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29 September 2014

President urges parliament to amend the Pension Law for Ex- State Officials and to Pass the Anti-Corruption Law



ETLJB 29/09/2014 From JSMP Press Release National Parliament 17 September 2014 - On 15 September 2014, President Taur Matan Ruak urged the National Parliament to prioritise the discussion and passage of the draft Anti-Corruption Law, the draft Land Law, the draft Law on State Protocol and to amend the Law on Pensions for Ex-State Officials.

The President made this statement during a ceremony to mark the return to work of the third legislature of the National Parliament after a recess of one month. The President stated that, in order to eradicate corruption, the Anti-Corruption Law needs to be strengthened and he also recommended the amendment of other laws that provide benefits to the people, such as the Law on Pensions for Ex- State Officials and other laws.

“JSMP supports the appeal made by the President because, until now, the National Parliament has not had a national legislative plan to identify legislative priorities for each year. It will be very difficult for the National Parliament if there is no national policy on legislative priorities,” said Luis de Oliveira Sampaio, the Executive Director of JSMP.

JSMP believes that when the National Parliament develops a national legislative plan, this will enable the National Parliament to identify legislative priorities for each year. This includes amending the Law on Pensions for Ex-State Officials (Lifelong Pension Law) and the Anti-Corruption Law, which is often debated by members of parliament through their political statements in the parliament, without supporting legislative interventions or concrete actions to strengthen the relevant institutions.

In his welcome address, the President stated that corruption hurts and undermines the State because it discourages foreign investment and leads to institutional instability. Therefore, President Taur encouraged the strengthening of criminal investigations and stated that the courts must be strong to deal with corruption, and must be able to work independently without interference.

The President recognizes the criticism of him about the pardons he recently gave to several convicted persons on the anniversary of referendum day. However, the President stated that justice does not only involve punishing people. Rather, the law aims to rehabilitate and contribute to the reintegration of convicted persons into society. Therefore, pardons are not an intervention in the work of the courts and justice, but rather the exercise of competence granted to the President in the Constitution.

The President also touched on other issues in his welcome speech, including political and social unity, economic reform, health, education, gender, infrastructure and veterans.

The President appealed to all components of the nation, and men in particular, to reject violence against women, to promote family harmony through education and health to build strong families, and to contribute to developing families’ livelihoods.

The President delivered this message because many women are victimized by their husbands who are supposed to protect their wives and children. Women are victims of all kinds of domestic violence, including simple and serious assault, and even acts of cruelty in their own home.

The ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister and members of his cabinet, diplomatic representatives and civil society.

Summary of the trial process at the Oecusse District Court June 2014

ETLJB 29/09/2014 fROM JSMP Case Summary Oecusse District Court June 2014

Introduction

In June 2014 JSMP observed 12 cases from a total of 30 cases heard at the Oecusse District Court. From the 12 cases observed by JSMP, 11 cases were characterized as crimes of domestic violence and the other case involved a defendant who allegedly committed the crime of making threats and failure to provide alimony for his three children and wife. In addition, the court also validated settlements in 12 cases because the parties agreed to withdraw their complaints and the trials in 6 cases were adjourned because the parties did not appear.

From the 12 cases observed by JSMP, the court concluded each matter by handing down a fine. Therefore from the 30 cases heard by the Oecusse District Court during the month of June a total of 24 cases were resolved.

JSMP observed that the Oecusse District Court continued to prioritize cases involving domestic violence. This progress is evident from the cases heard by the court, of which the majority were dealt with at the start of 2014.

Although there were positive developments in prioritizing cases involving domestic violence, JSMP has some concerns in relation to the penalties handed down by the court in cases of domestic violence. JSMP has recommended numerous times that fines are not the best choice of penalty for cases involving domestic violence, because they will continue to place an economic burden on families.

JSMP believes that almost all of the families living in rural areas face serious difficulties in meeting their day to day needs. In those families residing in rural areas, women or wives are the ones who work hard to find money to pay for their day to day needs. Therefore, when their hard-earned money has to be paid back to the State to atone for the actions of defendants, this will make their lives even harder, and female victims will suffer even more.

With this reality in mind, JSMP recommends that the court prioritize civil compensation to victims rather than paying a fine to the State.

The following information summarizes the trials of the completed cases:

1.       Crime of simple offences against physical integrity characterized as domestic violence –  Case No. 89/crime/2014/TDO

26 September 2014

Irregularities in the Promotion System of the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) 2012

ETLJB 26/09/2014 - In 2010, Fundasaun Mahein (FM) published its first report concerning PNTL promotions, in response to the concerns of some PNTL members. Many exhibited frustration with irregularities taking place during the promotion process. The situation at the time was quite bad, particularly inside the PNTL, as many PNTL members expressed their dissatisfaction by disrespecting their superiors and the disciplinary rules of the institution.

The 2012 superior promotion process was a concern for some PNTL members because of the irregularities that took place in the promotion process. Even though promotion protocol has been better established in the past two years, the results have not yet been forgotten and, rather, continue to PNTL members to this day. Some members do not exercice discipline in their services because they are still disatisfied with the promotion process conducted two years ago.

Regarding their frustrations, some members presented a petition to the Prime Minister as well as the Ministry of Defense and Security. The majority of the petitioning individuals are veterans. During the  socialization component of the promotion process, it was stated that priority would be given to veterans, and the petitioners do not feels as if this promised was honored. Other members expressed frustration with the promotion results, because management offered no justification as to why these individuals were not promoted, despite their sufficient and high scores during the commission’s evaluation.

