Special Panels of the Dili District Court

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The Special Panels of the Dili District Court (also called the East Timor Tribunal) was the hybrid international–East Timorese tribunal that was created in 2000 by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) to try cases of "serious criminal offences" — including murder, rape, and torture — which took place in East Timor in 1999. The Special Panels sat from 2000 to 2006.


Until 2003, there was generally only one panel of the court. In 2003, a second and a third panel were organised. Each of the panels was composed of two international judges and one East Timorese judge. International judges came from Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Uganda, and the United States.


Shortly after the Special Panels was formed, the Serious Crimes Unit was also created by UNTAET to investigate and prosecute the crimes in question. The Special Panels issued indictments for almost 400 people. A major hurdle in trying some of the accused was that they were Indonesian nationals and the government of Indonesia refused to turn them over to East Timor or the United Nations forces.

Special Panels held 55 trials involving 88 accused persons. Four persons were acquitted and 84 were convicted, with 24 of the 84 pleading guilty.

When the United Nations ceased funding the Special Panels and the Serious Crimes Unit, there were 514 outstanding cases for which investigations had been conducted but no indictments issued and 50 cases for which no investigations had yet been conducted. These cases which were not tried include 828 cases of alleged murder, 60 alleged cases of rape, and over 100 cases of alleged torture or other serious violence.

Liquiçá Church Massacre

The second Special Panel heard testimony on the Liquiçá Church Massacre. The panel was made up of Judge Benfeito Mosso Ramos (Cape Verde) presiding, Judge Antero Luis (Portugal), and Judge Antonio Helder (East Timor).

Other cases


  • Caitlin Reiger and Marieke Wierda (2006). The Serious Crimes Process in Timor-Leste: In Retrospect (New York: International Center for Transitional Justice)