising.14 Aims and Objectives of the CAVR The guiding legislation of the commission. Truth and Reconciliation’ (Comissao de Acolhimento. particularly given the assistance provided by the ICTJ. there does appear to have been widespread agreement amongst all present on the need to establish a mechanism to focus on the specific challenges of reconciliation at a community level.656 B. In August 2000. During this time community consultations were carried out. Verdade e Reconciliacao de Timor Leste. This process must not be seen only as a conflict resolution or mere political tool which aims at pacification and reintegration of individuals or groups in the context of their acceptance of independence and sovereignty of Timor-Leste but. . Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor’. (Quoted in CAVR. an organisation which numbered on its staff many who had previous involvement with truth commissions. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 (ICTJ) also provided input. In addition to those objectives concerning ‘establishing the truth’. drafted by the UNTAET administration was entitled ‘Regulation No 2001/10: On the Establishment of a Commission for Reception. 2006(1):10) It would be two years before the decision to go ahead with a truth commission made at the CNRT conference would eventuate into the beginning of operations. legislation drafted and approved and the ‘Commission for Reception. particularly South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). That the objectives outlined in the regulation15 emphasised the need for ascertaining the nature and extent of human rights violations. denial and counter-accusation can be broken. unpublished). which acknowledges past mistakes including regret and forgiveness as a product of a path inherent in the process of achieving justice. the members present at the CNRT conference recommended that a ‘commission of resettlement and reconciliation’ be established and approved a working definition of the nature of the reconciliation that was to be sought: Reconciliation is a process.13 However.

(h). the delivery of justice nationally and the CRP’s contribution to this process was to become a significant issue. § 3. The general promotion of human rights values with a particular emphasis on the rights of victims has been a hallmark of transitional justice discourse. the CAVR was effectively moving into uncharted territory. Of the four aims listed above only one.1): (f ) Assisting in restoring the human dignity of victims. particularly for those participating in it. The four aims highlighted earlier. Whereas the CNRT definition had affirmed the importance of reconciliation ‘as a product of a path inherent in the process of achieving justice’. Incorporating the potentially competing objectives within the process meant upholding the dignity and interests of both victims and perpetrators in a manner that encompassed universal values of human rights and yet was locally relevant and meaningful. This was thought to be desirable by . by specifying an active role for the commission in the reintegration of individuals at the community level. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 657 to the subject of this paper. whilst the vague ‘promotion of reconciliation’ is frequently cited as an aim and priority for those working in transitional contexts. the framework provided by the regulation carefully avoids the implication that the CAVR was to play a role in the delivery of justice. is any explicit reference to providing or seeking justice for the crimes of the past. combined to present a significant challenge to developing the CRP’s methodology. (h) Supporting the reception and reintegration of individuals who have caused harm to their communities through the commission of minor criminal offences and other harmful acts through the facilitation of community-based mechanisms for reconciliation. (g) Promoting reconciliation. the stated objectives also included the following (UNTAET Regulation 2001/10.B. However. The Conceptual Community Reconciliation Process The community consultation process carried out in preparation of the Commission’s formation had indicated the desirability of the involvement of customary justice procedures. represents a departure from triedand-tested truth commission rhetoric. The Community Reconciliation Process or CRP was the mechanism designed to effect this reintegration. known in East Timor as adat or lisan (from the Indonesian and Tetum respectively). Also noticeable by its absence in the objectives of the Commission. although on first viewing concerning distinct and separate tasks. As will be discussed later. and (i) The promotion of human rights.

during the Indonesian occupation. however. The ceremony typically involves a public meeting where conflicting parties sit facing one another separated by the communities’ adat leaders. Wherever possible this process sought also to include individual victims of these actions. who were termed ‘deponents’. see Soares (1999:13). while the emphasis given to developing the rule of law through the creation of a formal justice system along court-based lines has weakened and even sometimes displaced adat processes.658 B. and the broader community within which they lived or which they had harmed through their prior actions in relation to past political conflicts. wherever possible. but it is important to note that this was not the first priority of the CRP. See also Hohe and Nixon (2003). or under the UN administration. The way in which the hearings were facilitated also sought to mimic a common customary conflict resolution ceremony widely known as nahe biti bo’ot (Tetum: ‘to spread the big mat’). Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 many. adat leaders would be invited to participate in the hearings. Participation in the CRP was secured by a socialisation process which explained the aims and principles of the process and extended an invitation to community members who found themselves estranged from their communities by virtue of their past acts or allegiances. whilst the mediation between the parties participating was facilitated by a panel comprising prominent community members and chaired by a senior CAVR staff member. 17 See ‘Law and Justice in East Timor. A Survey of Citizen Awareness and Attitudes Regarding Law and Justice in East Timor’ by The Asia Foundation (2004). adat processes were also somewhat controversial.19 The CRP hearings followed this general format but reduced the adat leaders’ position as judge and jury to a ceremonial role. prioritised in the design of the CRP methodology and the decision taken that. 16 See the International Rescue Committee’s Research Report ‘Traditional Justice and Gender Based Violence’ by Swaine (2003). therefore. formal legal systems never penetrated deeply. 18 And have been argued to have actually become more popular. The CRP was designed as a voluntary process. aimed at reaching agreements between applicants. However. see Soares (2002).16 Customary law remains most influential in the rural areas where up to 70% of the population lives. 19 For a discussion of nahe biti ceremonies and their place in Timorese society.18 The inclusion of adat processes and principles was. whether under the Portuguese colonial government. The process would allow such individuals to seek community-based agreements that required them to admit wrongdoing. particularly in their notoriety for a failure to recognise or adequately represent women and the crimes against them. these retain a strong influence. .17 In these areas.

Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 659 apologise for their acts. The Actors and Their Scripts: Deponents’ Narratives in the CRP During the 18 months that the CRP was implemented across East Timor. looting and assault.21 ‘Serious crimes’ remained under the jurisdiction of the OGP whilst the CRP was authorised (at OGP’s discretion) to handle cases concerning exclusively ‘less serious crimes’. 21 The CRP was also prohibited from addressing crimes relating to land. and those responsible for ‘less serious crimes’. In addition. The inclusion of a working relationship with the formal justice system assuaged some of these doubts by requiring that each case be reviewed by a member of the judiciary before its approval and authorising as a court order.B. . This allowed a mechanism which sought to distinguish between those responsible for ‘serious crimes’. in line with the objectives of the commission outlined earlier.500 people approached the CAVR to request participation in the process. to basic principles of fairness and proportionality. concerns were raised about the possibilities of the traditional system not complying in this regard. Any acts which the panel had decided on as sanctions (typically community service and symbolic fines. murder. On completion of all post-hearing requirements. crimes against humanity. those who had participated where issued with a court-approved notification that they were immune from civil or criminal prosecution for all of those acts they had declared during the CRP. Those whose participation was approved and subsequently appeared to testify 20 As defined in UNTAET Regulation 2000/15 ‘On the Establishment of Panels with Exclusive Jurisdiction over Serious Criminal Offences’. it was particularly important the community reconciliation process and agreements conform to human rights standards and. war crimes. June 2000 ‘serious crimes’ comprise genocide. sexual offences. Those wishing to participate in a CRP hearing had to submit a written statement disclosing any acts they had committed which was passed to the Office of the General Prosecutor (OGP). and torture. especially with regards to possible penalties that might be exacted on deponents. or personal matters. over 1. thus. such as houseburning. inheritance. During the drafting process of the legislation. and agree to some sort of sanction. though the majority of deponents were required to simply apologise) were in this way registered as orders of the court.20 such as murder and rape. At the close of a CRP hearing any subsequent agreement reached was then registered with the court structures. symbolic or otherwise.

I was not obliged to go through the PRK (Proses Rekonsiliasi Komunitas. Indonesian: Community Reconciliation Process) but as a citizen I wanted to go ahead. details of the individuals and structures that had coordinated and commanded their actions. This is not to say that many of those who appeared in the CRP hearings had not profited from their role as fellow travellers with the Indonesian state apparatus. The fact that most of those who testified in the CRP were asked. By refusing to label those testifying as perpetrators. Typically their acts had been against members of their own community thus making the need for their reintegration acute: ‘If there is to be peace and reconciliation in East Timor.660 B. the CAVR attempted to reinforce the absence of the ‘true’ perpetrators and support the impression that all present. By refusing to label those who had committed acts against their communities as ‘perpetrators’ and instead employing the politically neutral term ‘deponent’. . Indeed many of those who explained their personal trajectories through the long history of political conflict could lay claim to experiences where either label would seem fitting. victim or those members of the community observing the hearing. emphasised their lack of individual agency experienced at the time at which prior acts had been committed. those lucky enough to escape the machinations of the Indonesian regime. shared the identity of survivors. 2004:86). the CAVR took an important step away from the bipolar oppositionality of victim vs. . it echoes some of the principles of what Mahmood Mamdani has termed ‘survivor’s justice’ (2004:470–471). Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 about their past acts in CRP hearings were termed ‘deponents’. Yet many who stood before their communities told stories which made it impossible to categorise them definitively as either perpetrator or victim. the future is one in which victims and perpetrators must be part of each other’s daily lives’ (Burgess. perpetrator. and in most cases provided. I made contact with the Falintil (guerrilla pro-independence forces) and I assisted them with money . yet whose low-ranking status. I was a Luirai (traditional king) during the occupation and my work was very public. 2004:147). A new organisation was formed soon after called the FRDK (Forum Demokrasi Keadilan). limited alternative options and enforced coercion led to the possibility to view them as ‘camouflaged opponents’ to the regime (Levi. . In this. whether deponent. Deponents testifying in the CRP hearings represented a minority group of those who had benefited from their proximity to the Indonesian state. rather than its true functionaries and foot soldiers. . The majority of those who appeared were motivated to do so because of acts they had committed whilst members of the pro-Indonesian militias although some wished to resolve issues pertaining to other chapters in the country’s turbulent past. I felt I needed to give my statement about 1999 . My name was .

