« »

26 November 2014

Timor-Leste: Victims’ rights and independence of judiciary threatened by arbitrary removal of judicial officers, says Amnesty

ETLJB 26/11/2014 AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC STATEMENT Index: ASA 57/003/2014 21 November 2014

Decisions by the Timor-Leste parliament and government to arbitrarily terminate the contracts of foreign judicial officers and judicial advisors will have a negative impact on victims and their right to an effective remedy, said Amnesty International. The move also raises serious concerns about judicial independence in the country.

On 24 October, the Timor-Leste Parliament passed a resolution calling on the government as part of an “audit” of the judicial system to terminate immediately all existing contracts and contractual renewals of foreign judicial workers, including foreign judges, prosecutors, public defenders and judicial advisors. The resolution cited “national interests” as a basis for the termination and called into question the competence and integrity of foreign judges and prosecutors.

Shortly afterwards, and on the same day, the government issued a resolution terminating all existing contracts of foreign judicial officers on the basis of force majeure (Acts of God) and national interest. On 28 October, the President of the Court Appeals issued a directive to chief justices stating that the resolution had no legal effect and called on all foreign judges to continue their functions. However, three days later on 31 October the government issued another resolution ordering the Immigration Service to immediately revoke the work permits of eight foreign judicial officers and demanding that the individuals leave the country within 48 hours. All eight have since left. Furthermore, Amnesty International understands that all international judges and prosecutors have now also left the country.

Amnesty International is concerned that the sudden departure of judicial officers will have a significant impact on Timor-Leste’s fragile judicial system, which is already experiencing a backlog of court cases. In particular, the organization is concerned about the impact on victims whose cases will now be subject to retrials, and who now face further delays in accessing their right to an effective remedy. Amnesty International is also concerned that cases being retried include cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, which make up the vast majority of cases before Timor-Leste’s courts. Victims – mainly women and children – may be subjected to further traumatization and victimization if required to testify again in new court cases.

In addition to delaying access to an effective remedy for victims, Amnesty International believes that the actions of the Timorese Parliament and government amount to undue interference in the judiciary’s functioning and is in contravention of Timor-Leste’s Constitution. Article 119 guarantees the independence of the Courts, while Article 121 (3) states that “judges have security of tenure and, unless otherwise provided for by law, may not be transferred, suspended, retired or removed from office”. Judges can only be removed from office by the Superior Council of Magistrates and prosecutors by the Superior Council for the Public Prosecution.

Some local activists have raised concerns that the terminations may be linked to a number of corruption cases involving government officials or lawmakers that are being investigated or have been prosecuted or adjudicated by foreign judicial officers.

Amnesty International is also concerned that the removal of these judicial officers will undermine the prosecution of those accused of crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations committed in the context of the 1999 independence referendum in Timor-Leste. Foreign judicial officers with expertise in international criminal law have been involved in providing support for the investigation and prosecution of such cases over the last decade. The removal will also disrupt legal training in Timor-Leste, as some of those who have since left had been teaching at the Legal Training College.

Amnesty International urges the government and parliament to rescind their decisions to terminate the judicial officers so as to ensure the integrity of the judiciary as well the effective functioning of the judicial system in the country. Any decision to remove judges, prosecutors, or other judicial officers should be taken in accordance with procedures established in law, and subject to independent review.

Judges, prosecutors and public defenders, mostly from Portuguese-speaking countries, have formed part of Timor-Leste’s judicial system since independence in 2002. Others work as judicial advisers in with the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Judicial Training Centre.  

See also on ETLJB
Judicial Conference of Australia strongly condemns "most serious interferences with the independent and effective operation of Timor Leste’s courts and with the rule of law"
East Timor Government Continues the Destruction of Constitutional Democracy
Firing of Foreign Judges in Timor-Leste Threatens Justice System
FRETILIN Communique regarding the East Timor Parliamentary Resolution to Dismiss Foreign Jurists
Court of Appeal defies East Timor's Parliament resolution to terminate all foreign judges
East Timor's Parliament resolves to terminate all foreign judges
Parliament and Government must respect the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers
Judiciary under attack in East Timor
East Timor Government and Parliament fired Judiciary with missile resolution

24 November 2014

Judicial Conference of Australia strongly condemns "most serious interferences with the independent and effective operation of Timor Leste’s courts and with the rule of law"

ETLJB 24/11/2014 JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF AUSTRALIA MEDIA RELEASE 12th  November 2014  Recent actions by the Government of Timor Leste

“Recent actions by the Government and Parliament of Timor Leste against foreign members of its judiciary are very concerning for the administration of justice in that nation” Justice Steven Rares, President of the Judicial Conference of Australia said today.

“The circumstances that led to the secret session of Timor Leste’s Parliament in late October 2014 that resulted in the dismissal of all foreign judges raise real issues about the integrity of the administration of justice in Timor Leste.  The lack of transparency itself is disturbing.”

“The constitutional processes of Timor Leste providing for the independence of the judiciary, security of tenure of judges and investigation of complaints against judges do not appear to have been followed.”

