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Patterns of Trauma in Conflict Victims from Timor Leste

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 57 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2012 Pages: 3-5
Debra A. Komar Ph.D.; Sarah Lathrop, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Date Published
January 2012
3 pages
This study examined population-level trauma patterns and the implications for recognition of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
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 percent of the sample, while a further 5 percent had only minor, nonlethal wounds. Where trauma was evident, sharp force injuries were most common (35 percent), followed by gunshot (20 percent) and blunt force (13.33 percent). 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. Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons.