Justice For All?

Since the dawn of time justice in East Timor has been measured in water buffalo. Generally a goat theft costs one buffalo and a rape is worth two, although it varies from town to town. Though traditional justice was never institutionalized, it has remained an underpinning of village life here. Before Indonesia’s 1975 invasion Timor was a Portuguese colony and for 400 years whatever went on outside the capital Dili was ignored. During the occupation courts were notorious for their corrupt judges whose decisions were not respected. When the Indonesians were ousted in late 1999 there was a lot of hope for improvement.

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