In a new paper in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, Debra Komar of Liverpool John Moores University and Sarah Lathrop of the University of New Mexico have published [gated] a new survey of the pattern of injuries suffered by residents of Timor Leste during the 1999 violence. During the civil conflict, Indonesian-financed armed groups perpetrated widespread violence around the small island nation, killing a reported 1000-2000. In their paper, the researchers looked at 105 autopsy and anthropology reports during that time period. Here are their results:
No trauma was found in 25% of the sample, while a further 5% had only minor, nonlethal wounds.
Where trauma was evident, sharp force injuries were most common (35%), followed by gunshot (20%) and blunt force (13.33%). (Abstract)
The pattern of wounds found in the Timor Leste sample suggest many of the wounds were caused by improvised blades and farming equipment, a fact that “strongly suggests that the perpetrators were drawn from the local citizenry, rather than representing an adequately equipped military force”. The authors also note that this distribution of wounds looks more similar to Rwanda than it does from similar studies of mass violence in Cambodia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Afghanistan.
Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D. specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy.