17 October 2011
14 October 2011
|Map showing location of Oe-Cusse-Ambeno District of East Timor|
The three above-mentioned Decree-Laws are: Decree-Law No 24/2011 on the Licensing of Commercial Activities, Decree-Law No. 7 / 2009 on the Regulation of Restaurants and Similar Establishments and Decree-Law No 23/2009 on the Regime for Administrative Offences against the Economy and Food Security.
At the opening ceremony, Florentina Smith, as the Inspector-General who heads the Food and Economic Inspection (portuguese acronym IAE), highlighted the need for clarification of the Decree-Law towards the programs, procedures and powers of IAE, in order to make the participants aware and knowledgeable of this law and avoid any doubts in this regard.
Florentina Smith took this opportunity to address the local tradesmen, encouraging them to intensify their activities, guided by the regulations established by the Government, in order to prevent the authorities applying sanctions when rules are breached.
Regarding the authorization for commercial activities, Domingos Guterres, as representative of the National Directorate for Domestic Commerce and Tourism, stated: "The aim of this diploma has to do with the establishment of rules related to access to business activity and contribution to the development and modernization of existing business infrastructure and also the protection of free competition between traders and the safeguarding of consumer rights, governed by this law".
Referring to the regulation of Restaurants and Trade Establishments and Similar Establishments, Carmen Joela, clarified that the law needs to regulate the creation of the restaurants in order to protect consumers and preserve the quality of the menus: "This decree-law aims to draw attention to the issue of hygiene, the environment, as it increases the credibility of the potential tourism, based on rules that govern such activities".
In regards to the regime applied to administrative infractions concerning Economic and Food Security, the Technical Advisor to the IAE, Abílio Serreno, referred the Decree-Law No. 23/2009 as an established norm for the prevention of economic offenses, particularly offenses that pose a risk to safety, health and food hygiene.
1. Decree-Law on the Downstream Sector
The Council of Minister approved the Decree-Law, presented by the Secretariat of State for Natural Resources and by the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), which approves the general legal regime applicable to licensing activities concerning the supply, processing, transportation, storage, sales and marketing of petroleum, petroleum products and similar products, commonly identified as downstream activities. This Decree-Law also regulates the powers and duties of the NPA in this matter and on the supervision of the downstream sector, as well as the procedures for inspection and supervision of such activities and its penalties.
2. Government Resolution approving the Agreement for Assignment of Lease and Operation of the Hotel Timor
The Fundação Oriente presented a proposal to the State to extend the lease and commercial exploitation of the Hotel Timor, together with a proposed reinvestment for its expansion, to build an annex to the main building, increasing the hotel’s capacity and quality of supply.
Given that the State is interested in the development of the mentioned building, as well as its hotel unit, the Council of Ministers approved the draft contract for the exploration and leasing of the Hotel Timor for a period over 15 years.
3. Decree-Law that approves the Benefits payable to former Chief of Defense Staff of the F-FDTL
The Secretariat of State for Defence has proposed and the Council of Ministers approved the Decree approving the benefits payable to former Chief of Defense Staff of the F-FDTL, recognizing the personal sacrifices for the sake of a better future for Timor-Leste and all that they gave to their people.
The Council of Ministers still analyzed:
1. Presentation of the "Census 2010 Fo Fila Fali"
The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of State Administration and Territorial Planning presented the plan to disseminate the results of the "Census 2010 Fo Fila Fali". The objective is to inform village communities about the results that represent them so that they can interpret it in order to contribute to the Government’s community development program.
The suco report, "Census 2010 Fila Fila Fali", presents the results according to the 2010 Census on the total population, education, employment, agriculture, animals, housing conditions, water and sanitation among others. The "Census 2010 Fo Fila Fali" covers 442 sucos spread over 13 districts, its launch at national and district levels will be on November 4 and the dissemination of results by the sucos will be between November 7 and December 21.
2. Decree-Law on the Restriction of Animals in Urban Areas
The Ministry of Agriculture presented a Decree-Law proposal which aims to preserve the conditions of hygiene and public health in urban areas and on its surroundings, protect the environment and at the same time, prevent and minimize damage caused by stray animals or without any control.
3. Decree-Law on the System of Identification, Registration and Movement of Animals
The Decree-Law submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture to the Council of Ministers establishes the identification, registration and movement of animals of various species in the country.
As its name indicates, the diploma aims to regulate the system for marking, identification and registration of various species of animals to ensure their verification and sanitary conditions control and pair it regulate the transport and movement of the animals in order to combat the illegal transit of cattle. These measures help to provide more confidence in the consumer when purchasing meat produced domestically.
ETLJB Editor's Note: See also the 2004 University of San Francisco Legislative Drafting Initiative Civil Society Component's ROCCIPI Analysis of the Social Problem of Livestock Regulation in Urban Areas on the East Timor Law Journal.
Regarding allegations of illegal conduct by Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries
The Council of Ministers also discussed the subject matter in recent days by the media about a Timorese carrying money illegally, via Darwin airport, suggesting the involvement of a Member of the Government, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr. Mariano Assanami Sabino. The Council of Ministers deplored the excessive use of disinformation to defame, without the least care about the truth.
The Council of Ministers took the opportunity to congratulate the daily "Timor Post, in its edition of October 12, by revealing the truth about this matter and welcomes Ambassador Abel Guterres, Ambassador of Timor-Leste in Australia for his work of establishing the facts with the relevant institutions in Australia and to pass the information to the daily "Timor Post, informing the public in a responsible manner, as to the falsity of the charges.
