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Peacebuilding and Transitional Justice in East Timor

James DeShaw Rae
Peacebuilding and Transitional Justice in East Timor
ISBN: 978-1-935049-12-8
2009/255 pages/LC: 2009019896
A FirstForumPress Book
"An important contribution to an understanding of the dynamics of the democratic transition in East Timor and the conceptual and practical challenges to transitional justice efforts more generally."—Ernesto Verdeja, Perspectives on Politics

“A jewel of a case study. Accessible and lively, this volume is a valuable resource to academics and practitioners who want to understand the roles that outsiders can and cannot play in encouraging peace in troubled societies around the world.”—Pamela Aall, US Institute of Peace

“An important study of the UN peacebuilding operation in East Timor. Rae’s emphasis on the needs and contributions of ordinary people brings a welcome sensitivity and a broader vision to the subject.”—John Darby, University of Notre Dame


Did the United Nations successfully help to build a just, peaceful state and society in postconflict East Timor? Has transitional justice satisfied local demands for accountability and/or reconciliation? What lessons can be learned from the UN’s efforts? Drawing on extensive field work, James DeShaw Rae offers a grassroots perspective on the relationship between peacebuilding and transitional justice.

Rae traces the effects of the political violence perpetrated in East Timor during the Indonesian occupation, as well as the UN-authorized intervention and the ultimate formulation of the rebuilding effort. In the process, he explores the results of hybrid (mixed domestic-international) tribunals and the attempt to conduct war crimes tribunals and truth and reconciliation commissions in tandem. Not least, his account of the impact of international actors working with the East Timorese to construct a new nation from the ground up suggests important policy prescriptions for all postconflict societies.


James DeShaw Rae is assistant professor of government at California State University, Sacramento.


  • Introduction: Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation in Postconflict Societies.
  • Colonialism, Cold War, and Crimes Against Humanity.
  • As Good as It Gets? The International Rebuilding Effort.
  • Justice and Reconciliation: Culture, Courts, and the Commissions.
  • Connecting Peacebuilding and Transitional Justice.