Democratization of Perpetration

Human Rights, Transitional Justice, and Memories of Resistance in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste

in Conflict and Society
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This article examines the effects of human rights and transitional justice on memories of Timor-Leste’s resistance to the Indonesian occupation, which lasted from 1975 to 1999. Data comes from ethnographic fieldwork in Timor, centered around remembrance of two major acts of resistance: an armed uprising in 1983 and a peaceful demonstration in 1991. The article argues that in Timor, an “apolitical” human rights has caused a post-conflict “democratization of perpetration”, in that similar culpability is assigned to all those who caused suffering in the conflict with Indonesia through physical violence, irrespective of context. Transitional justice has thus expanded the category of perpetrator in Timor, to include some who legally used armed resistance against Indonesian rule. Studies of violence have belatedly turned toward examining perpetrators of state terror; this article examines how discourses of human rights and transitional justice shape perceptions of those who resist state terror with violence.