Acolhimento (Reception) and Victim Support
"When I participated in the hearing a lot of my family supported me in my desire to speak in public. They didn't object. They were grateful that I could tell the story of the suffering that I experienced throughout my life and that the leaders could hear it and take care of us.After I testified in the public hearing, my neighbours and my family were not upset. They were happy because I represented the victims from my town and told of the suffering that every single household experienced."
Florentina Gama, after giving testimony at a district-hearing in Balibo, Bobonaro, 2003.
While in English the Commission was called the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, it is the view of the Commission that the word "reception" does not adequately reflect all that we mean by "acolhimento". For that reason, "acolhimento" rather than "reception" will be used throughout this section.
National Commissioners did not try to reduce acolhimento to a single concept. It was both part of the spirit of the Commission's approach to its work and the spirit it hoped to foster in the community. Acolhimento involved people embracing each other as East Timorese, of coming back to our selves, living under one roof, after many years of division and violence.
The Commission's Acolhimento and Victim Support worked to fulfil two central, but quite different, functions of the Commission. Both functions cut across all aspects of the Commission's mandate in that both acolhimento and the support of the victims of human rights violations were core principles of all the Commission's programmes.
Acolhimento was the spirit that informed all aspects of the Commission's work. It became the centrepiece of the Commission's work out of recognition of the importance of East Timorese people accepting each other after so many years of division and conflict. Most immediately it was a response to the situation of East Timorese people who had gone to West Timor in 1999, those who had returned to Timor-Leste as well as those who remained in camps and settlements in West Timor . Two specific programmes were developed in response to their needs:
- A monitoring and information programme for recent returnees
- An outreach programme, implemented with NGOs in West Timor , to those East Timorese people still living across the border.
Victim support, by contrast, was an objective of the Commission that was specifically spelt out in Regulation 10/2001. Section 3 of the Regulation provided that the Commission was to 'help restore the dignity of victims of human rights violations'. The Acolhimento and Victim Support Division also carried out specific programmes. These included:
- Public Hearings at both the national and sub-district level
- A series of Healing Workshops at the Commission's national headquarters
- An Urgent Reparations Scheme for victims with urgent needs
- Village-level participatory workshops, called Community Profile workshops, to discuss and record the impact of the conflict on communities.
For more information on Acolhimento and Victim Support, see 'Chega! Executive Summary', pp. 29-42.