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28 June 2008

STP-CAVR Appeals for Resolution of Serious Crimes Cases

Direcção de Sede: Antigo Comarca Balide Telp: (+670)3311263
Rua de Caicoli, Balide Dili, Timor-Leste Email: info.cavr@gmail.com
P.O. Box 144, Dili, Timor Leste Website: www.cavr-timorleste.org

Press Release 27 June 2008

STP-CAVR Appeals for Resolution of Serious Crimes Cases

The STP-CAVR presented a copy of the Chega! Report to Prosecutor General Longinhos Monteiro this week and urged him to continue to prosecute those responsible for serious crimes in Timor-Leste.

From 2002 until 2005 the United Nations-funded Serious Crimes Unit was mandated to investigate alleged serious crimes committed in 1999. However, the high case load and limited resources meant that when the serious crime unit’s mandate expired in 2005, 40% of cases referred to it remained unresolved. The serious crimes process was revived by the Timorese government in February of this year.

According to SCU investigators, they intend to complete 10 investigations per month until they finish investigations of some 400 remaining cases.

This includes 114 cases referred to the Office of the General Prosecutor from the CAVR. As part of its mandate, the CAVR conducted reconciliation processes to assist with the reintegration of perpetrators into their community. This resulted in some 1,300 people reconciling with their victims and community. Although only non-serious crimes could go through this process, during the course of the reconciliation efforts it sometimes became apparent that a perpetrator may have committed a serious crime.

As a result, the case became the responsibility of the prosecutor's office and serious crimes unit. To date, none of these 114 cases have been resolved.

Once the serious crimes unit completes its investigation of a case, the evidence will be handed over to Monteiro's office and he will decide whether or not to prosecute the alleged criminals Jaimito Candido da Costa, the coordinator of the Chega! dissemination team said that he is hopeful Monteiro will bring the 114 perpetrators before justice in a timely manner.

“In late May people from the serious crimes unit came to CAVR and we provided them with information about these 114 cases,” da Costa said. “Monteiro told me the reason why many of the serious crimes cases had not yet been prosecuted was because the serious crimes unit was not operating. But now it is back up and running, the cases would be opened and investigations would begin.”

Da Costa said trials would not only provide closure for the victims and the families of victims, but for the perpetrators as well.

“We have had the perpetrators come to us at CAVR and ask about their trial,” he said. “They are ready to go to trial, but they are confused why it's taken so long. They just want to know if they'll be found guilty or not­they want to be free of doubt.”

The Chega! report recommends that the serious crimes unit have its resources increased and mandate extended so that it can investigate cases from throughout the period 1975 – 1999. It also recommends investigation of a number of cases of critical importance due to the scale and nature of the human rights violations that took place. These cases include the incarceration of civilians on Atauro Island during the 1980’s and the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre.

Chega! is Portuguese for “enough” and the report details the human rights abuses which occurred in Timor Leste from 25 April 1974- 25 October 1999. The report was released in 2005.

For more information call Jaimito Candido da Costa, 723-4916

Media Team Post-CAVR Technical Secretariat (STP-CAVR)

Statement by President Horta on Candidacy for Human Rights Commissioner

PRESIDÊNCIA DA REPÚBLICA
GABINETE DA PRESIDÊNCIA
DEPARTAMENTO DE COMUNICAÇÃO SOCIAL

English Dili, 27 June 2008

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT JOSÉ RAMOS-HORTA

I thank the many countries that in the last few weeks have encouraged me to table my candidacy for the position of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. I am very touched by the trust placed on me by the many friends in the world who believed that I would be a good High Commissioner.

I have reflected on this possibility, on the challenges, complexity and honour of serving the international community.

I have consulted with my East Timorese colleagues and friends. I have heard the voices of many humble East Timorese. I have consulted also with many friends whose opinion I cherish.

I was elected President of my country a little over a year ago to serve a 5-year term. Much has been achieved in normalizing the overall conditions in the country. Together with my colleagues in the leadership, with the generous support of the United Nations and the international community, we are progressing in helping the IDPs resettling in their homes, in resolving the issue of the so-called petitioners, and in bringing hope back to our people.

An early departure from my current responsibility would result in early elections and this would be an unfair burden on a people who went to the polls three times in 2007. Inevitably new tensions would resurface with predictable consequences for the country.