“Public confidence in the rule of law in a democracy depends on the judiciary being independent, unbiased, transparent and of unquestionable integrity.  The public of any sovereign state, such as Timor Leste, must be able to be confident that in the Court system, justice is not only done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

“Secret decision-making about judges and Court decisions outside of court and constitutional processes undermines public confidence in the judiciary, and that, in turn, undermines the rule of law.”

“The circumstances surrounding the resignation in February 2014 of the President of the Court of Appeals, Claudio de Jesus Ximines, also raise very significant concerns as to the independence of the judiciary, the observance of Constitutional provisions for protecting the rule of law and the separation of powers in that country.  Citing particular court decisions as the reason for appointing, assigning or dismissing judges inevitably raises concerns of political or other inappropriate attempts to improperly
influence judicial outcomes.”

“The Judicial Conference of Australia strongly condemns these most serious interferences with the independent and effective operation of Timor Leste’s courts and with the rule of law,” Justice Rares said.
-------
See also on ETLJB
East Timor Government Continues the Destruction of Constitutional Democracy
Firing of Foreign Judges in Timor-Leste Threatens Justice System
FRETILIN Communique regarding the East Timor Parliamentary Resolution to Dismiss Foreign Jurists
Court of Appeal defies East Timor's Parliament resolution to terminate all foreign judges
East Timor's Parliament resolves to terminate all foreign judges
Parliament and Government must respect the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers
Judiciary under attack in East Timor
East Timor Government and Parliament fired Judiciary with missile resolution

18 November 2014

Timor-Leste’s Justice Minister begins a program of meetings in Portugal with Ministers and Government Officials

ETLJB 18/11/2014 Government of East Timor Media Release Spokesperson 18 November, 2014 Díli, Timor-Leste - Timor-Leste’s Minister of Justice, H.E. Dionísio Babo Soares, has begun a series of meetings with Ministers and officials of the Government of Portugal in Lisbon. Yesterday Minister Soares met with his Portuguese counterpart H.E. Paula Teixeira da Cruz. The Minister is also to meet with the Prosecutor General of Portugal and provisionally, the Superior Council of Magistrates.

These meetings are focusing on the recent Resolution of the National Parliament of Timor-Leste which called on the Government to initiate a profound technical audit of the operation of the judicial system and to cease contracts with international actors working within the sector. A subsequent Resolution of the Council of Ministers regarding specific international actors required to leave Timor-Leste is also being discussed.

These two resolutions have understandably caused a great deal of concern within Portugal as nearly all of those impacted were Portuguese nationals.

In an extended interview with LUSA on the 5th of November Prime Minister H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao
appealed for understanding noting that there was “no intention to cool relations with Portugal” and indicated
that extraordinary and persistent problems within the judicial area had required extraordinary and urgent
action.

Although expressing regret over the way events had unfolded, the Prime Minister of Portugal H.E. Pedro Passos Coelho has affirmed the friendship of Portugal and Timor-Leste and the quality of his relationship with both the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste and the President of the Republic.
Justice Minister Babo Soares

Timor-Leste’s Government Spokesperson Agio Pereira noted that “Timor-Leste welcomes this opportunity for the Minister of Justice to dialogue with Ministers and officials of the Government of Portugal, to shed more light on these recent events.” He recalled the “deep historical relationship and solidarity of the two nations and the shared desire of both to see a strong, fair and efficient justice system at work in Timor-
Leste.”ENDS

Agio Pereira +670 77045002 agio.pereira@cdm.gov.tl govtlmedia@gmail.com www.timor-leste.gov.tl 


14 November 2014

Timor-Leste's Petroleum Fund Balance questioned by Lao Hamutuk

ETLJB 12/11/2014 According to a report by Macauhub on 11/11/2014 (http://www.macauhub.com.mo/en/2014/11/11/timor-leste-oil-fund-worth-us16-6-billion-in-september/) referencing a statement from the East Timor Central Bankissued on 10/11/2014, the value of the East Timor Oil Fund increased by just US$177 million in the third quarter due to payments to the state budget.

The Macauhub report states that "[a]ccording to the statement issued in Dili, the value of the Oil Fund was US$16.6 billion at the end of September....[and that] [f]rom July to September the Fund recorded US$522.35 million of gross inflows in contributions and royalties, and outputs amounted to US$345.35 million, including US$340 million in the form of transfers to the state budget.

The Timor-Leste Oil Fund, which was created in August 2005, receives all the state’s revenues from oil exploration.

Revenues for the fund are then invested in financial assets abroad and the only cash outflows are for the state budget, which must be approved by the national parliament.

However, the East Timorese civil society organisation that, among other things, monitors the oil and petroleum funds, the Macauhub article contains a fundamental error. According to Lao Hamutuk, the value of the Petroleum Fund actuall decreased during the third quarter of 2014, from USD $16.634 billion at the beginning of the quarter to $16.584 billion at the end of September.

According to Lao Hamutuk, the $50 million drop was because the Fund incurred net losses in foreign exchange of $276 million during the quarter, leading to an overall loss in investments of $232 million. When added to the $340 million withdrawn from the Fund to finance state activities, the losses exceeded the income from oil and gas.

More information on the Fund's performance, including the latest quarterly report from the Central Bank of Timor-Leste is made available by Lao Hamutuk at http://www.laohamutuk.org/Oil/PetFund/05PFIndex.htm.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...