Source: (2003) Paper prepared for the United States Institute of Peace and delivered at the workshop on "working with Non-State Justice Systems held at the Overseas Development Institute held 6-7 March. Institute of Development Studies. Downloaded 12 December 2003.

The authors of this report, Tanja Hohe and Rod Nixon, assert that local legal systems have been of continuing relevance in East Timor throughout and beyond the periods of Portuguese colonial and Indonesia occupation. Imposed state judiciaries have had a limited impact. Moreover, local populations have tended to use state judiciaries, where imposed, in accord with the priorities of their own cultural context and perspective. In the cultural world view of native populations, kinship concepts relate intimately to most aspects of life. Communities tend to be ordered through kinship concepts and systems, with supernatural ancestral powers as controlling and life-giving forces. Hence, conflict resolution and punishment of offenses are part of this “traditional" or customary order of values and rules. Against this background, Hohe and Nixon examine the reconstruction of society following the destruction of the infrastructure and administration of East Timor in the wake of the vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999. During the peacekeeping and state-building operation of the United Nations, reconciling local and state systems and institutions has been extremely difficult. In particular, the authors explore the relationship between local approaches to conflict resolution and state systems of law in the context of rebuilding East Timor’s society.