East Timor Legal News Source: United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste Media Review Saturday 14 Oct 2006
Shooting Between F-FDTL-PNTL Result of Manipulation
STL reported in a separate article that during his visit to Becora, Prime Minister Ramos-Horta told community members currently taking refuge in the nuns’ compound, that F-FDTL and PNTL had harmonious ties but they were destroyed by some members of the government. Ramos-Horta said the shooting between the two institutions was the result of manipulations. He said he is not certain who is responsible. The Prime Minister said the government is now working hard to restore the PNTL, adding once all the United Nations police are on the ground and the screening of PNTL officers is complete, permanent posts will be established in the entire neighbourhood. (STL)
Ximenes-Longuinhos Ready To Try Authors of Crisis
President of the Appeals Court and the Prosecutor General made a joint statement on Friday (13/10) saying that the court is ready to process the authors of the crisis based on recommendations of the report of the Independent Special Commission of Enquiry. Ximenes said their statement is based on Timor-Leste’s Constitution and it is the competence of the Public Ministry to take penal actions if there is evidence against the accused of any alleged crimes. He told the media that the court would then proceed and make a decision on the case in an objective and impartial manner according to the law and facts.
On the same occasion, Prosecutor-General, Longuinhos Monteiro, appealed to Major Alfredo Reinado and his group to return to prison, as the court decision on their recapture is still valid. Monteiro refused to comment whether he has been in telephone contact with Alfredo but STL reports that Monteiro and Brigadier Mick Slater met with him near Alas, Manufahi District. The contents of the discussion have not been revealed.
Meanwhile, Tomas Pinto, military political analyst said the UN must provide security to the judges to proceed with the cases of those responsible for the crisis. Pinto added that it is important that the judges work in an environment free of terror. (TP, STL, DN)
Man Stabbed To Death
A 50-year-old man living in the IDP camp opposite Obrigado Barracks, Caicoli, was fatally stabbed by an unknown person while returning from church on Sunday. According to Timor Post, Benjamin was walking towards Obrigado Barracks after attending the morning mass when he was stabbed. UNPOL police closed the area for about two hours, reported TP. (TP)
CNE Will Have Own Budget: Pessoa
The Minister of State, Ana Pessoa said the National Electoral Commission (CNE) will have its own budget but legislation first needs to be established for the Commission to proceed with its work. Pessoa said that there are no problems with STAE, noting it has started its work. She added that the focus now would be on CNE. The Minister of Justice Domingos Sarmento is of the opinion that the votes must be assembled in the districts for counting, adding that the decision would be from the Parliament. (TP)
From the East Timor Legal Information Site Legal News Archive
East Timor Legal News 14 Oct 2011 Source: American Academy of Forensic Sciences Debra A. Komar Ph.D.1, Sarah Lathrop D.V.M., Ph.D.2 Article first published online: 7 OCT 2011 DOI: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01931.x Abstract: Understanding population-level trauma patterns has implications for the recognition of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Trauma data were abstracted from autopsy and anthropology reports for 105 victims from the 1999 conflict in Timor Leste. A significant number of individuals displayed no evidence of injury. No trauma was found in 25% of the sample, while a further 5% had only minor, nonlethal wounds. Where trauma was evident, sharp force injuries were most common (35%), followed by gunshot (20%) and blunt force (13.33%). Timorese frequencies of trauma differ significantly from percentages found in prior reports of mass killings from Cambodia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Afghanistan but closely resemble reported trauma patterns in Rwanda. Decomposition and percentage of body recovered were shown to have a significant impact on the presence/absence of trauma. Complete, fleshed remains were 10.4 times more likely than skeletal remains to have evidence of major or lethal trauma.
ETLJB Editor's Note: Unfortunately, this article is not available free of charge.
12 October 2011
East Timor Legal News 12 Oct 2011 Source: East Timor Government Anti-Corruption Commission 9 October 2011 For Immediate Release Dili. “This is the first real chance the Timorese people have had to tell someone their concerns about corruption,” said CAC Commissioner Adérito Soares at the Saturday morning event. The event, held at CAC offices, signified the official start of the first corruption perception survey for Timor-Leste.
“There have been many papers written, but only few on corruption. But there has been no data – no real information – until now. We will have real information directly from the Timorese about corruption. This is an important step for our country.”
Nine contract survey teams will spread across the country over the next three weeks. The teams will visit households and obtain information on a wide variety of information related to the Timorese thought about corruption. The results will be published in a summary report that will be presented by CAC on December 9, International Anti Corruption Day.
“We will carry out this survey for at least three consecutive years,” said Commissioner Soares. “The results will be used by our teams to develop focused strategies to help the Timorese people in their fight against corruption.” Commissioner Soares also thanked USAID for providing the assistances for conducting the survey. -END
Contact: Deputy Commissioner Jose Neves
Rua Sergio Víeira de Melo, Farrol Díli, Timor Leste Telp (+670) 3331329/3331382,
E-mail : email@example.com
Center for International Conflict Resolution (CICR) at Columbia University & Belun - Culture and customs are at the center of the social order in Timorese communities. Even with a modest population of one million people, a variety of ethno-linguistic groups co-exist within the nation, each speaking a unique local language and adhering to customs originating from animistic belief systems that have been passed down since ancient times. Throughout the history of foreign occupation and into present times, culture has offered an abiding source of identity and stability for the Timorese people, even though a strong sense of ‘state-based’ national identity is still evolving in this young nation.
Despite the variety of traditions and practices in existence, the system of fetosaa-umane is common to all ethno-linguistic groups. Upon marriage, the husband’s family (fetosaa) and the wife’s family (umane) are bound together in a life-long partnership that requires them to provide mutual support for all important events and ceremonies such as births, marriages and funerals. Requirements for ceremonial transactions on such occasions are prescribed by the uma lisan (houses of tradition) of the husband and wife.
While the fetosaa-umane system is the backbone of Timorese society and is intended to strengthen unity between families, thus promoting harmony and social cohesion, this research was conducted in order to explore concerns raised through monitoring data gathered through the Early Warning and Early Response (EWER) program which indicated that certain cultural practices may be indirectly contributing to inter-familial and communal conflict in Timor-Leste. Read the full report...
