Reconceiving Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons as Transitional Justice Actors

15 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2009

Date Written: September 30, 2009


This paper will explore the idea of whether refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) could or should become actors in the transitional justice processes taking place in their country of origin. It seeks to engage with the question of how has the existence of numbers of people in prolonged internal displacement or refugee camps affected the resolution of the situations that forced them into displacement?

A useful point of entry to this discussion is the case study of the Timorese Truth Commission, which had a unique ‘reception’ function. There were some serious difficulties reconciling the desire to bring refugees from West Timor home, with the legal demands for exclusion screening of militia from the camps. There was a heavily gendered impact in that exercise that went largely unnoticed. There were also significant numbers of Timorese granted refuge in third countries since 1975. I argue that transitional justice processes where there has been significant displacement of the population must tailor their operation to reflect the needs of that population. This seems straight-forward but in fact has been extremely difficult in the Timorese context.

Keywords: Refugee law, transitional justice, Timor Leste, protracted displacement

Suggested Citation

Harris Rimmer, Susan Gail, Reconceiving Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons as Transitional Justice Actors (September 30, 2009). ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 09-17. Available at SSRN: or

Susan Gail Harris Rimmer (Contact Author)

Griffith University ( email )

170 Kessels Road
Nathan, Queensland QLD 4111

Griffith Law School ( email )

Nathan Campus, GU
Nathan 4111, 4111

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