One particular case that took place in this promotion cycle and drew the attention of FM  was that of Chief Sergeant Sanda do Ceo Maria Costa Bossa. She resigned from the PNTL because the results of the promotion process made her lose motivation in her work. During the promotion process, she was promoted to assistant inspector, but the promotion commission then demoted her to the rank of chief sergeant less than three months later. This incident has caused FM to question the promotion protocol used by the leadership of the PNTL.

Finally, some other members have left their posts but are still receiving salaries in normal fashion, even though they have received a call to attention from their superiors. FM’s monitoring also found that some PNTL members lack discipline and fail to respect the command hierarchy of the PNTL. One underlying reason, they say, is that some of their superiors received low scores on the commission’s evaluation exam but were still promoted. These issues will collectively cause the institution to suffer. Furthermore, if unaddressed, the discipline of PNTL members will continue to damage the institution and lower the motivation of PNTL personnel in their services.

Summary of Recommendations

1. FM recommends that the PNTL General Commander review and evaluate each district commander, unit, and department in regards to police process. This evaluation should include a measurement of police merit, service, dedication, and experience. These departments should also share information with the General Commander regarding challenges that they face in terms of providing services in their districts, units, or internal departments.

2. FM also recommends that the government review the promotion process of PNTL, because the government has recently selected some officers for promotion. This is not realistic or effective, because the government does not work inside the PNTL and, thus, is not well acquainted with its institutional processes. The monitoring process within the PNTL has achieved adequacy in its system of promotion and should continue to work internally. The PNTL should promote its members on the basis of experience and merit, and not with regard to any political or private interest.

3. Lastly, FM urges that this issue of PNTL promotion not be politicized. Instead, home rule should be given to the PNTL to conduct its own promotions, based on criteria that examine candidates’ dedication, experience and merit. Source: http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2014/09/25/iregularidade-iha-promosaun-estraordinariu-polisia-nasional-timor-leste-pntl-tinan-2012/

25 September 2014

CNRT and Fretilin parties support JSMP initiative on the issue of presidential pardons through legislative intervention

ETLJB 25/09/2014 From JSMP Press release 23 Setembru 2014 - On 17 and 19 September 2014, JSMP had a meeting at the National Parliament with the President of the CNRT Bench Natalino do Santos, and the Vice President of the Fretilin Bench, Francisco Miranda Branco, to discuss the issue of presidential pardons.

This initiative was based on JSMP’s concern with the practice of Presidential pardons which has resulted in a controversial debate at all levels of society after the President pardoned several convicted persons on the anniversary of referendum day on 30 August 2014.

The President of the CNRT Bench, Natalino dos Santos, expressed appreciation and support for JSMP’s initiative in setting up a meeting to discuss the issue of pardons with his party. He stated that the CNRT Party would consider the view of JSMP and analyse it in greater detail when the government submits a draft law on pardons to the National Parliament.

To date CNRT, and the other parties, have wanted to draft a law but they have encountered difficulties because there are no legal experts on the staff to support their initiative. Therefore, many laws are submitted by the government and the National Parliament only examines them and amendments to certain articles are suggested in committees and in the plenary before a law is passed.

On the other hand, the Vice President of Fretilin Bench stated that Fretilín’s position is that there should be no possibility of a pardon for corruption, sexual violence or incest.

Fretilin understands that the Constitution provides the President with competence to grant pardons to convicted persons. However, Fretilin believes that exceptions should be made in cases involving the public interest. Fretilin expressed its appreciation to JSMP for having the initiative to bring the issue forward for discussion and for reminding Fretilín to give it consideration because everyone is concerned about this issue.

JSMP believes that it is important for the National Parliament to take a legislative step to prevent the same thing from happening in the future. This is important to ensure that the President exercises his constitutional authority to grant pardons in a balanced and proportional manner.

JSMP has observed that the exercise of constitutional authority to grant pardons has the potential to continue to result in problems and controversy if there is no legislative mechanism to control this process in the future.

Without a legal framework the President will make a decision based on his political convictions and will ignore efforts by other institutions to strengthen the justice system.

JSMP believes that cases involving the public interest such as those involving corruption, sexual violence against minors, incest and aggravated murder must be carefully considered before a decision is made. JSMP asks the National Parliament if it is possible to limit the authority of the President so that there can be exceptions in these types of cases in the future.

“JSMP understands that the President has the authority to grant pardons as provided by the RDTL Constitution and this is the prerogative of the President. However, it is important to have a law to guide this process and if possible to limit this authority so that it is exercised in a proportional manner,” said the Executive Director of JSMP, Luis de Oliveira Sampaio.

Pardons can be given in all cases, however bad precedents need to be avoided, as they will undermine the efforts of judicial institutions to build the people’s confidence in the justice sector, particularly in relation to cases of corruption which continue to increase.

JSMP recommends that the granting of pardons or any other measures exercised by the President should include an option to reduce the penalty gradually, rather than granting a full pardon, which has been the practice to date. This will further strengthen people’s confidence in judicial institutions and will limit the public interpretation and perception that the law only applies to the common people.

At the end of this meeting JSMP handed over a proposal regarding the issue of pardons that was drafted by JSMP in 2010.

Note: Please consider this press release is the final version.

See also
JSMP: Competency of the President to Grant Pardons: Prerogative Right versus Credibility of the Justice System 
President Horta grants pardons to prisoners who engage in crime in 2006 crisis
EAST TIMOR: 'Presidential Pardon May Hurt Legal System'
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