East Timor Legal News 12 Oct 2011 Source: Oxford University Press Lia Kent Postdoctoral Fellow, State, Society and Governance in Melanesia program, Australian National University, Australia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transitional justice discourse is underpinned by an assumption that trials and truth commissions will assist individuals and societies to ‘come to terms’ with, and move on from, complex legacies of violence. This article considers how local practices of memorialization and commemoration, and the activities of victims’ groups in East Timor, disrupt these assumptions. It highlights how individuals and local communities in East Timor are attempting to ‘remake a world’ in ways that may differ markedly from the priorities of UN-sponsored transitional justice institutions and their nation's leaders. In addition, it explores how some survivors are embracing the language of victims’ rights to appeal to the state to respond to their experiences of suffering. These developments, which indicate that survivors are in various ways embracing, resisting and transforming ‘official’ justice discourses, highlight that the pursuit of justice in post-referendum East Timor is far more dynamic, locally grounded and open-ended than the narrative of transition implies.
© The Author (2011). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email email@example.com
The protest was being staged in support of the demand of 19 workers that been dismissed unfairly by the Justice Ministry. These two union officials, the Secretary General Mr. Almério Vila Nova and the National Organizer Mrs. Henita Casimira of the General Workers’ Union (SJT-TL) and the 17 workers are now still in the cell of Police in Caicoli-Dili.
The workers were engaged in the preparation of protest were dismissed from the Turismo Hotel because of the unfair decision of the Justice Ministry towards their management in closing the business.
The dismissed workers are all members of the General Workers' Union who had been active in attempts to negotiate with the employer and the government regarding the compensation and the continuation of their employment with the new management.
Timor-Leste's union believes that the motivation of the arrest is to protect the government member (Justice Minister Mrs. Lucia Lobato) and to intimidate workers to not speak up their right and to not protest the government members.
The president of Pick Union Body in Timor-Leste/KSTL, Mr. José da Conceição da Costa said that this is abuse of power of the government member. “She wants to take advantage (benefits) of the business that is why she decides to kick out the current management and give the contract to other business man so she can be benefited from the business”. This is unfair decision in the Democratic Country like Timor-Leste and it is caused many workers lose their jobs. The minister only thinking for her self and ignore the people who she supposed to served.
After tripartite negotiations with the employer and the Justice Minister in last year, the minister agreed to settle this matter in a very short time, but until today there is no realization yet.
Formal protests are being lodged by the union with the Government of Timor-Leste and the parliament over the intervention of the police and the attitude of the minister in causing dismissal of the workers, and urge the National Police to immediately release the union officials and the workers.
KSTL calls upon the government and the parliament to take serious actions to settle this matter as quickly as possible.
Contact Details: Jose da Conceicao da Costa (ZITO) President KSTL + 670 723 9824 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
11 October 2011
10 October 2011
East Timor Legal News 10 October 2011 Source:JSMP Justice Update Period: September 2011 Edition: 30 September 2011
The 13th September 2011 marked a new phase in the sphere of the judicial system of Timor-Leste, as the National Parliament had previously approved Draft Law No. 56/II on the Civil Code on the 23rd August 2011, which was then forwarded to the President to be published in the State Gazette. As of the 13th September 2011 Timor-Leste has had its own material civil law (Civil Code) and its own formal civil law (Civil Procedure Code) which were approved and promulgated on the 3rd February 2006.
JSMP welcomes and values the efforts and commitment of the State to strengthen the civil law system in Timor-Leste, however JSMP believes that the ratification of the Civil Code also raises some substantial issues that need to be debated, interpreted and thoroughly examined so that this law can be adjusted in line with the reality and the context of Timor-Leste in the future.
In relation to the legislative process in the national parliament, starting with the debate, plenary session and the approval and promulgation of the Civil Code in the State Gazette, JSMP issued a Press Release regarding the presence of the Civil Code. The aforementioned Press Release is aimed at expressing JSMP’s stance and concerns about the legislative process in the National Parliament up until when the Civil Code was ratified.
Regarding the concerns of JSMP towards the legislative process and practices taking place in the National Parliament and the process of promulgation carried out by the President, JSMP is reissuing this “justice update” to examine and disseminate the facts observed by JSMP in the National Parliament up until when the Law was promulgated on 13 September 2011.
This Justice Update is not intended to take issue with the constitutional competence and authority of the National Parliament and the President, but is only intended to invite real discussion in a public forum and demand that the sovereign organs of the State take responsibility and deal with the matter seriously, and in this case specifically to urge the National Parliament and the President to use their authority properly, to give due consideration and proper assessment of the capacity of the people of Timor-Leste, in accordance with the current context and reality.
1. Regarding Civil Law
The material civil law is a very important law in a democratic society, because this law regulates and determines the limits of legal relationships between one individual and another, between individuals and groups, as well as between groups, in the context of legal-social relations that uphold the interests of each person.
As an independent State, Timor-Leste clearly needs its own Civil Code, which is the responsibility of the National Parliament as the legislative body as set forth in the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
According to Article 92 of the Timor-Leste Constitution, the National Parliament has three fundamental powers: (1) legislative power, (2) supervisory power, (3) political decision making powers. In relation to its legislative power, Article 96.1 of the Constitution on ‘legislative authorization’ states that the National Parliament can authorize the Government to make laws on such matters such as the definition of crimes, sentences, security measures as well as the definitions on the civil and criminal procedure. Generally speaking Governments are better equipped than National Parliaments in terms of human and financial resources, and thus the practice of granting legislative authorization is normal in many countries.
Moreover, Article 97.1 of the Constitution on ‘legislative initiative” states that the power to initiate laws lies with members of parliament, members of parliamentary groups and also the Government. This means that legislative authority is not just the exclusive authority of members of parliament or parliamentary groups, because it can also be passed on to the Government as the executive organ.
Therefore the decision of the National Parliament to submit a number of laws or pieces of legislation to be drafted by the Government, as was the case with the Draft Civil Code, reflects the spirit of Article 96 of the Constitution on ‘legislative authorization’, particularly 96.1 (b).
2. Transition Period - UNTAET
After Timor-Leste freed itself from the Republic of Indonesia there was a period of transition between 1999 and May 2002 under UNTAET administration, and until the Draft Civil Code was ratified and promulgated by the President of Timor-Leste, the Indonesian Civil Code was applicable in Timor-Leste. Regarding this policy, please refer to Article 3.1 of the UNTAET Regulation UNTAET//1999/1.
