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Brief description:

Before, during and after the  August 1999 referendum, militia groups, in conjunction with Indonesian security forces, unleashed waves of violene, destruction, forced displacement, disappearances and intimidation. (ICTJ-KontraS 2011)

Time: 1999

Location: throughout Timor Leste

Rights violated:

  • right to life
  • right not to be tortured
  • right not to be illegally detained
  • right not to be disappeared
  • right to housing
  • right to participate

 Victims: numbers vary. The KPPHAM-Komnas HAM report (2000) estimates the number of people killed at 400. The Amnesty International & JSMP report (2004) estimates that some 1,400 people were killed in the months preceding and in the immediate aftermath of the ballot. The KPPHAM-Komnas HAM report estimates that 10,000 people were victims of forced evictions before the referendum and that 250,000 people have been forced to leave their houses after the announcement of the ballot (para 69-73).

 Chain of events:

Timor Leste was invaded and occupied by Indonesian troops in 1975. For human rights violations in the period 1975-1998 please see the general Timor Leste information. Three weeks after President Suharto stepped down in 1998, a demonstration of 15,000 students called for a referendum on Timor Leste. Then President Habibie granted that two options would be presented in a referendum: special autonomy linked to integration into Indonesia, versus independence. This referendum was carried out on 30 August 1999, and 78.5 % of the population voted against the special autonomy option, and in favour of independence.


  • Komnas HAM - KPPHAM (January 2000)
  • Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR)
  • Commission on Truth and Friendship (CTF)
  • Serious Crimes Unit (SCU)
  • UN Special Panels
Allegedly responsible: Kopassus, Kodim, Brimob, 745 Battalion, several militias
  • Adam Damiri
  • Cancio de Carvalho
  • Eurico Guterres
  • Joao Tavares
  • Nur Muis
  • Sediono
  • Sugito
  • Tono Suratman
  • Syahnakri
  • Wiranto
  • Zaky Anwar Makarim

 Prosecutions (ICTJ - KontraS, 2011):

  • Ad hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor (in Jakarta): 18 indictments, 6 verdicts, of which all were acquitted on appeal.
  • In the trial of Gen. Adam Damiri in the ad hoc East Timor court, the prosecutors argued that the accused should be acquitted. (ICTJ - KontraS 2011, p. 5)
  • In the UN-sponsored procedures of the Special Panel for Serious Crimes in Timor-Leste, 300 persons were indicted for crimes against humanity; 55 trials resulted in 84 convictions (members of militias).


 Both the reports of the CAVR and the CTF recommended some form of reparation for the victims. None have been implemented.


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