we were the branches only .B. In 1999 after the referendum the FRDK was disbanded. thus. their value as a commodity which was.22 This moral element of the narrative provided ‘. We were also victims of the Mahidi leaders. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 661 put there by the Camat (Sub-district Administrator).8 of UNTAET Regulation 2001/10. in effect. . see § 27. (Comments made by a former Mahidi militia member and CRP deponent. 2006(6):35) The Mahidi [militia group] leaders are still in West Timor and haven’t come back. If I didn’t give any names to the Camat there would have been much suspicion of me. though it is much too nebulous to assess . . even though we were not involved in any crimes . The spontaneity and sincerity of such remorse seemed often questionable and was after all a mandatory requirement of participation in the CRP. As a Luirai. Another element that was impossible to determine from anything other than a subjective point of view was the sincerity of the remorse and repentance felt by the deponent. Knowing definitively that the person testifying was giving an honest representation of the degree to which their participation in acts against their community was coerced (and thus their moral responsibility for it diminished) was difficult to gauge. 2004:477). . The people had taken the walls of our house off. They are like the root of the tree. We all had to live with ‘ulun rua’ (two faces) in those days in order to survive. . (Comments made by a former CRP deponent. . in such circumstances is the establishment that the confessional narratives that emerged through the CRP process constituted ‘the truth. and abused us. . many times. motivations and. . We had to put it back again. responsibility was ultimately known only to them. When we came back from West Timor we felt that people were suspicious of us. I didn’t go along to any activities. Our buffalo had been stolen. they beat us. Nebulous because one can only observe that an expression of remorse has been made. It didn’t really do anything bad. being 22 All who participated in the CRP were required to apologise to their communities as part of their performance. as had our pigs . cited in CAVR. 2004:16) Trading Confessional Narrative The difficulty. These two elements: the perceived veracity of the testimony and the sincerity of the apology that accompanied it. . I was asked to name names of those who should join the Darah Merah (militia group). . We feel not good that the big people are still free. by the Camat. of course. cited in Kent. I had to put forward 20 names from this village. We were scared if we didn’t join we would have been suspected of supporting the clandestine and killed .7 and 27. Is it genuine? Impossible to tell’ (Solyinka. but the whole picture of their actions. the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. When we came back (from West Timor) our houses had been destroyed and our things were taken. is glaring enough. . . . In many cases others present at the hearing could verify or deny elements of the narrative provided by the deponent. constituted the intrinsic worth of the deponents’ narratives. .

We didn’t have any choice. as only those who had intimate knowledge of the deponents’ activities and affiliations would be able to challenge the content of the confessional narratives. the community-based setting of the CRP hearing was crucial. the importance of ‘full disclosure’ of acts by deponents within a CRP process is viewed by many victims as more important than community service or symbolic repayment in determining their re-acceptance of the deponent. Many of those participating cited this stigmatisation as the main factor that had prompted them to participate in the CRP. The TNI prepared a . in turn. instead for many participation represented a chance to bring to an end an often long period of stigmatised shaming by transforming it — through ritualised confession and apology — into a form of reintegrative shaming (see Braithwaite. I joined the Ahi militia in 1999. 1989). had consequences for prospects of reintegration: . The localised setting of the hearings also facilitated a process of shaming to take place — itself strongly linked to confession and apology. Correspondingly established ‘facts’ known by the community (often supposition based on rumour) about the deponents level of involvement were scaled down. as this currency — the perceived quality of the narrative — was being tested. Although few deponents raised concerns about physical abuse and intimidation. 2004:80). (Kent. and in some cases read verbatim from the written statements they had submitted as their application to take part in the CRP. admissions of guilt were often expanded under questioning. It is little wonder then that the question and answer sessions at the CRP hearings sometimes lasted throughout the day and into the night. until what was produced could be said to be a ‘best-fit’ truth — one that was acceptable to the majority of those attending. as evidenced by ‘how people in the community reacted or didn’t react to them. We are just farmers. Although deponents often tried to stick to their scripts. . . Shaming and Reintegration As has been stated. which. 2004:24) The shaming of individuals was not confined to their testimonies on the day. We were forced to join the militia.662 B. Often what was agreed upon at the end of these protracted negotiations represented a version of events arrived at through a process more akin to barter than to the definitive proving of a truth in a court-based sense. which made them feel uncomfortable and on guard’ (Pigou. most were aware of the underlying friction. but I am just an ordinary person. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 traded for the right to re-enter the community as a full member.