Hence I have decided NOT to put forward my name as a candidate for High Commissioner for Human Rights. I will stay on in Timor-Leste in the foreseeable future.

I have seen via the Media the number of candidates seeking this responsibility and honour, some of whom, I have known personally for many years and believe them to be highly qualified not only in terms of academic qualifications but also with a long track record in serving the cause of human rights and freedoms in many parts of the world.

END

Eleven Timorese Citizens File Case Requesting Court to Rule Presidential Decree on Clemencies Unconstitutional

Press Release For Immediate Release 27 June 2008

Regarding the decision of President of the Republic, José Ramos-Horta’s, to grant executive clemency to 94 prisoners, today, Friday, 27 June 2008, eleven Timorese citizens delivered a petition to the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice (PDHJ) asking him to use his powers according to Section 150 of the Constitution to request that the Court of Appeals examine the constitutionality of the Presidential Decree “Presidential Clemency of 20 of May” (No. 53/2008).

The eleven Timorese citizens, Fernanda Mesquita Borges (Member of the National Parliament), José Luis de Oliveira (Director, Association HAK), Father José Filipe de Jesus Pereira and Higinio Posinato Zamor E Silva (Justice and Peace Commission, Dili Diocese), Father Angelo Salsinha Trindade (Youth Department, Dili Diocese), José Amaral (NGO Forum), Maria Afonso de Jesus and Edio Saldanha Borges (Board members, Timor-Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal), Sisto dos Santos (National University Student Front), Manuela Leong Pereira (International Center for Transitional Justice, Timor-Leste) and Luis de Oliveira Sampaio (Timor-Leste Lawyers Association), made the request based on Constitution Article 48 (right to petition).

The citizens delivered the petition directly to the Provedor, Mr. Sebastiao Dias Ximenes, in his office on Kaikoli Street in Dili on June 27. The petition was also delivered directly to the Appeals Court by the group’s lawyer, Ms. Natercia Barbosa de Deus, on the same day.

The petition asks the Appeals Court to declare the Presidential Decree on the executive clemencies null and void and that the decree be revoked and not implemented. According to the petitioners, the Presidential Decree is unconstitutional because it does not follow requirements or does not properly implement Section 85 (i) that pardons or commutation of sentences by the President must consult with the Government.

President José Ramos-Horta issued his clemency decree without first listening to advice from Government. The decree was publicized on 19 May 2008, and the letter with the Minister of Justice’s recommendations reached the President on that same day. This means that when the President issued his decree he had not considered the recommendations of the Minister of Justice who is responsible for the prisoners’ eligibility. The facts also reveal that in the Justice Minister’s letter, Ms. Lucia Lobato recommended that only 83 of the prisoners have their sentences reduced, between two to six months each. However, in the decree President Ramos-Horta granted 94 prisoners clemency, with their sentences commuted or reduced.

Additionally, on 20 May 2008, the Prime Minister sent the President of the Republic a letter saying that the situation of prisoner Rogerio Lobato is very sensitive and that the concerns of civil society must be taken into account. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao suggested that Rogerio Lobato’s sentenced be reduced by only one year, and that he must return to Timor-Leste to complete his sentence. However, President Ramos-Horta did not consider the suggestions from Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and had already reduced Mr. Rogerio Lobato’s sentence by three and a half years. That is why Mr. Rogerio Lobato is already free.

Rogerio Lobato, former Minister of the Interior, was convicted of distributing guns to civilians to kill leaders of opposing political parties and petitioners who had deserted the military. He was sentenced to seven years and six months imprisonment on 10 May 2007, when he was incarcerated. He had been under house arrest since 18 September 2006. In early August 2008, he was hospitalized and on 9 August 2008 he left Timor-Leste for medical treatment in Malaysia. He was provisionally free after the President’s 19 May clemency decree.

In addition, the Presidential Decree did not adhere to the penal procedure, because the decision on executive clemency or commutation of sentences for prisoners must have a legal basis and follow clear criteria. According to this decree, the President considered the situation of all the prisoners as the same. Also the decree does not show the process of reintegration of the prisoners back into the community. The decision may create confusion about the legal process, and may create a threatening situation again for some of the prisoners who return to live in the community. If there are problems for the prisoners, who is actually responsible?

On the other hand, the decree reveals a conflict of interest. The President is using his powers to serve personal interests (to satisfy his friends) rather than the public interest, according to principles found in Sections 1 and 6 of the Constitution of RDTL (democratic state and state objectives).

Finally, the worst is that the Presidential Decree violates Section 160 of the Constitution and the principle of international law for serious crimes that violate human rights which our state adheres to, according to the principles in Section 9. According to these sections, perpetrators of serious crimes are not eligible for executive clemency. Those who commit serious violations of human rights must be tried by a national or international court and be properly sentenced, thus all people learn not to repeat nor continue such practice in the future. Unfortunately, our President does not respect these human rights laws. That is why convicted murderers like Jhoni Marques and his group of pro-Indonesia militia who killed nuns, priests, an Indonesian journalist, and raped many women in Lospalos in 1999 already enjoy freedom.

Jhoni Marques was sentenced to 33 years and 4 months imprisonment for Crimes Against Humanity including torture, murder, deportation or forcible transfer of civilian population and persecution on 11 December 2001by the Special Panel for Serious Crimes in Dili, Timor-Leste. Upon appeal, his sentenced was reduced to 25 years. He entered prison on 8 May 2000 and was provisionally released after the President’s 19 May clemency decree.

The decision of the President is a gross injustice to the victims who still suffer because they have not yet received adequate justice and reparations from our State. It is also unjust to other prisoners who have not received a final decision from the courts. For example, people who illegally distributed guns and authored the crimes are already free, and people who received and used them to shoot people are still in prison. Where is justice? Where is truth? How will the state guarantee that crimes by armed militia that occurred in 1999 and 2006 will not happen again?

For More Information Contact:Fernanda Mesquita Borges Spokesperson for The “Petitioners Against Clemency” Member of the National Parliament +670-733-0744
zeus@yayasanhak.minihub.org

27 June 2008

Meeting of the Council of Ministers on 25 June 2008

The Council of Ministers meeting is held this Wednesday, June 22, 2008, in the Meeting Room of the Council of Ministers, at the Government Palace in Dili, and adopted:

Decree Law Amendment to the regime of General Supplies and Public Procurement This law, which the Council of Ministers approved in its meeting today, is changing the Legal Regime on Public Procurement and Supply, defining, in particular, what are the competent authorities to authorise the start and award procedures in supply.


It is understood that it is important to implement some measures of decentralisation of the Ministry of Finance to other ministries and other entities, allowing them to promote some of the procedures already in the supply of their own service.


Resolution on Supply of Essential Goods The supply of food from local production in

East Timor is clearly insufficient to meet domestic demand, so it has come to rely on imports of large quantities of basic foodstuffs, particularly rice and cooking oil to meet the needs of consumption of the population.

In this context, the Council of Ministers approved in its meeting today a resolution to elect as effective measure to combat rising prices on market intervention by launching significant quantities of basic goods, capable of meeting the immediate needs and cover stocks that families and traders are as a precautionary measure, the reduced or subsidized prices.

The Government is aware that the market should operate freely, adjusting prices through the mechanism of supply and demand, and the administrative practice of fixing prices or establishing a mechanism of price caps limited to extremely difficult situations. The goal is the state bear the high costs of financial assets related to the acquisition and maintenance of stocks, not substitute for the traders.

Decree-law approving the System Utilities, and Key Assets Control Prices The Council of Ministers approved in its meeting today a decree-law establishing the System of Public Supply of Goods and Control of Key Rates.

East Timor is a net importer of basic foodstuffs, particularly rice and cooking oil, given the lack of domestic production to meet the consumption needs of the population.

This law considered the need to create and maintain a stock of food security and others, particularly those that are essential to the construction and public works crucial in the reconstruction and development of the country, and ensure proper management of market intervention , Capable of correcting the deficiencies and risks of supply and prices.

The bill was still under consideration the specific case of prices in public transport of passengers, where there is an economic situation of generalised rise as a result of the persistent rise of fuel prices. In that sense, this Decree Law establishing a transitional measure to prevent the uncontrolled increase in prices and distortions in public transport of passengers.

Decree of the Government that regulates the intervention in UtilitiesThis regulation applies to procedures to be followed in the systems of market intervention of public supply of essential goods through the establishment of stocks security and stabilization of prices, with and without recourse to subsidies.

