Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 06/2010

Beyond the Truth: Can Reparations Move Peace and Justice Forward in Timor-Leste?

Leigh-Ashley Lipscomb

March 2010

East-West Center


After hundreds of years as a Portuguese colony and then decades of Indonesian occupation, Timor-Leste (East Timor) finally became independent in 2002. Since then, Timor-Leste has been in the process of building itself as a sovereign nation, fighting to shake off its tumultuous past. Timor-Leste must now decide how best to resolve issues stemming from a brief civil war and Indonesian invasion and occupation (1975-1999), including grave human rights violations on all sides of the conflict. Human rights trials in both Timor-Leste and Indonesia have produced unsatisfying results, but two separate truth commissions recommended reparations--both intrastate and interstate--as a key element of reconciliation and healing. Critical questions remain, however, concerning the value, scope, and implementation of a reparations program within Timor-Leste or between Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Only a sincere, informed, and transparent decision-making process will result in a reparations program that could be a significant and successful part of moving peace and justice forward.