UNTAET Regulation No. 1/99 states that the laws applied in Timor-Leste (including the Indonesian Civil Code) will continue to apply until Timor-Leste establishes its own legal system through the sovereign organs of the State.
When the President promulgated Law No.56/II on the Civil Code, the Indonesian Civil Code was automatically superseded and thus Timor-Leste will start to apply the Civil Code of Timor-Leste in accordance with the time frame established in the new Civil Code.
3. Draft Civil Code and Special Commission
The Draft Civil Code was submitted by the Minister of Justice in 2009 to the National Parliament as Draft Law No. 30/II which was then passed onto Committee A of the National Parliament that deals with legislative issues, authority and local governance according to Articles 9, 10 and 13 of the Rules of Procedure of National Parliament. The drafting of the Civil Code, which ended up comprising 2195 articles, was initiated by the government through the granting of legislative authorization to the National Parliament.
The draft was submitted by the Government to the National Parliament and comprised five (V) books, namely Book I on General Provisions, Book II on obligations (encompassing agreements/contracts in general, responsibilities, guarantees, fulfillment of contracts, legal sanctions for those who violate agreements, mandates etc.), Book III on “property and land” (encompassing ownership rights, rental arrangements etc.); Book IV on ‘family’ which encompasses matters regarding marriage, divorce, adoption etc.) and Book V on ‘inheritance’ (which encompasses the right to inheritance, how the government decides on the value of inheritance etc.).
Based on JSMP’s observations, Committee A started a discussion on the Draft Civil Code in a general plenary session through public consultation with community leaders, civil society and also the Bishops of Dili and Baucau. However this process was not an in-depth one because the public consultation only consisted of introducing the importance of the civil law.
Committee A completed public consultations by approving the Draft Civil Code in a general plenary session in 2010. Discussion on the draft civil code during a special plenary session recommenced in 2011, where more than 200 articles were completed (Article 1 - 214). However, the President of Committee A lodged a request with the President of the National Parliament to announce the continuation of discussions on the draft civil code through a special committee.
In the final phase the President of the National Parliament agreed to a request to announce the formation of a Special Committee, made up of members from each of the political party benches in the National Parliament. However, the Fretilín Bench, who had three representatives, chose to “Walk Out” because it was not really important to establish a special commission as set out in Article 36 of the Rules of Procedure of National Parliament and requested for discussion to continue in a special plenary session on the Draft Civil Code before Committee A.
However the Chair of the National Parliament did not agree and maintained the stance to establish this Special Committee in 2011 considering the complexity of the aforementioned draft law. This committee started its first round of discussions in Maubisi between 16-26 May 2011 and the second round of discussions took place in Com, Lospalos between 2-7 June 2011, and the third Round of Discussions continued in Maubisi between 28 June - 1 July 2011 to approve the draft law comprising more than 2000 articles. This Special Committee comprised 8 members of Parliament but had no representatives from the Fretilín bench.
During the drafting and discussion of the Draft Civil Code the Special Committee only received technical assistance from one international legal advisor to help the members of the council or the relevant Committee to understand the contents of the draft law.
Although there were some who supported and others who opposed this process, in the end the Draft Civil Law was approved at the last full plenary session of National Parliament on 23 August 2011 with 27 voting in favor, 1 against and 14 abstaining.
After being approved in National Parliament the draft law was submitted to the President to be promulgated in accordance with the competence of the President as set out in Article 85 (a) and (c) of the Constitution. Also Article 88 of the Timor-Leste Constitution on the rights of the President regarding ‘promulgation and veto’ also grant authority to the President to exercise his right to politically or judicially veto any law submitted by the National Parliament before its ratification. However, unfortunately the President did not use his constitutional authority to consult with the advisors to the President before promulgating this draft law.
Without taking issue with the constitutional authority of the President regarding the promulgation of this law, JSMP however remains concerned that the President accepted the Draft or Parliamentary Decree on 12 September and promulgated in on 13 September 2011. This means that the President only spent one day studying the law and seeking consultation and then ratified the law on the following day. JSMP believes that this is not how State affairs are normally conducted and no rational justification can be accepted for this process.
Therefore, JSMP is convinced that the President did not read the Civil Code or consult or seek opinions on it to an adequate level before it was promulgated. JSMP perceives this process to be one of ‘closing my eyes, opening my eyes and then promulgating the law...!’ This should not have occurred because the Civil Code is a legal document that is extremely complex and also because it sets out the legal relationships that exist between individuals and those in society in general in relation to their daily lives. Also, the Civil Code is very different with other legislation because the Civil Code is a complicated technical law.
Recalling the complexity of this law Filipe Alfaiate, an international consultant attached to JSMP to oversee the drafting of this Civil Code, stated that in his home country Portugal it took more than 10-20 years to draft their Civil Code. This process involved experts in this field who had years of academic experience who were appointed to examine their Civil Code before it was approved and ratified.
Also, for example in Indonesia, they still use the Civil Code which was a Dutch product that has a number of adaptations or changes, recalling what a complex task it is to start examining and replacing this law with a new Civil Code reflecting the current circumstances of Indonesia.
JSMP is extremely concerned with and regrets the actions of the President for ratifying this law without detailed consideration and analysis regarding the substance of the draft law, both its advantages and disadvantages and impact on members of the community who directly apply this law. JSMP believes that the President should have fully utilized the maximum time set out in Article 85 (c) of the Constitution, which prescribed a time limit of 30 days for the President to fully study and consult on all of the legislation which is sent to the President before being promulgated.
JSMP believes that practices of State administration such as this should be preserved to fully strengthen our constitutional norms and at the same time ensure that all legislation that is ratified in this State must reflect the context and reality of Timor-Leste, especially in relation to this Civil Code.
