Truth Commission: Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation
Duration: 2002 – 2005
Charter: UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) Regulation 2001/10
Commissioners: 7
Report: Public report


Truth Commission: Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation (Comissão de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliação de Timor-Leste, CAVR)

Dates of Operation: February 7, 2002 - October 31, 2005 (45 months)

Background: East Timor had taken steps toward decolonization from Portugal in 1974 after a revolution and change of administration in Lisbon. Several political parties were emerging, and there was disagreement regarding who would control East Timor. An internal conflict erupted between the Timorese Democratic Movement (UDT) and the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN) in November 1975. FRETILIN proclaimed independence, while a few days later Indonesia convened the parties apposed to FRETILIN, and they all agreed to annexation by Indonesia. Indonesia invaded East Timor on December 7, 1975 and maintained a repressive occupation for the next 24 years.

By the early 1990s, organization of resistance groups, increased media coverage and mounting international pressure to end the abuses led to a referendum in which seventy-eight percent of the Timorese voted for independence. Widespread violence broke out within hours, displacing over 200,000 and burning most buildings in the major cities. Many political groups siding with Indonesia fought alongside the Indonesian army. International peacekeeping troops were called in to quell the violence, and the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor was given official control. The Serious Crimes Unit was established in 1999 to address crimes that took place from January 1 to October 25, 1999, and in early 2002, UNTAET established the Commissions for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation.

Charter: UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) Regulation 2001/10, July 13, 2001. The commission was established as an independent statutory authority by the Conselho Nacional da Resistencia Timorense (CNRT) government.
Mandate: The Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation’s mandate was to investigate human rights violations committed there between April 1974 and October 1999, which resulted in the death of an estimated 200,000 East Timorese. It was also to facilitate reconciliation and reintegration of minor criminal offenders who submit confessions, through local "Community Reconciliation Processes"; and to recommend further measures to prevent future abuses and address the needs of victims.

Commissioners and Structure: The commission was comprised of seven members: five men and two women. It also included twenty-nine regional commissioners. Aniceto Guterres Lopes, a lawyer and human rights activist, chaired the commission.

Report: The Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation’s final report (in English) was handed over to the President Xanana Gusmao in October 2005 and released to the public in November of that year. It was entitled “Chega!” (“No more, stop, enough!”).



  • The commission held 8 national hearings, conducted 1,048 research interviews, and received 7,760 victim statements.
  • It concluded that 102,800 Timorese deaths were directly attributable to the Indonesian occupation, including those who were killed and those who died from conflict related causes such as starvation, illness, etc.
  • The highest levels of government were implicated. Indonesian General Wiranto, Minister of Defense, and Chief of the Armed Forces, was specifically named in the report.


  • The Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation recommended that the government set up a reparations program and memorials to remember the victims as well as conduct further inquiry into mass graves and the fate of the disappeared.

Subsequent Developments:


  • In June 2008, the Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Issues, Justice, Public Administration, Local Power, and Government Legislation unanimously approved a Resolution on the implementation of the CAVR "Chega!" Report. The assembly of the parliament, however, still has not considered the report formally as of May 2009.
  • The government established a secretariat with the purpose of distributing the finding of the report, educating the public, and pushing for reform and follow-though on the recommendations.


  • The work of the truth commission was complemented by a Serious Crimes Unit (SCU), a prosecutorial body within the UN mission in East Timor. Moreover, the Special Panels for Serious Crimes, a hybrid court, was authorized to investigate and prosecute the most serious offenders. The Special Panel convicted 84 individuals. Most of them were low-level defendants and 75 percent of the people indicted remain at large.
  • The Serious Crimes Unit issued a warrant for General Wiranto's arrest in 2004, but the Timorese leadership objected to the arrest warrant which was not forwarded to the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).
  • In December 2004, the governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia agreed to establish a Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), rather than pursuing a judicial process. This bilateral commission issued its report in July 2008 and acknowledged that the Indonesian military and police as well as the civilian government and militia groups bore responsibility for crimes against humanity committed in 1999.
  • The SCU was dissolved in 2005. However, in August 2006 the Security Council decided to reopen the serious crimes process to investigate crimes committed in 1999 (SC/Res/1704). The UN Serious Crimes Investigation Team began its work February 2008 but leaves the prosecution in the hands of the Timorese prosecutor-general.


  • Civil society and parliamentarians are currently examining the establishment of a national reparations program. In early 2011, the debate of two bills that would establish such a program was further delayed after opposition from legislators. 



Related Publications

Timor-Leste’s Gusmão: Does the ‘Old Dog’ Have New Tricks to Save the Economy?

Timor-Leste’s Gusmão: Does the ‘Old Dog’ Have New Tricks to Save the Economy?

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Timor-Leste penetrates the world’s consciousness much less frequently than it did at the turn of the century when the Southeast Asian nation featured prominently in narratives about peacekeeping, state building, and approaches to peace and conflict, as its political leaders such as rebel leader turned statesman Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão gained global renown. And that relative silence is to Timor-Leste’s credit. The country is quiet and politically stable. Crazed driving is a bigger problem in the capital, Dili, than crazed men with guns.

Type: Blog


What Can Bougainville’s Independence Movement Learn from Timor-Leste?

What Can Bougainville’s Independence Movement Learn from Timor-Leste?

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Timor-Leste and Bougainville are two small, tropical island communities — one in Southeast Asia, the other in the South Pacific. While their culture and histories are distinct, they share a common political bond. They both voted overwhelmingly for independence in internationally sanctioned referendums, with Timor-Leste’s vote coming in 1999 and Bougainville’s in 2019. But only Timor-Leste, which is also referred to as East Timor, is now its own nation. What parallels does the path to self-determination in Timor-Leste hold for Bougainville as it looks to achieve the same goal?

Type: Analysis

Peace Processes

Customary Justice and the Rule of Law in War-Torn Societies

Customary Justice and the Rule of Law in War-Torn Societies

Friday, July 1, 2011

Customary Justice and the Rule of Law in War-Torn Societies presents seven in-depth case studies that take a broad interdisciplinary approach to the study of the justice system. Moving beyond the narrow lens of legal analysis, the cases—Mozambique, Guatemala, East Timor, Afghanistan, Liberia, Iraq, Sudan—examine the larger historical, political, and social factors that shape the character and role of customary justice systems and their place in the overall justice sector.  

Type: Book


Truth Commission Digital Collection

Truth Commission Digital Collection

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The United States Institute of Peace’s Truth Commissions Digital Collection is part of the Margarita S. Studemeister Digital Library in International Conflict Management.  The collection contains profiles of truth commissions and substantive bodies of inquiry from nations worldwide - offering general background information on the composition of each body, links to the official legislative texts establishing such commissions, and each commission's final reports and findings.

Type: Truth Commission

Conflict Analysis & PreventionHuman Rights

View All Publications