Searching for Conflict Related Missing Persons in Timor-Leste: Technical, Political and Cultural Considerations

This paper outlines the context in which many thousands of people went missing in Timor-Leste between 1975 and 1999. The issues related to estimating the exact number of missing are discussed, followed by a review of the mechanisms implemented by the government and civil society since independence to attempt to examine and investigate the fate of missing persons. The paper then examines the technical details involved with searching for the missing which impact on the effectiveness of the different mechanisms. Further complexities related to scientific and religious/cultural beliefs when dealing with the missing are discussed. The paper concludes withquestioning the to date ad hoc  approach to the search for the missing in Timor-Leste, and providing suggestions for ways that the future search for the missing can realistically continue in light of other competing development priorities.

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