4. Dynamics in National Parliament
JSMP noted that the discussion process before the Special Committee regarding the Civil Code in special plenary hearings were not effective because there was a lack of public consultation because certain components of civil society, religious leaders and customary leaders were not fully involved, which is necessary to ensure that this Civil Code truly reflects the lives and culture of the community in Timor-Leste. The Rules of Procedure of National Parliament make it possible to accommodate the views of the people to produce a law that reflects the interests of the majority of people to realize and fulfill the functions and aims of legislation.
Moreover, in addition to the lack of participation of representatives from the opposition party, the composition of the Special Committee was not fully representative, because only 8 members of parliament were involved. This situation become more complex considering that there were 1295 articles in the draft civil code, and therefore JSMP doubts that it was possible for the members of parliament to read the summarized findings and analysis from the Special Committee in such a short time.
Although JSMP admits that Article 13.1 of the Constitution and Article 94.1 of the Rules of Procedure of National Parliament provide for the use of Portuguese language, JSMP is still concerned because that during discussions regarding the draft civil code, the majority of those involved did not make a significant contribution because the members of parliament did not have a strong understanding of the substance of the draft civil code because it was only provided in Portuguese.
Another example from the process that took place in the National Parliament was the fact that 14 members of parliament, including 5 members of the AMP block, chose to abstain from the vote on the draft civil code because they felt that it did not reflect the real circumstances in the community. Several articles that were raised by members of parliament in the last plenary session included Article 1475 on civil marriages, marriages in accordance with Catholic rules/teachings, traditional marriages (monogamous/cohabitation) and Article 1305 regarding clean water.
In addition, another fundamental and essential fact that concerns JSMP is that this draft civil code only establishes provisions for civil marriages between members of the community who are Catholic as well as traditional marriages (monogamous/cohabitation), however it does not provide for marriages between non-Catholic members of society such as protestants, as well as Muslims, who are citizens of Timor-Leste with their own religious identity and practices.
Another matter that surprised JSMP is that Articles 12 and 45 of the Constitution prescribe that the State provides guarantees for those that follow different religious beliefs and teachings and stipulate that no one shall be persecuted or discriminated against on the basis of his or her religious convictions.
In relation to this situation JSMP has no doubt in saying that the legislative policy of the National Parliament regarding this civil code does not reflect Timor-Leste’s obligations in accordance with international provisions of international law that have been ratified by the State of Timor-Leste.
Although JSMP understands that there might be different interpretations of these matters, JSMP believes that practices like this have the potential to give rise to discrimination due to political negligence or lack of detail on the behalf of members of the National Parliament. As a consequence, JSMP believes that in addition to being unrealistic and out of context, the Civil Code is actually unconstitutional because it does not adhere to the provisions and spirit of the Constitution and provisions of international law which have been ratified by the government of Timor-Leste.
The President should have used his judicial veto in regards to the aforementioned draft, and requested an abstract review of its constitutionality to the Court of Appeal which is also carrying out the function of the Supreme Court of Justice, before the President promulgated the law.
Based on the facts and concerns set out above, JSMP hereby makes a number of recommendations for consideration and follow-up:
1. JSMP urges members of the legislature to consider the formal and material aspects of a piece of legislation in the future to ensure that philosophical, historical, sociological principles as well as the customary practices of the people are accommodated in a legal product that reflects the true reality in society.
2. JSMP appeals to members of parliament to draft a proper plan to engage in open consultation in the future, and encourages them to deal with the issues raised above, and in particular ample space should be provided for a legal product to reflect the reality that exists in Timor-Leste;
3. JSMP also hopes that in the future the legislative process will include comprehensive awareness raising and public consultation with all relevant components of society to ensure that the process reflects the common interest and the desire of the majority when the law is applied;
4. JSMP urges National Parliament to seriously and responsibly defend the interests of the people in the National Parliament and ensure that the legislative process is carried out in an appropriate and first-rate manner;
In addition, JSMP encourages the National Parliament not only to prioritize the quantity or amount of laws/pieces of legislation that are produced during each legislative period, but rather to focus on the importance of producing first-rate legislation, because each legal product issued by the National Parliament will have a direct impact on the fate of the people; JSMP urges and encourages the President to use his powers effectively in accordance with the provisions set out in the Constitution, to consult with relevant parties or at least to make use of the legal advisors/experts on presidential matters, in relation to the ratification of each piece of legislation forwarded by the National Parliament.
JSMP urges the President to value the constitutional powers granted to him by the people pursuant to the provisions set out in the Timor-Leste Constitution.
 For more information about JSMP’s stance, please refer to JSMP Press Release on 19 September 2011, available at the JSMP website: www.jsmp.minihub.org;
 Refer to Article 96 of the Constitution for more information about the competencies of the President.
 Refer to Article 96 Constitution RDTL
 Refer to UNTAET/REG/1999/1
 Please refer to Article 85 (a) and (c) of the Timor-Leste Constitution.
 Refer to Article 79 (d) of the Rules of Procedure of the National Parliament
 Refer to Articles 12.1 and 12.2 of the Constitution
 Refer to Article 45 of the Constitution
 Refer to Articles 2, 7, 16.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 18.1 and 18.2 of the Convention against Civil and Political Rights
ETLJB Editor's Note: See also President of Timor-Leste performs miracle by ratifying the Civil Code that contains more than 2000 articles in just one day JSMP urges consideration and expresses concern
08 October 2011
East Timor Legal News 08 October 2011 Source: Suara Timor Lorosae October 4, 2011 language source: Tetun - MP Fernanda Lay from the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) said that the Justice Minister has evicted some people from their houses, but unfortunately the residents have no information about that and those evictions contradict the law.
MP Lay said that the Government has produced a law for land and property in order to guarantee all the people access to land and those who stay outside the country since 1974 can send their requirements to the Government about their right of accessing land, but unfortunately the law has not been well implemented yet.
"This has already happened to Mr. Elizeu Pereira that the Government evicted them without informing them first. The Government should inform them before they are evicted from their homes," MP Lay said.
MP Natalino dos Santos from the National Congress for the Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) said the Government should think carefully before evicting residents from their houses and the decision made should be based on the law.
