chapter  5
Torture in Timor-Leste
Pages 16

This chapter builds on the previous overview of repression (established in Chapter 1) to provide further detail of torture and ill-treatment in TimorLeste. The chapter, which draws substantially on research interviews with victims, highlights that torture was undertaken and supported by various groups within Timor-Leste including local political party members, as well as militia members and intelligence agents. However, the majority of torture in the region was directly conducted and directed by Indonesian army and police force officials. These perpetrators used torture for different ends – to obtain intelligence, to gather confessions, to coerce compliance and deference to the regime, to silence dissenters, to punish and eradicate resistance groups, to terrify the population, to ‘turn’ individuals into regime supporters or informants, and to satisfy the personal wants of individual torturers. Many groups have been affected by torture in Timor-Leste; however, this

chapter indicates that torture was differentially applied – according to the victim’s social status and location. Alongside this, torture is shown to have been just one part of widespread gross human rights violations and abuses that affected vast swathes of the population – that is, torture was just one violation among many others and victims often faced a spiral of victimization in which the harms against them extended over many years. This chapter also illustrates how victims have coped with or resisted their

treatment. Victims’ testimonies make clear that they engaged in strategies to avoid being ‘caught’ in the first instance; that they attempted to subvert the repressive techniques against them during detention; and that they sought to secure their freedom through various means. In detailing these aspects of victimization and resistance, this work highlights that the Indonesian-led torture and repression in Timor-Leste invigorated and gave spirit to the whole resistance movement, both within Timor-Leste and abroad.