1989:76). . Social scientists. offending against the social group given the existence of certain key factors: “Both the specific and general deterrent effects of shame will be greater for persons who remain strongly attached in relationships of interdependency and affection because such persons accrue greater interpersonal costs from shame” (Ibid. compared with formal sanctioning which is more professionalised than participatory. such as Max Gluckman (1963). 2004:13) In this way it seems likely that the CRP provided a forum whereby the stigma that had become attached to individuals through the informal process of gossip was able to be challenged by the open and public debate with the individuals concerned. cited in Kent. such as Campbell (1964:272). People didn’t talk to me sometimes before. . Now I feel that people are more open. My job was to bring gasoline to the military. highlighting the role played in reinforcing community values. It is in such contexts that reintegrative shaming can play a crucial role in strengthening a sense of social order: “Because shaming is a participatory form of social control. . I fled to Atambua [in Indonesian-controlled West Timor] and came back in September 2000. The informal processes of shaming and reintegration. and thus deterring. The social circumstances in which the CRP operated certainly lent themselves well to the employment of shame as a means of punishment and deterrence given that most of who participated in the violence of late 1999 took part in acts against members of their own villages (Burgess. arguing that in this way conflict and division is avoided. shaming builds consciences through citizens being instruments as well as targets of social control” (Ibid. In this way gossip represents ‘a hallmark of membership’ of the group (Ibid. it is argued. this structural approach fails to address the needs of communities emerging from protracted periods of occupation where policies of divide-andconquer often leave behind legacies of mistrust (Braithwaite. However.:81). Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 663 letter asking for six people from each suco (village) to join the militia. In the face of such potentially paralysing suspicion. However. The reason I joined the PRK was because I thought about my children.:313). Now when I walk around I feel freer. Before the PRK I felt ashamed to walk around the village. Before I felt todan (heavy) when I went to work in the fields.” (Post-hearing comments made by former deponent. I worried about my children’s future . the resultant exclusion and lingering resentment felt by those at its centre can often lay the foundation for future conflict. are more effective than formal judicial methods in punishing. the CRP’s practice of making public what was usually the subject of closed gossip runs counter to the assertions of Gluckman and others. championed the qualities of social coherence inherent in gossip. 2004:147). who emphasised that such gossip is rarely directed to the face of the person concerned.:81).B.

24 The strong link between the two mechanisms may have had a negative effect on perceptions of the CRP at this time as many felt that while the CRP had successfully addressed some of those involved at the lower levels. A common refrain was ‘We were just ordinary people. (Kent. as well as to bring hundreds of indicted persons. to justice’ (UN News Service. Indeed. 24 By the time the Serious Crimes Unit effectively ceased to operate in East Timor in May 2005. interviews with over 50 former participants of the CRP as part of the process of evaluating and improving the process and its impacts. it was also expected that more serious cases would be dealt with by the formal criminal justice system. a number of potential deponents had effectively ‘slipped through the gap’.e.. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 Post-Performance Reflections: Other Factors Influencing the Value of Deponent Testimony An enduring theme throughout the post-hearing interviews23 conducted with many deponents (as well as with other groups interviewed) was the perceived low-level of involvement in the political conflict of those taking part in the CRP. . a number of deponents sought to expand on their explanations of what had 23 The author personally conducted. either in West Timor. nor the CRP. as consent was not sought nor offered for their use outside of their intended internal purpose. for a number of reasons. and as a result appeared immune from efforts to secure justice and accountability. see Kent. or in some cases back in East Timor. live prosperously). none are directly reproduced here. 2004. or participated in. 2004:15−16) At one level. little or no action appeared to have been taken against those involved in more serious crimes. why should we go through this process while the big people continue to be free?’ The perception is that these big people continue to ‘live well’ (i.664 B. such concerns raise questions about the commitment of individual deponents to the reconciliation process. Although it was intended for the CRP to address ‘low-level’ violations. These were primarily middle-ranking militia elements that were neither the focus of OGP activities. on the ground amongst the kind of communities where CRPs have been convened. due to an unwillingness to accept personal responsibility for what they have participated in. including those living in Indonesia and elsewhere. indictments had been issued for only about 40 percent of the killings thought to have been committed in 1999. we were forced to join the militia. severely limited and. Pigou. and with impunity. 4 August 2006). For direct quotes from interviews. A recent review of the outstanding justice issues in the country prompted Kofi Annan (then Secretary General of the UN) to call for ‘renewed efforts to investigate those crimes. The pursuit of criminal investigations and prosecutions was. 2004.

The CRP. 2004. is therefore not entirely surprising. Those participating in the CRP as deponents were arguably subject to a degree of ‘screening’. playing down the scale of the harmful acts they had committed. Victims were given the opportunity after hearing the deponents to provide additional information about that had been omitted in the deponents’ narrative or to ask clarificatory questions. The subsequent general high regard in which deponents regarded the process. At the same time. both perpetrators and victims may find themselves occupying liminal spaces outside of their normal social status by virtue of their involvements — in fundamentally different roles — in past acts of violence. Many used the opportunity to trace the genealogy of their recruitment or affiliations. It was those who had perpetrated acts against their communities that had made the choice to participate and it was their confessional narratives that took centre stage on the day of the hearing. Pigou. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 665 happened as a way of justifying their involvement. . Through a vetting process carried out by CAVR and OGP.B. The Audience: Community Observers and Direct Victims Ramifications of a Perpetrator-Driven Process As was discussed at the outset of this paper. Zifcak. specific categories of deponent were selected to participate in community hearings. concerns about impunity highlight the fragility that the reconciliation achieved by the CAVR could be washed away in the absence of further endeavours to overcome judicial impunity.25 which at its core centred on their need to reintegrate with their wider communities. did the subject under discussion cease to be the deponent. Based on the author’s observations in attending over 20 CRP hearings. This had important effects on the nature of the benefit gained by participation for victims.26 By contrast. was a perpetrator-driven process. however. however. pointing the finger of responsibility at others who were not present at the hearings. 2004. 25 26 See Kent. At the hearing deponents were afforded a forum to explain and contextualise their previous acts. instead their role was a more supporting one. victims and community observers were not afforded such an opportunity for personal testimony. 2004. emphasising instead their good deeds and their limited options at the time. after which members of the wider community were offered the same chance. At no point.