East Timor Legal News 8 Oct 2011 Source: Timor Post October 5, 2011 language source: Tetun - President of the Court of Appeals, Claudio Ximenes, has been worn-in to re-assume the referred post for another four years.
Other Timorese judges, Deolindo dos Santos and Guilhermino da Silva, were also inducted to become superior judges in the Court of Appeals.
Speaking to journalists, President Jose Ramos Horta said he re-appointed Ximenes as he knows Ximenes is competent and is capable of leading the Court of Appeals.
"I re-appointed Claudio Ximenes as he is competent and isan experienced man in the Court of Appeal," he said.
East Timor Legal News 08 Oct 2011 Source: Suara Timor Lorosae, October 7, 2011 language source: Tetun - Timorese Police Commander Commissioner of Police Longuinhos Monteiro said that the police are continuing to investigate a criminal case where some unknown people cut off the electrical cable.
Monteiro said they are investigating some people who were believed to have engaged in this crime or immoral act.
"We already know that the duty of the police is to compile the data. We could not detain the suspected people immediately. We need time to process this case and compiling the data. We are continuing to ensure security and control the situation as people not only stole electrical cables in Dili, but also in the rural areas or in the districts.
The police will continue to control people to avoid the theft of electricity cable as it belongs to all the people," Monteiro said.
This statement was made by the Commander of the Australian force yesterday to the Timorese Police General Commander Commissioner of Police Longuinhos Monteiro in QH of PNTL in Kaikoli, Dili.
Commissioner of Police Longuinhos Monteiro confirmed that the Australian force has pledged that they would send back the two containers of bullets in the near future.
"Commander of the Australian force told me that they will send their bullets back to Australian and the two containers of bullets are now in the Dili Sea Port. They are processing the shipment," Monteiro said.
East Timor Legal News 8 Oct 2011 Source JSMP: Summary of cases tried at the Suai District Court during August
Period : September 2011 Edition: 7 October 2011 Introduction - During the first week of August 2011 JSMP conducting monitoring of criminal and civil trials at the Suai District Court. During the first week JSMP managed to observe 5 hearings, namely four cases involving light maltreatment and one case of domestic violence. However the trial of a case involving domestic violence continued on the following day and therefore this summary will cover a total of 6 hearings.
Based on monitoring conducted by JSMP, although the Suai District Court had scheduled hearings for each day, several cases were postponed because those seeking justice did not appear at court, including witnesses and victims, even though they had received written summons to provide testimony in court in order to contribute to the trial process to reveal the facts in accordance with the applicable rules of criminal procedure.
In several of the aforementioned cases suspended sentences were handed down and several others were settled by way of amicable agreement between the parties or because the cases were withdrawn by the parties, and this was accepted by the Suai District Court pursuant to Article 106 of the Timor-Leste Penal Code (regarding the nature of the crime).
As usual, this summary aims to disseminate up to date information about the trial process taking place at the Suai District Court based on monitoring conducted by JSMP during the first month of August 2011.
The following information provides a summary on the trial process:
1. Crime of Light Maltreatment, Case No.145/PEN/2009/TDS
On 04 August 2011 the Suai District Court tried Case No. 145/PEN/2009/TDS involving light maltreatment.
This trial was presided over by judge Jose Maria de Araujo (Presiding Judge at the Suai District Court), while the Public Prosecution Unit was represented by Oscar Tavares (international) and the Public Defender’s Office was represented by João Henrique de Carvalho.
This trial involved the defendant SdA who allegedly committed light maltreatment against the victim NMA. The indictment of the public prosecutor stated that on 27 July 2009 in Camenasa, Sanfuk Village the defendant committed light maltreatment because the victim and his friends were drinking alcohol and they became drunk and were causing a commotion in the surrounding area, and therefore the defendant took a metal rod and struck the victim in the head.
The public prosecutor charged the defendant under Article 145 of the Penal Code on light maltreatment, which carries a sentence of 3 years imprisonment or a fine.
During the trial the victim testified to the court that the victim and the defendant had reached an amicable settlement and therefore pursuant to Article 71 of the Criminal Procedure Code on the legitimacy of the aggrieved party and Article 107 of the Penal Code on the bearers of the right to file complaint, the court decided to validate the aforementioned amicable agreement.
2. Crime of Light Maltreatment, Case No. 31/PEN/2007/TDS
On 04 August 2011 the Suai District Court conducted a trial in Case No. 31/PEN/2007/TDS concerning light maltreatment. This case involved the defendant VD who allegedly committed the act against the victims AM and DS who are members of PNTL.
This trial was presided over by judge Jose Maria de Araujo (Presiding Judge at the Suai District Court), while the Public Prosecution Unit was represented by Oscar Tavares (international) and the defendant was represented by Public Defender Joao Henrique de Carvalho.
The incident allegedly occurred on 24 April 2006 in Zumalai Sub-District, Tazilin Village, Bora Ikun Sub-Village. The incident occurred because the two victims who are members of the PNTL wanted to settle a feud between martial arts groups, however the defendant appeared and hit and kicked the two victims.
Based on the aforementioned facts the Public Prosecutor charged the defendant in accordance with Article 145 of the Penal Code on light maltreatment which carries a sentence of three years imprisonment or a fine.
In relation to the prosecutor’s charges the public defender told the court that prior to entering the courtroom the defendant and victims had reached an amicable agreement. Pursuant to Article 107 of the Timor-Leste Penal Code (on the bearers of the right to file complaint) the court asked the victims AM and DS about the statement made by the public defender to the court and the victims told the court that they had forgiven the defendant, however in the future the defendant should not repeat such actions against them or any other persons. Also the defendant apologized to the two victims. Therefore the court accepted the request of the public defender and decided to validate the amicable agreement and close the case.
3. Crime of Light Maltreatment, Case No. 23/PEN/2011/TDS
On 05 August 2011 the Suai District Court tried Case No. 23/PEN/2011/TDS involving a land dispute.
This trial was presided over by judge Jose Maria de Araujo (Presiding Judge at the Suai District Court), while the Public Prosecution Unit was represented by Zélia Trindade and the defendant was represented by Public Defender João Henrique de Carvalho.
