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East Timor Truth Commission

The Commission on Truth and Friendship


The Commission on Truth and Friendship of Timor Leste (East Timor) and Indonesia (CTF) was the first bilateral truth commission established by two countries to deal with the aftermath of a conflict. The CTF had been preceded by prosecutions in Timor Leste before the Special Panels for Serious Crimes, and in Indonesia before the Jakarta Ad Hoc Human Rights Court, for the violence that occurred in 1999 in conjunction with a referendum in East Timor that paved the way for independence. In addition, a Timorese national truth commission (CAVR) had published a massive report and there had also been an investigation and report by the Indonesia National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) and by a UN Commission of Experts.

The Commission

When the presidents of Timor Leste and Indonesia announced in 2005 that they were creating the CTF this move was widely regarded, both internationally and by civil society in both countries, as merely a political maneuver to undermine calls for the creation of a new international tribunal to deal with the 1999 violence. Indeed, the two governments both stated that they desired to settle their differences themselves without outside judicial intervention. Despite the widespread rejection of the mandate of the CTF (and in particular the provisions allowing the Commission to recommend amnesty but prohibiting it from recommending prosecution) the Commission proceeded with its work. In 2007-2008 it conducted public hearings, closed hearings, and an extensive review of previous investigations and trials. It completed its report, “Per Memoriam ad Spem” (“From Memory to Hope”) in May 2008 and officially presented it to the presidents of the two countries on July 15, 2008 in Bali.

In regard to the task of analyzing the evidence from previous trials and investigations, the Commission requested the assistance of David Cohen, Director of the War Crimes Studies Center, as its Expert Advisor for international legal issues. With the assistance of a research team including Ms Leigh-Ashley Lipscomb of the WCSC, as well as members of the ELSAM NGO in Jakarta and student interns at Berkeley, Cohen prepared two reports for the Commission that analyzed in great detail the evidence supporting charges of crimes against humanity in East Timor. The two reports also considered the evidence indicating which institutions bore responsibility for such crimes. The first “Report of the Expert Advisor”, was presented to the Commission in April 2007. The second report, “Addendum to the Report of the Expert Advisor” was received by the Commission in November of that year. These two reports, totaling many hundreds of pages, were accepted in full by the Commission and provided the analytical and evidentiary basis for the conclusions reached in its own report, mentioned above.

Despite the initial misgivings of its critics, in the end the Commission produced a report that has been widely acknowledged as credible and far-reaching. Completely rejecting the notion of amnesty or political rehabilitation for any individuals the Commission found that crimes against humanity had been committed in a highly organized, widespread, and systematic manner in East Timor in 1999. These crimes, the Commission found, included murder, rape, torture, deportation and forcible transfer, and persecution as crimes against humanity. The Commission also found that in addition to the direct role of Indonesian-backed Timorese militias, Indonesian institutions including the army (TNI), police, and civilian government were directly or indirectly involved in every phase of the organization and perpetration of these crimes. Further, the Commission found that despite limited investigations, there was credible evidence to indicate that Timorese institutions were also responsible for illegal detentions and possibly other crimes. On the basis of these findings the Commission made recommendations for institutional reform in military and security forces, as well as other recommendations to ensure that such violence would not reoccur.

Reports and Papers

This section of our website contains the official version of the Report of the CTF (“Per Memoriam Ad Spem”) as it was presented to the president of Indonesia and president of Timor Leste on July 15, 2008. It also contains the official version of the two Reports of the Expert Advisor, as approved by the Commission in 2008.

Report of the CTF, “Per Memoriam Ad Spem” (PDF)

Report of the Expert Advisor (PDF)

Addendum to the Report of the Expert Advisor (Coming Soon)

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