Press Release, Timor-Leste, November 2006

Palo Alto, CA, November 12, 2006 –The Benetech® Initiative congratulates the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) and the Timorese people for the official release of the CAVR’s final report Chega! in Australia today. The 2,500 page report uncovers previously unknown findings about past human rights abuses in Timor-Leste between 1974 and 1999. In particular, the report uncovers widespread and systematic human rights violations in Timor-Leste during the period 1974-1999.

Benetech’s statistical analysis establishes that at least 102,800 (+/- 11,000) Timorese died as a result of the conflict. Approximately 18,600 (+/- 1000) Timorese were killed or disappeared, while the remainder died due to hunger and illness in excess of what would be expected due to peacetime mortality. The analysis also establishes that conflict-related displacement was widespread. An estimated 108,200 displaced households experienced 282,000 acts of displacement between 1974 and 1999. The pattern of conflict-related displacement was strongly associated with conflict-related mortality (in the form of killings, disappearances and famine-related deaths) over time and space.

Dr. Patrick Ball, director of Benetech’s Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG), notes that the magnitude of large-scale human rights violations in Timor-Leste has long been a subject of contentious debate. “Benetech’s results help to place the debate on a factual basis.,” said Dr. Ball. “These scientific estimates are the most accurate and scientifically rigorous ever made for conflict-related mortality in Timor-Leste. They are based on a database of three independent sources: narrative statements, a retrospective mortality survey, and a census of public graveyards — all of which were developed jointly by HRDAG and the CAVR.”

By collecting new data and using well-established statistical and demographic methods, HRDAG assisted CAVR to become the first official truth commission in the world to draw on a household survey and public graveyard records. The statistical sections of the Chega! report, written by HRDAG statistician Romesh Silva and Dr. Ball, includes and extends the statistical chapter of the CAVR report. A PDF version of this report can be found at http://hrdag.org/content/timorleste/Benetech-Report-to-CAVR.pdf.

In partnership with the CAVR, HRDAG has injected new scientifically-defensible analysis into the debate about crimes of policy during the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste. HRDAG’s analysis describes the patterns of abuses reported to the CAVR in approximately 8,000 narrative testimonies which describe arbitrary detentions, torture, rape and massive property destruction. These analyses were integrated into the CAVR Report alongside multi-disciplinary research including legal reasoning, history, anthropology and sociology.

“The report’s analyses offer insights into the underlying causes of recent violence and institutional instability in Timor-Leste,” notes Romesh Silva, lead author of the statistics chapter in the CAVR report. “The CAVR’s findings provide the governments of Timor-Leste, Indonesia and the United Nations with a solid foundation to address the legacy of past human rights violations in Timor through accountability processes and institutional reform initiatives.”

Benetech, a nonprofit based in Palo Alto, California, creates technology that serves humanity by blending social conscience with Silicon Valley expertise. Benetech develops sustainable, technology-based solutions to address pressing social challenges in areas such as disability, human rights, education and literacy.

Benetech’s HRDAG uses science and technology to engage established, international human rights norms and answer hidden questions about massive political violence. HRDAG, in accordance with its legal agreement with the CAVR, will publish anonymized versions of the data used to conduct the analysis. See http://www.hrdag.org for more information.