The CRP scrutinised only lower-level crimes as they related to the deponents. the CRP. ultimately. thus. and satisfaction with. 2006(9):42) Often the missing pieces of the puzzle that were required in terms of closure for victims went beyond the acts declared by the deponent themselves and concerned serious crimes that victims hoped they might be able to shed light on. I was jailed in West Timor from 1997−1999 because I was involved in the clandestine. Zifcak. §27. The multi-faceted nature of many individuals’ experiences of victimisation seems to have been a major factor in influencing perceptions of. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 By contrast victim’s perception of the process varied. In effect.666 B. Until now my eyes are dizzy and I cannot see very well. were there to corroborate or challenge the narrative supplied by the deponents. The issues being addressed by the CRPs did not. no way for them to preserve their right to seek redress through the formal justice system once the CRP had been initiated by a deponent. The guiding regulation makes allowance for stopping a CRP hearing only in the event that the deponent refuses to answer questions without a valid reason.27 their inclusion in the process did not involve any specific selection process. Even then. many specific victims could not be identified and often deponents named no victims. and did not examine more serious crimes that might have affected the victims. Pigou. therefore. or if information was disclosed at hearing that implicated the deponent in a serious crime. I was beaten many times and my body thrown into the sea. requesting instead an engagement with the broader community. 2004.6 of UNTAET Regulation 2001/10. our house was also burned and our things destroyed. Significantly the victims had no legal right to object to a deponent being declared ‘reconciled’ and. and was almost entirely dependent on their identification by the deponents. (Post-hearing comments made by a victim who had participated in a CRP hearing concerning the deponent’s part in the destruction of his house. 2004. this was not a forum for either telling or completing victims’ narrative accounts of their own suffering. While my wife was still pregnant with our first child. however. Where possible deponents were encouraged to provide additional information if it was known to them. cited in CAVR.28 This may well have compounded a sense of 27 28 See Kent. Two of our family members were killed during the violence. During 1999. . 2004. necessarily reflect the priority concerns of many victims and communities.5 and 27. those named as direct victims of the deponents taking part in the hearing. Those who killed them have not yet come back from Atambua.

In the declarations some gave they admitted they committed a crime of their own accord. If the CAVR comes here again there is no point. The deponents’ previous acts and affiliations had by and large relied on a proximity to the Indonesian regime to command authority and fear from their community members. Primo Levi observed. I felt not very happy with them. He said he didn’t know who killed [my husband]. Some of them acted the way they did because they had drunk tua (alcohol) . . I wanted to forgive them. This may go some way to explaining why community leaders taking part as panel members in the hearings reported consistently higher levels of satisfaction than did victims taking part in the process (see Pigou. a significant act in demonstrating that social hierarchical norms had been restored and the base of power now lay once again in the community and with its leaders. thus. we don’t get any result. . But I said to him. I didn’t feel happy. 2004) Judging the Deponents In sitting in judgement on the deponents a significant act was taking place in the political life of the community involved. They didn’t want to come near us. Since independence the base for this power had gone and with it much of the power-byproxy at the disposal of the deponents. Those who had burnt my house had come back from Atambua. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 667 powerlessness for victims participating in the CRP as they effectively had no right not to reconcile. Before the PRK. The preceding factors combined and competed with the effect that predicting the degree to which victims obtained a sense of closure or felt healed by their participation in CRP hearings was impossible. (Post-hearing comments made by people who had participated in a CRP hearing as victims from interviews conducted by Kent. how can you have not known?’ He didn’t speak the truth. I didn’t feel negative. The ceremonial ‘trial’ of the deponents through the CRP was. At the PRK they said that they were forced to do these things by the militia leaders. ‘You were a big person in Tim Alfa (militia group). I believed them. The people who killed my husband should go to Komarka [prison] and never come out so they can suffer like I have done. The sanctions meted out to deponents at the end of the CRP hearings were often lenient. I felt angry towards them. When [the deponent] came to speak at the CAVR I went to hear him but I didn’t want to receive him. The relatively light ‘sentences’ handed down to deponents may reflect the diminished responsibility they were felt to have had for their past actions. I don’t want their wives ever to see them again.B. 2004:32). frequently requiring only an apology (Kent. “If it were up to . 2004:79−82). Now that I understand why they did things I feel better. Writing on the apportionment of guilt for those who colluded with the Nazi regime’s administration of the concentration camps. When the CAVR came we thought [the deponent] would speak the truth but he didn’t.