The defendant GFG was charged with committing the crime of light maltreatment against the victim JDP. The incident occurred because the defendant ordered the National Directorate of Land and Property to measure the victim’s land, and at that time the victim was not at home. The victim’s wife phoned the victim to inform him that GFG had come to measure their land with a representative from the National Directorate of Land and Property, so the victim immediately came to that location and when JDP arrived at the scene the defendant leaped towards the victim and pushed the victim JDP in the chest and used his hand to strike the victim twice on the cheek.
The public prosecutor charged the defendant under Article 145 of the Penal Code on light maltreatment. The court explained to the two parties that Article 106.3 of the Penal Code stipulates that this case is a semi-public crime of which the prosecution can only be initiated after the right to file complaint has been exercised, and the court adjourned the hearing for 20 minutes to allow the parties to engage in conciliation.
When the hearing continued the victim JDP told the court that he had forgiven the defendant and requested for the defendant not to repeat such acts against others in the future.
After hearing the statement of the victim, pursuant to Article 71 of the Criminal Procedure Code and Article 107 of the Penal Code (on the bearers of the right to file complaint), the court validated this amicable settlement.
4. Crime of Domestic Violence, Case No. 35/PEN/2009/TDS
On 05 August 2011 the Suai District Court tried Case No. 35/PEN/2009/TDS involving domestic violence. This trial was presided over by judge Jose Maria de Araujo (Presiding Judge at the Suai District Court), while the Public Prosecution Unit was represented by Zelia Trindade and the defendant was represented by Public Defender Joao Henrique de Carvalho.
The defendant IA was charged with committing domestic violence against the victim EV.
The Public Prosecutor charged the defendant under 145 of the Penal Code on light maltreatment as well as Article 35 of Law No. 7/2010 Against Domestic Violence.
In relation to the facts of the case the prosecutor requested for the court to sentence the defendant to three years jail, however the public defender requested for the court to give his client a suspended sentence because the defendant provides for his family (children).
During the trial the defendant did not provide testimony, however the defendant accepted all of the charges leveled against him.
A final decision in this case will be announced on 11 August 2011 at 10am.
5. Crime of Light Maltreatment, Case No. 151/PEN/2009/TDS
On 9 August 2011 the Suai District Court adjourned a hearing in Case No. 151/PEN/2009/TDS involving light maltreatment.
This trial was adjourned by judge Jose Maria de Araujo (Presiding Judge), while the Public Prosecution Unit was represented by Zelia Trindade and the defendant was represented by Public Defender Joao Henrique de Carvalho.
The trial was adjourned because the defendant AXDS and witness were not present in court. The trial was adjourned until 7 October 2011 at 2pm.
6. Crime of Domestic Violence, Case No. 35/PEN/2009/TDS
On 11 August 2011 the Suai District Court conducted a hearing to read out its decision in Case No. 35/PEN/2009/TDS involving domestic violence.
The hearing to announce the decision was presided over by judge Jose Maria de Araujo (Presiding Judge at the Suai District Court), while the Public Prosecution Unit was represented by Zélia Trindade and the defendant was represented by Public Defender Joao Henrique de Carvalho.
The court handed down a suspended sentence of 2 years against the defendant in accordance with the charges of light maltreatment and domestic violence.
The court decided to suspend the sentence against the defendant IA based on the evidence presented and also in consideration that the defendant and the victim are husband and wife and they have four children.:
03 October 2011
|Map showing location of Betano in Manufahi District|
MP da Costa said the plant would have 130 megawatts providing electricity for the people who are living in the southern part of Timor-Leste.
Da Costa made the statements about the local residents in the area who are protesting the government's appropriation of their land for establishing a power plant there.
"I am calling on the all people of the country to cooperate with the Government in order to give space for the Government for better developing this country," MP da Costa said.
Nielson said that it is important for improving the judicial system so that the country can make positive progress in the future. The bar association should also be independence.
"If it is possible then the order of lawyers should be set up independently so that it can regulate lawyers in carrying out their work. The work of lawyers will benefit people and therefore before implementing the planned bar association, it should be thoroughly discussed," Nielson said.
Justice Minister Lucia Lobato was proud of the lawyers association conference adding that the role of lawyers is to defend the rights of all the people and to contribute to the judicial administration.
The Portugal Bar President Antonio Pinto said there is no democracy without justice and no justice if there are no lawyers. He added that the advocate's role is to defend the rights of people in trials or judicial process.
02 October 2011
East Timor Legal News 02/10/2011 Source: Televizaun Timor-Leste, September 30, 2011 language source: Tetun - Justice Minister Lucia Lobato has called on all the people to respect the decision made by the court about the ownership of the land occupied by the Sertorio family for 30 years as it is legal decision in the country.
"We have to be subject to the court's decision as it is outlined in the law and the constitution. I myself met with Sertorio's family three times to talk to them about how they can resolve this case [leave the house]. I told them that they have to leave the house because the court has decided that they have to leave that house as the house is not theirs. I think it is wrong if people refuse to be subject to the court's decision.
In a democratic country, people should abide by the law and the court's decision, but if people are against the decision made by the court then it is wrong," Minister Lobato said.
Lobato made the statements because the Government through the national police evicted Sorterio and his families from a house they occupied in Bairo Central, Dili, but unfortunately they made a camp in front of the house and are staying there. Deputy Prime Minister for Social Issues Jose Luis Guterres has recently said the Government will never intervene in a decision made by the court.
Police evict family occupying property for 30 years after court finds title remains vested in Timorese who fled Indonesian invasion in 1975
East Timor Land Rights: Restitution Not Possession - A Comment on the Draft Land Law
TIMOR-LESTE: Regulating land ownership "key to stability"
REDE BA RAI PRESS STATEMENT: More evictions to come / Eviksaun barak bele akontese ba oin
Q&A-Why is land such a big issue in East Timor?
East Timor land law fuels fears of evictions, conflict
East Timor Legal News 02 October2011 Source: Televizaun Timor-Leste, September 30, 2011 language source: Tetun - The Dili District Police Commander Superintendent Chief Pedro Belo has called on Sertorio Pereira and his family to move from the street they occupy in Bairo Central, Dili so that the public can use the street.
