Academic journal article Australian International Law Journal

Wearing His Jacket: A Feminist Analysis of the Serious Crimes Process in Timor-Leste

Academic journal article Australian International Law Journal

Wearing His Jacket: A Feminist Analysis of the Serious Crimes Process in Timor-Leste

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article aims to examine the gender jurisprudence of the serious crimes process in Timor-Leste. It focuses on whether the cases arising from the process delivered 'justice' for women and did justice to the experience of women in armed conflict. The article asks what 'justice judgments' the Timorese community have made about the trials; that is, whether the Special Panel's processes were accepted and understood in the general population. This examination sheds some light on the benefits, if any, that the existing framework of international law has provided for women engaged with transitional justice processes. This is judged by reference to the participation of women in the system and to any new international criminal jurisprudence, as well as by whether the process fairly represented the experience of women during the occupation and whether it added any material benefit to their lives in the independence period.

Introduction

  In the Serious Crimes (Investigation] Unit [SCIU], we punish some
  militias who are stupid enough to come back. 1 also think that the UN
  [('United Nations')] is spending too much money on the Serious Crimes
  Unit. The lawyers there earn more than I earn as President. And there
  is no infrastructure for the judicial system in East Timor. We need a
  working competent, free and functioning judicial system, not only in
  Dili, but also in the country. I think the SCIU can be there for 100
  years for all the stupid to come back across the border. In practical
  terms we don't see any benefit from this. (1)

In June 2005, United States Judge Phillip Rapoza reflected on his two years of service on the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. He expressed particular regret about the situation of a woman he met in Maliana. Judge Rapoza recounted that the woman said she often saw the two men who killed her husband when she went to the local market. What bothered her more was that one man wore her late husband's jacket. Judge Rapoza stated, 'They knew that she knows that they will never be prosecuted'. (2)

The aim of this article is to explore the gender jurisprudence of the serious crimes process in Dili. The focus is on whether the cases delivered 'justice' for women, in the sense of whether they did justice to the experience of women in armed conflict. Christine Bell and Catherine O'Rourke propose that feminist theorists should focus on how transitional justice debates help or hinder broader projects of securing material gains for women through transition. (3) Similarly, Katherine M Franke argues that transitional justice outcomes for women should be judged on whether they provide recognition and redistribution. (4) Recognition deals with establishing facts and identities, such as who are the victims and perpetrators of criminal practices. Redistribution deals with redistributing money and land, but also shame or symbolic and cultural resources. (5) While transitional justice mechanisms can do both, Franke decides that they are mostly engaged with recognition-based justice projects and that this has come at a cost to the individual women involved, while the limited script offered to women casts them only as victims of sexual violence. (6)

Fionnuala Ni Aolain and Michael Hamilton go further and suggest that what may appear to be a moment of opportunity for gender equality in transitional societies can become what they term 'a moment of retrenchment'. They argue that despite substantive advances in dismantling the public/private divide in many western societies, those same western states through 'rule-of-law proselytizing' can entrench the operation of this divide in transitional states. (7) Ni Aolain further explores this role of international masculinities, and the 'patriarchy that is imported with international oversight of transitional societies', in relation to issues such as the predominance of intimate partner and family violence in post-conflict states. …

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