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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • forensic anthropology;
  • blunt force trauma;
  • sharp force trauma;
  • gunshot wounds;
  • international human rights

Abstract:  Understanding population-level trauma patterns has implications for the recognition of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Trauma data were abstracted from autopsy and anthropology reports for 105 victims from the 1999 conflict in Timor Leste. A significant number of individuals displayed no evidence of injury. 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%). Timorese frequencies of trauma differ significantly from percentages found in prior reports of mass killings from Cambodia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Afghanistan but closely resemble reported trauma patterns in Rwanda. Decomposition and percentage of body recovered were shown to have a significant impact on the presence/absence of trauma. Complete, fleshed remains were 10.4 times more likely than skeletal remains to have evidence of major or lethal trauma.