. In this criterion for forgiveness. Given this background. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 me. had high expectations of the scale and type of justice that was to be delivered by the process. perceived failures by the formal justice system to deliver justice for those guilty of serious crimes had implications for the way in which the CRP and its results were regarded. I didn’t want to ask them to rebuild my house. But [he] is still in Betun (a city in West Timor). I didn’t feel negative. In their declarations they admitted they committed a crime of their own accord. the scale of the outstanding justice issues facing the nation was far greater than the capacity of its nascent justice system. thus. If the government gives us help then we would accept it but not from the perpetrator. it is hardly surprising that many of those participating as audiences to the CRP hearings came to see the processes of reconciliation and justice as inextricably intertwined and. I wanted to accept them to achieve peace in our nation. He said that he will be a witness when [the commander] comes back. in doing so. We are already peaceful with them. I wanted to forgive them. . I received [the deponent] but I didn’t really want to. (Post-hearing comments made by community members who had participated in CRP hearings as victims. Levi echoes the sentiment of many who observed the CRP hearings and. Because my brother was killed. The 1999 problems happened because of the war so I didn’t want to ask them to pay for my things. As mentioned earlier. 2004:19) However. Correspondingly. I believed them. I received [the deponent] in the PRK because he said he is waiting for [the militia commander of the sub-district] to return because he was the witness to who killed the bodies. but if [the commander] doesn’t come back I do not want to accept the result. The State has to bring [him] back to face justice. At the PRK they said that they were forced to do these things by the militia leaders. In this context the CRP was seen by many of those involved in its design as adding a valuable means of dealing with outstanding low-level criminal activity related to the past political conflicts. I didn’t think the deponents did what they did because of their own behaviour but because they were used by others. and the fact that the CRP employed and emulated the best known customary justice procedure in East Timor. I received him because he said when [the militia commander] comes back we will meet him and talk to him. If we want independence we have to have victims. if I were forced to judge. at the time of the implementation of the CRP.668 B. I would light-heartedly absolve all those whose concurrence in the guilt was minimal and for whom coercion was of the highest degree” (2004:85). community and family . I believe the process is not yet los (right) . sat in judgement on those testifying before them: I didn’t want to give them a sanction because it was the war that made them do it. I receive him because of this. cited in Kent. not all of those who had witnessed the hearings were satisfied by the forms of justice they found in the CRP.

which it would strive to overcome’ (CAVR. see CAVR (2003). this number may not be accurate. 2004:39). by blood or marriage. At the moment I still don’t know. . but one of being related. . . particularly in gaining their trust and overcoming fears about participation in the relatively restricted time conditions they were operating in (Kent. to those who had acted against their communities. of ensuring that women played a major role in the reconciliation process. 2006(1):18). This imbalance in the involvement of women in the CRP seems removed from the commissioners stated intention ‘. The direct CRP staff themselves identified difficulties in securing the participation of female deponents. bringing the gender ratio in the division to 50:50. There was. 2004:37−38). 2004:39). . however.B. If [he] comes back and provides this information I will be happy to accept [the deponent]. A number of the women participating in the CRP. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 669 because [the commander] is not back. cultural and economic barriers to women’s participation. If [the militia commander] comes back the state has to take him to the tribunal. a reasonable balance between men and women in the role of regional commissioners facilitating the hearings and performing the role of panel chairperson. 29 A preliminary unpublished report from the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) suggested a total of 26 (out of an overall total of 1. This entailed that women . and the women performing this role reported no significant difficulty in doing so based on their gender (Ibid.30 which may have had an impact on prioritising and securing the participation of deponents and victims. should be able to participate in its activities. prior to that there had been only one female member of the CRP national office. Absent Actors? The Lack of Women’s Participation in the CRP Addressing Crimes Committed by Women Unfortunately no clear data exists as to the total number of women appearing in the CRP as either deponents or victims. did so not because of direct acts that they had perpetrated against their communities or individual members. although it is unlikely that the number of female deponents exceeded thirty 29 and staff consistently reported few women’s identification or participation as direct victims (Kent. The CRP division itself was predominantly male-dominated in the makeup of its direct staff for the first year of its operations. however. The Commission recognised the existence of practical. all bar one of which were women. . but because of their relationship to those who had perpetrated such acts: “The most common ‘crime’ was not a criminal act at all.477).. 30 Sixteen staff were recruited in August 2003.

although there were likely the same issues of estrangement and stigma amongst female community members as there were for men. Addressing Crimes Committed Against Women The reportedly low levels of women’s participation as identified victims in the CRP may have been a result of a broader trend in Timorese culture that saw the predominantly male deponents only identify those that they had harmed as being men. it is assumed that the rates of completed investigation and indictment were comparatively low. Although the OGP did not collate statistics for crimes such as rape and torture.32 However. the Special Panel for Serious Crimes. this meant that most crimes against women of a sexual nature remain unaddressed to the present day. adat processes in East Timor have a somewhat dubious reputation for the way that they involve and represent women. particularly in the way that sexual abuses are concerned: “In consideration of international standards. 2003:3). of which 43 percent constituted rape and 93% were attributed to the Indonesian security forces. This may stem from beliefs regarding property ownership as a male prerogative. 2006(7): 2. The involvement of customary justice procedures may have had an impact on the reduced levels of participation. that led them to involve only those victims directly named in the deponents’ statements (Kent. documented 853 cases of sexual violence. 31 32 From Larke (2006). including charges of rape.000 people regarding human rights violations from 1974−1999. as well as time constraints on staff. Report of the CAVR. it is evident that women’s rights are not given adequate consideration in their search for justice. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 In this context many women may well have quite rightly identified themselves more as victims than as perpetrators. especially in local justice proceedings” (IRC. were tried by the formal justice system’s mechanism for dealing with serious crimes. in the absence of other justice mechanisms to address such crimes against women. only five cases. the CRP may not have provided an appropriately gender-sensitive process to provide a means for their resolution. As mentioned earlier.670 B. . 2004:39). the CAVR. in taking statements from almost 8. For example. The legislation preventing the CRP considering acts related to sexual violations bypassed the problem of its potentially inappropriate nature but.”31 In such circumstances it seems likely that. as they were not given the same organisational priority as murder.

this was done to emphasise the relatively disempowered way in which victims were able to participate. afford a certain generosity in their leniency as. As such. However. the CRP may have reinforced collective memorialisation of a conflict . nor. either corroborating or contesting the deponent’s version of events. The CRP may also have played a key role in restoring the ‘natural order of things’ in the communities within which it operated. Speaking about past atrocities and constructing narratives that describe collectivised experiences is an inherently political activity and one that has been historically dominated by men. it emphasised the diminished guilt of those who had committed acts (by refusing to label them ‘perpetrators’) and made no legal allowance for the process. The resultant sanctions decided with input from the community leaders could. once initiated. 2003:25).B. Such a public event. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 671 Concluding Comments The CRP was not an adequate forum for those who had been victimised to engage in healing processes as envisaged by psycho-therapeutic models focussed on narrative-building. demonstrated the resurrection of past community-based hierarchies of power. This was coupled with a failure to overcome customary beliefs/practices which failed to recognise women’s experiences as victims. no doubt. This established the deponent central role in the CRP and meant that victims’ roles in the subsequent processes of dialogue were reactive. dispute the decision to relegate the discussion of the role of victims in CRP hearings within this paper to that of being a part of the audience. Some observers of the CRP would. and resultant power vacuum on its departure. As opposed to customary adat practice which often resolves disputes brought to the elders by those who feel themselves harmed by the actions of others (Hohe and Nixon. which called to account those who had strayed from the path and held them up in a public shaming exercise. By under-representing the role of women in the country’s turbulent past. the CRP was initiated following a request only from the deponent. The social fissures that were the legacy of the Indonesian occupation. the point had already been made. represented a significant challenge to community politics. Instead the CRP was primarily a reintegrative process that set out to provide a forum which allowed those who had become distanced from their communities by their past acts to ‘return to the fold’. thus. The fact that the success of the CRP hinged on ‘naming-and-shaming’ before a process of reintegration. however. to be stopped by anything other than the deponents’ failure to comply with the conditions of the CRP. to some degree. may have made it fundamentally unsuitable for the needs of women who were also trying to come to terms with liminal status resulting from a perceived proximity to the Indonesian regime. was it intended to be.

McAuliffe (2008). particularly women.34 More recently. some have speculated that a CRPtype process might be an effective means to address the backlog of crime associated with the civil unrest since April 2006. much of what made the CRP an attractive and viable option post 1999 seems applicable in the current circumstances.33 In assessing the way the CRP addressed the needs of the communities with which it worked. was one of the most powerful and emotive activities that the CAVR facilitated in the villages of East Timor and its implications and effects on those communities — particularly on the impact of participation on victims — are likely to have been far-reaching. and there is widespread agreement amongst practitioners that any attempts to address the consequences of the current See Cristalis and Scott (2006). both at the national and local level. this paper has made no mention that the Commission targeted a gamut of its activities toward the needs of victims. and facilitated closed healing workshops for those who were identified as having experienced particularly traumatic events. see also JSMP (2004b). to criticise the way that the CRP involved and represented the often conflicting needs of communities. That this may have mirrored what the leaders of those communities felt to be their priorities is not immaterial. Weighing collectivised social needs against those of the individuals who constitute the group is a difficult undertaking and one that is normally entrusted to those chosen by the community for their ability to make such decisions. However. it seems that at times the process facilitated reintegration at the expense of the victims’ desire for retribution and redress. The CRP. As well as recommendations made in the CAVR’s final report ‘Chega!’. 35 See Walsh (2006). Although community leaders played a role in the CRP hearings it seems clear that their ability to ensure a balance between the conflicting needs of perpetrators and victims was hampered by both the mechanism and legislation underpinning the process. 34 33 .35 At face value. however. Since the end of the implementation of the CRP there have been calls for either its resurrection or for it to serve as a prototype for a system to generally address low-level crimes. UNMIT (2005). it is clear that confession was not the only commodity being traded through the hearings.672 B. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 perpetrated by and against men. however. including hearings centred solely upon victims’ narratives. Zifcak (2004). By prioritising the needs of social harmony and stability above those of individual members of the communities involved. thus strengthening what is in effect a popular myth. In focussing on the CRP. victims and women in general as a failure to uphold the CAVR’s objective of ‘assisting in restoring the human dignity of victims’ seems overly harsh.

on the many social fault-lines existent across the country could prompt resurgence of conflict. and touching upon a perceived imbalance in the local monarchic structure. illegal occupier. The extent to which customary practice is alive and well in East Timor is contestable. . given its basis in customary practice. ‘Easterners’ who remained un-coerced. and contested. 36 See generally Trindade and Castro (2007). In the current climate. where predictably the process of urbanisation has challenged norms and values that underpin the beliefs in the power of authorities that rely on their link to the ancestral world. However. its application should be carefully considered. The success of the CRP process lay largely in its familiarity. largely dependent on who is doing the labelling. In addressing the aftermath of the conflict a range of issues predating the contemporary conflict became apparent spanning affiliations with the Portuguese and the Indonesian regimes. making definitive trajectories of violence hard to discern and harder yet to unravel. This was illustrated in January 2009 in the village of Bahalara-ua’in in Viqueque district where a confrontation between young members of rival martial arts groups at the local school rapidly escalated and saw houses damaged and livestock slaughtered. The CRP. property owner vs. as well as Niner (2006) and Palmer (2006). signs of the continuing importance of customary practice to those involved in contemporary conflicts are encouraging36 and deserve further exploration. The benefit of reflection on the CRP would seem to suggest solutions from both the distant and the recent past. despite the difficulties of untangling the webs of violence that are weaving themselves ever closer into the social fabric of communal life in East Timor. efforts must be made to do so. However. inadvertently or otherwise. in its simple reductionism of dividing participants into either deponents or victims. Any line drawn across any incident of communal conflict in contemporary Timor Leste is likely to bisect a number of these oppositionalities which cross-cut and combine. although the CRP offers a valuable model for conflict resolution/transformation in the current Timorese context. identities in the current context. the possibility remains that any further pressure exerted.B. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 673 crisis should. Attempts to address the contemporary conflict in East Timor likewise resist straightforward labelling: perpetrator vs. seek to incorporate customary practices associated with conflict resolution. frequently found itself confronted by the narratives which refused to allow those involved to be rendered into such straightforward dichotomy. wherever possible. youth leader. 118 families were displaced from their houses and fled to the nearby Church before a rapid government-initiated response saw them return. ‘Westerners’ who bore the brunt of Indonesian occupation vs. particularly in Dili. However. gang member vs. are all fluid. victim.

M. the current conflict(s) involve a myriad of affiliations and identities. turned the page on the events of the past. clearly identifiable goals and outcomes need to be defined and agreed upon before any multi-party dialogue is begun. A. As has already been mentioned. a sense of clarity of purpose will be paramount to securing meaningful participation — to this end. but also arguably played a role for the wider community by formalising an agreement that demarcated an end to the period of communal conflict and. Dili: The Asia Foundation. and will have to consider how to provide incentives for participation and closure for the issues that they touch upon. property ownership and factions within the armed forces (both within and between their past and present members). It is in this climate that future attempts to promote dialogue as a means to conflict resolution have to seek meaningful outcomes. political allegiances. To be able to address these complex issues and secure the participation of all of the relevant parties. and Allan. dialogue instead of meaningfully addressing problems or taking action.674 B. In contemporary East Timor the term ‘dialogue’. Larke / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 646–676 Another crucial aspect of the CRP that seems to have contributed to its success in engaging communities was far more ‘modern’ and related to the ‘accord of reconciliation’ that resulted from the hearings and underpinned court orders that were issued once all acts of reconciliation were deemed complete. but not limited to. dialogue processes will need to be capable of great flexibility in their preparations. like ‘reconciliation’. These formalities provided not just an incentive for deponents’ participation by formally recognising their immunity from prosecution. . regional origins. gang memberships. as many have come to see them as weak substitutes for other desired outcomes or processes: reconciliation as substitute for justice. like the term ‘reconciliation’ is frequently being applied as though its meaning is implicitly understood. TAFET Report. Contemporary approaches to dialogue and dispute resolution in East Timor might do well to seek similar closure mechanisms in the design of their strategies. including. A Survey of Citizen Awareness and Attitudes Regarding Law and Justice in East Timor”. The Asia Foundation (2004) “Law and Justice in East Timor. the CRP was seemingly at its most potent. References Allan. thus. Behavioural Sciences and the Law 18: 459−477. However. (2000) “The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a Therapeutic Tool”. When these were coupled with the customary rituals and procedures associated with ending conflict and reintegrating estranged members. Yet. Another similarity between the two terms is the fatigue that is being developed to their use. ‘dialogue’ has a great many meanings to a great many people.

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