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12 February 2006

Now that's real analysis

Some days it is difficult for analysts, especially those tied to desks in the bowels of dark undisclosed locations, to see the impact of their work. Sometimes the old accounts seem forgotten and all you are left with is a head full of bad memories of atrocities in a bad place no one else even remembers.

Then something like this comes along, and reminds you that some things are never really forgotten.

How statistics caught Indonesia's war-criminals
Statistical methods have been used to settle the question of wartime atrocities committed by Indonesian forces against the people of East Timor. The island of East Timor (now Timor-Leste) was occupied by Indonesian troops from 1975 to 1999.

A truth and reconciliation commission was convened to explore the scope of the mass murder on the island, and Patrick Ball, a "forensic statistician" was called in to extrapolate the full scope of the wartime deaths that can be laid at the feet of the Indonesian occupiers.

Likewise, for those interested in the old account, we recommend the book “Masters of Terror: Indonesia's Military and Violence in East Timor in 1999.”