Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

(until 20 May 2002 East Timor)

Population: 739,000 (358,000 under 18)
Government armed forces: 650
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 17
Optional Protocol: acceded 2 August 2004
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, ICC

There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces.


The head of state appointed following the first presidential elections on 14 April 2002 was Xanana Gusmão, former Commander in Chief of Falintil, the armed group that resisted the Indonesian occupation. Independence was declared on 20 May 2002 and Timor-Leste was admitted to the UN on 27 September 2002. The UN peacekeeping mission in East Timor (UNMISET) continued to provide interim law enforcement.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

The constitution states "Every citizen has the right and the duty to contribute towards the defence of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country" (Section 49). "The State shall promote and encourage youth initiatives towards the consolidation of national unity, reconstruction, defence and development of the country" (Section 19). The Superior Council for Defence and Security functions as the consultative organ for the President on matters relating to defence and sovereignty (Section 148).2

There is no conscription in Timor-Leste. The recruitment and selection process for the first 600-member battalion of the newly-formed Timor-Leste armed forces was completed in January 2001.3 The minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 18.4

Military training and military schools

The first recruits to the new armed forces completed basic training in 2001. Australia, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Portugal and the USA were involved in training the first battalion. A training complex at Metinaro, built by Australia, was formally handed over to the Timorese armed forces on 6 July 2001. A second battalion of 261 was recruited in January 2002, and began training in February.5

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR)

According to the constitution, "The State shall ensure special protection to the war-disabled, orphans and other dependants of those who dedicated their lives to the struggle for independence and national sovereignty, and shall protect all those who participated in the resistance against the foreign occupation, in accordance with the law" (Section 11).

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), with funding from the World Bank and USAID, implemented the Falintil Reinsertion Assistance Program from January to December 2001. Social and economic reintegration assistance was provided to 1,300 former Falintil members, including start-up cash and material support for crop and livestock farming, fishing and micro-enterprises.6

The International Rescue Committee, which ran a project with 13 community groups in five districts to support women and girls who had experienced gender-based violence, also traced children and reunited over 1,100 of them with their families. In March 2004 it was handing over to local partner organizations the responsibility for identifying children who had been separated from their families.7

Other developments

International standards

Timor-Leste acceded to the Optional Protocol in August 2004. Its declaration on accession confirmed that the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the national armed forces is 18 years, as specified by domestic law.8

1 Amnesty International Reports 2003 and 2004,

2 Constitution of Timor-Leste, at Government website (in Portuguese),, at Law Library of Congress (in English),

3 UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Daily briefing 3 December 2001, (News and developments, daily press briefings).

4 UNTAET, Daily briefing 1 February 2001, Transition of Falintil into the East Timor Defence Force.

5 UNTAET, Daily briefing, 3 December 2001, op. cit.; Fact Sheet 16: East Timor Defence Force, April 2002.

6 John McCarthy, Falintil reinsertion assistance program: Final evaluation report, IOM, June 2002, at

7 International Rescue Committee, IRC Programs in East Timor Close, 15 September 2003.

8 Declaration of Timor-Leste on accession to the Optional Protocol, (subscription required).


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