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The Demography of Large-Scale Human Rights Atrocities: Integrating demographic statistical analysis into post-conflict historical clarification in Timor-Leste

Citation: Presented at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, Los Angeles, California, March 30 – April 1, 2006, 2006

During 1975, Timor-Leste transitioned from being a colony of Portugal to being occupied by Indonesia. The occupation was characterized by large-scale political violence, including selective and indiscriminate killings, forced migration, famine-related deaths, tortures and acts of ill-treatment. The authors, formerly advisers to the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR, by its Portuguese acronym), estimated the pattern and magnitude of excess mortality and forced migration during the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste between 1975 and 1999. These estimates were based on a combination of qualitative testimony data, a census of public graveyards and a Retrospective Mortality Survey. The data corroborate the eyewitness accounts and qualitative historical analysis of the period. This paper briefly presents the statistical and demographic findings along with the results from survey estimates and capture-recapture methods. A detailed discussion is presented which shows how the demographic analysis contributed to the CAVR’s mandate, how the analysis was combined with historical, legal and anthropological findings, and which specific policy questions were informed by the demographic analysis.

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