Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2008

Human Rights and Post-Conflict Transitional Justice in East Timor

Taina Järvinen

January 2004

Finnish Institute for International Affairs


The theme of this paper is human rights in East Timor during the United Nations Transitional Administration UNTAET and the first years of the independent Democratic Republic of Timor Leste. Following a brief background on the history of the conflict in East Timor this study focuses on three topics: human rights in institution building, post -conflict environment and human rights, and transitional justice. The term ‘human rights’ refers here to internationally recognized human rights standards and principles, including the principle of the indivisibility and equal importance of all human rights. However, the emphasis is on the rights related to political participation that are often categorized as civil and political rights, whereas economic, social, and cultural rights will not be specifically addressed. This is not to reinforce the ideological divisions concerning human rights left over from the Cold War period, or to suggest that economic, social, and cultural rights are less significant. Indeed, economic, social, and cultural rights are crucial in post-conflict conditions. The focus reflects the definition of human rights used in UN peace operation mandates, where economic, social, and cultural rights have largely been left out, albeit the importance of the promotion of economic and social well-being is recognized in recent UN peacebuilding strategies.