United Nations Administered East Timor

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East Timor
Timor-Leste (Portuguese)
Timor Lorosa'e (Tetum)
Location of East Timor at the end of the Indonesian archipelago.
Location of East Timor at the end of the Indonesian archipelago.
StatusUnited Nations protectorate
Common languagesTetum
• 1999–2002
Sérgio Vieira de Mello
Chief Minister 
• 2001–2002
Mari Alkatiri
25 October 1999
20 May 2002
• Total
15,007 km2 (5,794 sq mi)
CurrencyUnited States dollar
ISO 3166 codeTL
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Indonesian occupied East Timor
East Timor

United Nations Administered East Timor refers to the period between 25 October 1999 and 20 May 2002 when East Timor was administered by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor as a United Nations protectorate.


East Timor was colonised by Portugal in the mid-16th century and administered as Portuguese Timor. Following the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, East Timor unilaterally declared independence on 28 November 1975, but was invaded by Indonesia 7 December 1975. East Timor was occupied by Indonesia and administered as Timor Timur province. The invasion was not recognized as legal by the United Nations, which continued to regard Portugal as the legal Administering Power of East Timor. In 1999, in a UN-sponsored referendum, an overwhelming majority of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia. Immediately following the referendum, Pro-Indonesia militias commenced a scorched earth campaign triggering the 1999 East Timorese crisis. An International Force for East Timor was deployed to the territory to bring the violence to an end. Indonesia formally rescinded its annexation on 19 October 1999 and a United Nations transitional administration was subsequently established on 25 October 1999 by Security Council Resolution 1272 to administer the territory until independence on 22 May 2002.

Administrative history[edit]

Initial administrative arrangements[edit]

A National Consultative Council was established in December 1999 by UNTAET REG 1999/2,[1] and served as a forum for East Timorese political and community leaders to advise the Transitional Administrator and discuss policy issues. The Council had eleven Timorese members and four international members. A Transitional Judicial Service Commission was also established to ensure representation of East Timorese leaders in decisions affecting the judiciary in East Timor. The Commission was made up of three Timorese representatives and two international experts.[2]

First transitional administration[edit]

In July 2000 the membership of the National Consultative Council was expanded to 36 members including, one representative from each of the 13 districts of East Timor, and the body was renamed the National Council.[3] All the members were now Timorese and represented the main political parties and religious communities of East Timor. The National Council became a legislature style body and had the right to debate any future regulations issued by UNTAET.

The following month an executive body, the Transitional Cabinet, was formed comprising four Timorese members and four international members.[4][5]

Progress was made in the development of a judicial system with a Prosecutor General's Office and a Defender Service established. District Courts and Court of Appeal were also established.

A voter registration process was completed during this period and preparations were made for elections to a Constituent Assembly that would prepare East Timor for independence expected in 2002.

Second transitional administration[edit]

Elections for an 88-member Constituent Assembly[6] were held on 30 August 2001, the second anniversary of the autonomy referendum, which resulted in a plurality of seats for the FRETILIN party. The Assembly nominated a transitional Council of Ministers[7] the following month. The Council of Ministers had 24 members and was led by transitional Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri.

The Constituent Assembly completed work on a draft constitution and this was promulgated in March 2002,[8] the Assembly would serve as the parliament of East Timor following independence.

Presidential elections were held in April in which Xanana Gusmão was elected president of a future independent East Timor.

East Timor became an independent state on 20 May 2002.

Office holders[edit]

Transitional administrator[edit]

Sérgio Vieira de Mello served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for East Timor (Transitional Administrator) during the period East Timor was administered by the United Nations.

No. Portrait Name
Election Term of office Political party
Took office Left office Time in office
- 2019-08-26 Ian Martin.jpg Ian Martin
n/a 25 October 1999 19 November 1999 25 days n/a
1 Sérgio Vieira de Mello.jpg Sérgio Vieira de Mello
n/a 19 November 1999 20 May 2002 2 years, 182 days n/a

Chief minister[edit]

Mari Alkatiri served as Chief Minister of East Timor between September 2001 and May 2002.

No. Portrait Name
Election Term of office Political party
Took office Left office Time in office
1 Mari Bin Amude Alkatiri 2002.jpg Mari Alkatiri
(born 1949)
2001 20 September 2001 20 May 2002 212 days Fretilin


The following elections were held during United Nations administration:

Local government[edit]

Map of the districts of East Timor.

During the period of United Nations administration, East Timor was divided into thirteen districts:[9]

Each district was headed by an UNTAET appointed District Administrator supported by District Advisory Councils with representation from political parties, the Catholic Church, women and youth groups.[10]

Security and law enforcement[edit]

Security was initially provided by the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) but was assumed by UNTAET Peace-Keeping Force (PKF) in February 2000. The formation of an East Timor Defence Force was approved in September 2000 which was formally established in February 2001.[11] The East Timorese pro-independence guerrilla movement FALINTIL was officially disbanded as this time with many of its members joining the new defence force.

Initially law and order in East Timor was maintained by an international United Nations Civilian Police Force (CIVPOL). Recruitment and training for a local police force commenced by UNTAET in April 2000[12] and an East Timor Police Service was established in August 2001.[13] Prisons were established at Dili, Becora and Gleno. A Serious Crimes Unit and Crime Scene Detachment also existed to investigate human rights abuses during the period of Indonesian occupation and its immediate aftermath.

International relations[edit]

Liaison Offices[edit]

The following countries opened Liaison offices in East Timor during the period of United Nations administration:[14]


Four East Timorese athletes participated in the 2000 Summer Olympics and two athletes participated in the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney, Australia.[15]

Media and communications[edit]

UNTAET public information[edit]

The UN-led interim administration maintained a local FM radio station, "Radio UNTAET", and published a fortnightly newsletter known as "Tais Timor" in English, Portuguese, Tetum and Indonesian.[16]

Postal services[edit]

The United Nations transitional administration established an East Timor Postal Service in April 2000 with post offices opening in Dili, Baucau and at Comoro Airport. Two postage stamps with the inscription Timor Lorosae / UNTAET were first issued on 29 April 2000, in red for domestic mail and blue for international mail.[17][18][19]


Portuguese Timor used the international dialing code +672 until 1975.[20] During Indonesian occupation, the Indonesian country code +62 was used. The code +672 was subsequently reassigned to the Australian External Territories. Initially after the end of Indonesian occupation, the code +672 9 was used following an agreement with the Government of Australia and telecommunications provider Telstra.[21] East Timor was later assigned the code +670.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UNTAET – Regulation No. 1999/2 On the establishment of a National Consultative Council". Un.org.
  2. ^ "UNTAET – Regulation No. 1999/3 On the establishment of a Transitional Judicial Service Commission". Un.org.
  3. ^ "UNTAET – Regulation No. 2000/24 On the establishment of a National Council" (PDF). Un.org.
  4. ^ "UNTAET – Regulation No. 2000/23 On the establishment of the Cabinet of the Transitional Government in East Timor" (PDF). Un.org.
  5. ^ https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/etimor/untaetPU/newsletter12E.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  6. ^ "UNTAET – Regulation No. 2001/02 On the election of a Constituent Assembly to prepare a Constitution for an independent and democratic East Timor" (PDF). Un.org.
  7. ^ "UNTAET – Regulation No. 2001/28 On the establishment of the Council of Ministers" (PDF). Un.org.
  8. ^ Devereux, Annemarie (2015). "Overview of the Constitution-Making Process in Timor-Leste" (PDF). Timor-Leste's Bill of Rights: A Preliminary History. Acton, Australian Capital Territory: ANU Press. pp. 17–60. doi:10.22459/TLBR.05.2015. ISBN 978-1-925022-39-1. JSTOR j.ctt169wd59.7.
  9. ^ (PDF) http://www.unmiset.org/legal/RDTL-Law/RDTL-Minist-Orders/Decree-Order-2003-6.pdf. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)[1] (213 KiB)
  10. ^ https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/etimor/untaetPU/newsletter5E.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  11. ^ "UNTAET – Regulation No. 2001/01 On the establishment of a Defense Force for East Timor". Un.org.
  12. ^ https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/etimor/untaetPU/newsletter5E.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  13. ^ United Nations Transitional Administration Administration in East Timor. "Regulation No. 2001/22: On the Establishment of the East Timor Police Service" (PDF) – via peacekeeping.un.org.
  14. ^ https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/etimor/untaetPU/newsletter6E.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  15. ^ "East Timor trailblazers symbol of unity for Olympic world". 25 September 2020.
  16. ^ "Tais Timor - Newspaper". www.gov.east-timor.org. Archived from the original on 15 July 2001. Retrieved 3 September 2022.
  17. ^ https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/etimor/untaetPU/newsletter3E.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  18. ^ "Postage stamp territories - East Timor - www.postoveznamky.sk".
  19. ^ https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/etimor/untaetPU/newsletter6E.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  20. ^ White Book, Volume 2, Part 1, International Telegraph and Telephone Consultative Committee, International Telecommunication Union, 1969, page 30
  21. ^ Telstra is reconnecting East Timor to the world, Telstra, 21 February 2000

External links[edit]