Report

Report on human rights developments in Timor-Leste: Aug 2006 – Aug 2007

15 Nov 2007
Description

Since August 2006, important progress on the human rights situation in Timor-Leste has been achieved. The security situation has largely been brought under control, and in three peaceful election rounds, widely regarded as free and fair, the Timorese chose a new president and new parliament. In spite of these significant developments, however, important human rights challenges remain. Since August 2006, important progress on the human rights situation in Timor-Leste has been achieved. With the assistance of police of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and the international security forces (ISF), the security situation has largely been brought under control, although occasional spikes of violence still occur as was the case in August 2007. In three peaceful election rounds widely regarded as free and fair, the Timorese chose a new president and new parliament. The Timor-Leste Office of the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice (PDHJ) expanded its monitoring and investigative activities, and several national prosecutors, judges and public defenders were sworn in, thus enhancing the capacity of the judiciary. In accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste (CoI), judicial processes were initiated against former members of the Government of Timor-Leste and national military and police involved in the 2006 crisis. UNMIT re-established the Serious Crimes Investigation Team to investigate outstanding cases of serious human rights violations committed in 1999. The first IDPs have moved from crowded camps to transitional shelters and the districts. In the meantime, the Government submitted its first treaty report on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and is finalizing its first report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). President Jose Ramos-Horta and government officials have re-affirmed Timor-Leste's commitment to human rights and democratic governance.

In spite of these significant developments, however, important human rights challenges remain. The alarmingly high number of internally displaced persons who still live in makeshift camps and the absence of progress towards durable solutions are of concern. Gender-based violence is common and a draft domestic violence law has been pending for several years. The Human Rights and Transitional Justice Section (HRTJS) has found that violations of human rights by state actors still occur and that there is an urgent need to strengthen internal accountability mechanisms, such as the national police's Ethics and Discipline Office (EDO). Effective access to justice is constrained as the judicial system remains weak, particularly in the districts. A considerable backlog of pending cases further hampers the work of the courts, impacting negatively on the right of victims to legal remedy. No legal mechanisms are in place to address property disputes, such as a law on land and property rights, which is also a serious obstacle to resolving internal displacement. Serious cases of political bias compromising the impartiality of the police force were noted. There were initiatives for the adoption of amnesty legislation in relation to crimes committed during the period April 2006 to April 2007 including the 2006 crisis, which risked fostering impunity. Meanwhile, no progress has been made on implementing the recommendations of the 2005 report of the Commission of Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) on human rights violations between 1974 and 1999, whereas the Commission on Truth and Friendship between Timor-Leste and Indonesia continued functioning on the basis of terms of reference which provide for the possibility of recommending amnesties that are incompatible with international law.

The 4th Constitutional Government of Timor-Leste was inaugurated on 8 August 2007. The tasks lying ahead of it are formidable. With the active support of the international community, Timor-Leste is slowly but steadily progressing beyond the political and security crisis of April/May 2006, though considerable effort is required to address the underlying causes of the crisis and to ameliorate the consequences thereof. Much remains to be done to fully achieve institutional stability and responsibility, and to regain public confidence in state institutions. The recent violent reactions to the formation of the new government, involving the burning of around 300 homes in the eastern districts as well as attacks on government, UN and church property, should serve as a stark reminder of the fragility of the situation and the challenge of building a culture of democracy and the rule of law in a young, developing country that went through several traumatic episodes of violence. The ultimate aim of the country's leaders and the Timorese people of a peaceful and prosperous democracy demands further progress, in particular in combating poverty, in reforming the security sector and in strengthening respect for the rule of law. The facts, the analysis and the recommendations contained in this report are aimed to assist all those involved in promoting human rights and justice in the country.

Publication Details
Published year only: 
2007
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