Resolution that approves the creation of the National Commission on Prevention of Avian Disease The Council of Ministers approved in its meeting today a resolution that creates the National Avian Commission, being appointed its fifteen members. It is for members to disclose information, epidemiological research, surveillance and reporting of disease outbreaks of bird flu that might occur in the territory of East Timor, within an integrated communication system.

New gun laws in East Timor defeated in Parliament

The government of East Timor has proposed a new law to regulate guns. But according to the opposition party, FRETILIN, the draft law would give the Commander of the East Timor National Police the sole and discretionary power to authorize civilians to obtain and possess firearms.

The history of firearms in the hands of civilians has contributed to all the bloody episodes in the country's tortured history and the new law comes in the wake of the 2006 illegal weapons distribution case when the then Fretilin government Interior Minister, Rogerio Lobato, was involved in the distribution of weapons to civilians. This illegal weapons distribution contributed to a catastrophic breakdown in law and order in East Timor and Mr Lobato was subsequently sentenced to more than 7 years imprisonment for his role in the weapons distribution and manslaughter.

The new law was vigorously opposed in the National Parliament with the opposition particularly concerned that there was no oversight or appeal mechanisms over the sole and discretionary power of the Police Commander to authorize and decline licences. The East Timor National Police was identified as a highly politicized and weak state institution by the 2006 UN International Commission of Inquiry into the violent crisis that engulged the country in 2006.

According to the Fretilin opposition, the lack of oversight and appeal mechanisms exposed the danger that the legal discretion conferred on the Police Commander could be used politically and improperly by allowing civilians with one political inclination access to firearms and deny others access because of their political affiliations. This key provision of the draft weapons law was defeated in the National Parliament on 25 June 2008 in a heated debate and the provision was deleted from the draft. This was the operative section, and without a substituting clause, the law has no mechanism to authorize the issuing of firearms licenses.

FRETILIN's parliamentary leader, Aniceto Guterres said after the debate that "Those who need to carry weapons in the course of their duties, such as the Defense Forces and Police are able to do so. They have their own laws that permit it. The public do not want to widen that category to include persons for whom it is not essential they have firearms to perform their duty effectively and lawfully.

We reject totally the argument by some AMP [Government] MPs that many others are potentially in danger whilst performing their duty and should therefore be able to carry firearms. If we apply this category, then Timor-Leste will potentially be like the 'Wild West', where everyone will be toting guns. We don't want that kind of society and its clear neither do our people. Like our people, we reject this 'armed to the teeth' approach to living," added Guterres.

"We need consensus on laws such as these. We in FRETILIN will always be open to dialogue towards enacting a sound, workable anti-gun law that embodies our people's aspirations and that has been attained by consensus. We need a strong law that says, 'Less Guns in Our Midst! Let's End the Culture of Violence!' That's what we all want," Guterres said in closing.

24 June 2008

Hopes for Justice Crumble in East Timor

The hopes of victims and advocates for justice in East Timor were given another blow last week with the release of two notorious criminals from prison.

The former Fretilin government Interior Minister, Rogerio Lobato, and Indonesian-backed militia leader, Joni Marques, were both freed following President Jose Ramos-Horta granting them clemency as part of the nation’s sixth celebration of the restoration of independence on 20 May 2008.

Lobato was convicted of manslaughter and illegal weapons distribution during the disintegration of law and order in East Timor in 2006 and sentence to more than 7 years imprisonment. Joni Marques was convicted of crimes against humanity for leading a massacre of unarmed religious and civilians near Los Palos on the country’s eastern districts in the chaos that accompanied the 1999 independence referendum. Marques was sentenced to 33 years imprisonment.

Following their release, the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor sought assurances from the government for the safety of the victims and witnesses of the heinous crimes committed by these men.

“The freedom of such perpetrators may bring into question East Timor’s international human rights commitments,” said Timotio de Deus, Director of East Timor’s peak civil society law and justice group, the Judicial System Monitoring Program. “However laudable in spirit, attempts to move on from the country’s legacy of violence must not outweigh the rule of law,” he added.

Martinho Soares, a relative of one of the victims of the Los Palos massacre, said “We are sad with the leaders’ decision. We want them to stay in jail, they must pay for what they have done in the past.”
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