International humanitarian law and East Timor: Theory and practice

31-03-2001 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 841, by Bertrand Levrat

 Abstract of the article "   Le droit international humanitaire au Timor oriental: entre théorie et pratique  "  

East Timor has been on the international community’s agenda since 1975, and the events of 1999 have attracted worldwide attention to the island’s fate. This article examines some of the legal issues which are relevant for the application of international humanitarian law to the conflict over East Timor. In particular, the author examines the international status of East Timor during the Indonesian occupation and after, with the arrival of the multinational military force and the administration set up by the United Nations. The status of those civilians who took refuge in West Timor from the explosion of violence, as well as the rights of Timorese detained by the provisional administration, are also extensively discussed. The author regrets that many legal issues have not been settled in a satisfactory manner by the various players involved in the international response to the drama, although clear answers may be found in international humanitarian law applicable to the situation prevailing in East Timor.