chapter  7
Justice in Truth-telling?
Pages 22

This chapter assesses whether justice has been secured for Timorese torture victims through truth-telling mechanisms. It focuses particularly on the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR); however, it also evaluates the ongoing Truth and Friendship Commission (CTF). The chapter shows that torture victims, like other survivors of serious violations, have had an opportunity to participate directly in CAVR practices – principally, they have given ‘truth-telling’ statements about their violations, but they have also engaged in community reconciliation hearings. These activities have led to a more complex recognition for torture victims and their perpetrators; they have culminated in a re-engagement between local people who were previously divided; and, on occasion, they have provided an opportunity for perpetrators to be shamed or punished. Yet, victims could also be framed out of recognition practices as a result

of the violence perpetrated against them, the limited opportunities provided to them to participate, and their need to protect themselves from further emotional harm and violence. In addition, a recognition-based justice has also been undermined by the activities of perpetrators and CAVR staff, as well as by institutional processes that narrowed and distorted the truths being told. More significantly, however, the CAVR was undermined by its inability to

deal with the status-based injustices that underpinned violations like torture. In many ways these shortcomings attributed to the CAVR are the problems of others – the failure of the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) or the Ad Hoc Courts to prosecute Indonesian officers; the decisions by the Timorese government to forego claims for reparations or prosecutions; the stance of the CTF, to exchange truth-telling and prosecutions for ‘friendship’with Indonesia; the determination of the United Nations and powerful states (such as the US, UK, and Australia) to distance themselves from justice provisions – nevertheless, they have cast a long shadow over Commission activities. The Commission began, then, to challenge misrecognition and non-recognition, but it has been downgraded by other transitional justice measures that have continued to devalue victims. And, in offering a participatory and recognition-based justice without a corresponding redistributive justice, the CAVR has contributed to feelings of marginalization among victims.