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Formation of the Commission

June 2000 representatives of East Timorese civil society, the Catholic Church and community leaders held a workshop to consider transitional justice mechanisms, supported by the UNTAET Human Rights Unit. The advisability of establishing a truth commission for Timor-Leste was part of its agenda. The workshop recommended that a proposal to establish an independent commission with a mandate to investigate past violations and promote reconciliation should be put to the first National Congress of the CNRT (Conselho Nacional da Resistencia Timorense) in August 2000.

The CNRT Congress adopted the following vision of reconciliation:

Reconciliation is a process, which acknowledges past mistakes including regret and forgiveness as a product of a path inherent in the process of achieving justice; it is also a process which must involve the People of Timor-Leste so that the cycle of accusation, denial and counter-accusation can be broken. 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, above all, must be seen as a process where truth must be the outcome.

The Congress unanimously recommended the establishment of a “Commission for Resettlement and National Reconciliation”. A Steering Committee to develop the proposal was formed. It included representatives from the CNRT, East Timorese human rights NGOs, women’s groups, youth organisations, the Catholic Church, the Association of ex-Political Prisoners (Assepol), Falintil, UNTAET and UNHCR. The Committee’s first task was to conduct community consultations across Timor-Leste, and with East Timorese refugees in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia. The objective of these consultations was to collect information so as to gain an understanding of the attitudes of the East Timorese people on issues relating to reconciliation.

Following the Congress, assistance was sought from the UNTAET mission. The Transitional Administrator, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, nominated the Human Rights Unit of the mission to act on behalf of the UN in supporting the Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee conducted consultations with communities across Timor-Leste from September 2000 to January 2001. It visited each of the 13 districts, holding public meetings at district, sub-district and village level. It also consulted political parties, jurists and human rights organisations and victims’ groups. It found overwhelming community support for a truth and reconciliation commission.

On 21 January 2002 the Transitional Administrator, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, swore in as National Commissioners the five men and two women whom the Selection Panel had nominated. Those appointed were Aniceto Longuinhos Guterres Lopes, Father Jovito Rêgo de Jesus Araújo, Maria Olandina Isabel Caeiro Alves, José Estévão Soares, Reverend Agustinho de Vasconselos, Isabel Amaral Guterres and Jacinto das Neves Raimundo Alves.

Aniceto Guterres
Fr.Jovito de Jesus
Olandina Caeiro
José Estévão
Rev.Agustinho Isabel Guterres
Jacinto Alves

Following a public nomination process in each district the Transitional Administrator, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, swore in 29 Regional Commissioners on 15 May 2002. Ten of those appointed were women.

The following individuals were appointed as Regional Commissioners of the CAVR: Francisco Martins, Meta Mendonça (Aileu); Filomena Barros Pereira, Alarico da Costa Reis (Ainaro); Carolina M E do Rosario, Aleixo Ximenes (Baucau); Ana de Fatima Cunha, Francisco dos Reis Magno, Domingas dos Santos (Bobonaro); Antonio Alves Fahik, Maria Nunes (Covalima); Teresinha Maria Cardoso, Pedro Correia Lebre, Joanico dos Santos (Dili); Eduardo de Deus Barreto, Egidio Maia (Ermera); Albino da Silva, Justino Valentim (Lautem); Maria Fernanda Mendes, Ana Maria J dos Santos (Liquiça); Geraldo Gomes, Ildefonso Pereira (Manatuto); Jaime da Costa (later resigned); Saturnino Tilman (Manufahi); Antonio da Costa, José Antonio Ote, Arnold Sunny (Oecusse); Helena H X Gomes, Daniel Sarmento Soares (Viqueque).


UNTAET Regulation 2001/10 established the Commission as an independent authority, with a requirement that it “not be subject to the control or direction” of any cabinet minister or other government official.* The establishment of the Commission was recognised in the Constitution of the RDTL, Article 162. It was granted an initial operational period of 24 months. Three later amendments to the Regulation extended this period first to 30 months, then to 39 months, and finally an extension to 31 October 2005.†

Under its mandate the Commission’s tasks included the following.

  1. Inquiring into and establishing the truth regarding human rights violations which took place in the context of the political conflicts in Timor-Leste between 25 April 1974 and 25 October 1999.2 The inquiries were to include:
    • The context, causes, antecedents, motives and perspectives which led to the violations3
    • Whether they were part of a systematic pattern of abuse4
    • The identity of persons, authorities, institutions and organisations involved in them5
    • Whether they were the result of deliberate planning, policy or authorisation on the part of the state, political groups, militia groups, liberation movements or other groups or individuals6
    • The role of both internal and external factors7
    • Accountability, “political or otherwise”, for the violations.8
  2. Preparing a “comprehensive report which sets out the Commission’s activities and findings, based on factual and objective information and evidence collected or received by it or placed at its disposal”.9
  3. Formulating recommendations concerning reforms and initiatives designed to prevent the recurrence of human rights violations10 and to respond to the needs of victims. The recommendations could also include proposals for legal, administrative and other measures which could contribute the achievement of the objectives of the Commission.11
  4. Recommending prosecutions, where appropriate, to the Office of the General Prosecutor.12
  5. Promoting reconciliation.13
  6. Implementing Community Reconciliation Processes (CRPs), whose object was to support the reception and reintegration of individuals who had caused harm to their communities through the commission of minor criminal offences and other harmful acts.14
  7. Assisting in restoring the dignity of victims.15
  8. Promoting human rights.16
* Regulation 2001/10 On the Establishment of a Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, Section 2.2. In this Part, the Commission uses the term East Timor when making specific reference to Regulation 2001/10 and other legal instruments such as the United Nations Resolutions and international law; it also generally uses the term East Timor to reflect the term as used throughout the mandate period in the context of international law and the issue of self-determination.

† Although Section 2.4 of the Regulation allowed for a six-month extension without recourse to parliamentary consideration, all extensions were sanctioned by formal amendments to the Regulation. Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste National Parliament Law No 7/2003, Article 1 extended the mandate to 30 months. Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste National Parliament Law No 13/2004, Article 1extended the mandate to 7 July 2005. Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste National Parliament Law No 11/2005, Article 1 extended the mandate to 31 October 2005.

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