Belo said the police will take strong action against them if they remain hell bent on staying on the road.
"As a human being then I think it is important to see this case carefully, but it is important also for them to move to another place in order to give space for public to use that road. We will continue to approach them and asking them to leave that place, because if they continue to stay there then it will prejudice public right to use that road."
Belo said that he has information saying that Sertorio's family are still getting access to the house they used tooccupy and that means they breach the decision made by the court to evict them from that house.
The Dili district court decided to evict Sertorio and his family because they lost in the trial process in the court that found that the house does not belong to them.
The Dili District Police forcibly evicted them on September 22 and the family made camp in the front of the house they used to stay in and that impedes the public from using that road.
He also called on the students who are holding rallies to defend Sertorio and his family to respect court's decision; decision of the court is the highest and legal decision in the country.
ETLJB Editor's Note: See also
Police evict family occupying property for 30 years after court finds title remains vested in Timorese who fled Indonesian invasion in 1975
East Timor Land Rights: Restitution Not Possession - A Comment on the Draft Land Law
TIMOR-LESTE: Regulating land ownership "key to stability"
REDE BA RAI PRESS STATEMENT: More evictions to come / Eviksaun barak bele akontese ba oin
Q&A-Why is land such a big issue in East Timor?
East Timor land law fuels fears of evictions, conflict
East Timor Legal News Source: The Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces International Security Sector Advisory Team Community of Practice 09/09/2011 by Edward Rees - A new twist to SSR in Timor-Leste: local media and NGO challenge the conventional wisdom on illicit weapons, and show that local organizations can achieve a lot with limited funds.
Timor-Leste is slowly but surely moving from a fragile state to a stable one. One of the sure signs of this is the growing maturity of Timorese civil society as it develops the political will and capacity to confront tough issues.
In 2006 Timor-Leste flirted with a civil war as political maneuvering and a dysfunctional security sector fragmented. Dozens of people were killed, thousands of properties destroyed and some 10% of the populations became IDPs. It only came to an end after February 2008 the death of rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado during the shooting of President Ramos-Horta. A parallel attack on Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao also failed.
One of the causes of the crisis was the lack of control over weapons held by the security sector, and subsequent distribution of arms to civilians. Prior to 2006 Timorese civil society was generally very tentative in its approach to confronting problems in the security sector, especially when it came to the sensitive subject of weapons control. As such while SSR problems were common dinner table subjects of discussion they rarely got out into the open, whereby citizens could have made their feelings known and perhaps constrained the actions of irresponsible actors in the community.
The lack of citizen participation in sensitive and yet important SSR subjects was one of the reasons that the post Indonesian era Timorese security sector was founded on quicksand.
Since 2006 international and national actors have made considerable headway in collecting lost weapons. However, rumours of illicit weapons have remained throughout, despite assurances by UNPol, the Timorese national police and others that the situation was well under control.
Interestingly, a new local NGO, Fundasaun Mahein, has been suggesting otherwise during the course of its research since it opened its doors in 2009. It has on several occasions called for weapons audits to be done and for the results to be made public. However, not much was publically forthcoming about if these proposed activities happened, and what the results were.
That is until 6 September 2011, when Tempo Semanal, a weekly newspaper with a record of investigative journalism, published a story apparently revealing the contents of January 2011 weapons audits on the national police armoury. These audits have discovered 47 missing weapons. While these form only about 1% of the total held it is a small country, and between 2006-2008 ex-army rebel Major Alfredo Reinado held the country to ransom with less than 20 weapons.
The Timorese will likely never be able to have all illicit weapons under control, it’s just not possible. In every country around the world illicit weapons are a public safety concern – as indeed they are in Timor-Leste’s neighbouring states Australia and Indonesia. It’s a question of managing the problem.
However, Timor-Leste is less than a year away from Presidential and General elections and having civil society play a watchful eye on weapons control is good old fashioned, and home grown, SSR. Tempo Semanal and Fundasaun Mahein are very cheap to run and are 100% wholly locally owned; something which cannot quite be said about most of our "international interventions".
See also Commentary on the Draft Arms Law in Timor-Leste
East Timor Legal News 01 October 2011 Source: Suara Timor Lorosae September 30, 2011 - THe Deputy Police Commissioner of Police Afonso de Jesus confirmed that there are four police AK-33 guns still missing, adding that they are searching them.
"I want to tell you that there are four guns of ours that are still missing, but we are continuing to search them. I am calling on all the people to inform the police if they know who are hiding guns so that the police can recollect them," de Jesus said.
Guns, including some police pistols have bee missing since the 2006 crisis and have not yet been found.
UN peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste reconfirms it did not import two containers of ammunition in 2011
For immediate release
Dili, 29 September 2011 – The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) today reconfirmed that it has not imported, ordered, or received ammunition through the seaport of Dili this year.
"UNMIT has reviewed its records thoroughly," said UNMIT Spokesperson Carlos Araujo in response to concerns expressed in the news media. "UNMIT did not import two containers of ammunition this year. In February 2011 UNMIT imported the ammunition required for its armed security personnel who are responsible for UN staff safety. In all cases UNMIT followed United Nations regulations and the mission's agreements with the Government of Timor-Leste."
The UN peacekeeping mission is present in Timor-Leste at the request of the Government and with the authorization of the United Nations Security Council. Its purpose is to advance the security and stability of an independent Timor-Leste.
The peacekeeping mission is working closely with the Government of Timor-Leste to plan its withdrawal in December 2012 following presidential and parliamentary elections in 2012. This was reflected in the Joint Transition Plan signed on 19 September by President Ramos-Horta, Prime Minister Gusmao, and UN Special Representative Haq.
"The Mission is focussed on strengthening the foundations of long-term peace," said Araujo. "This work includes support to the Government to plan and implement the upcoming elections, provide operational support to and build the capacity of the national police force, and ensure a smooth withdrawal of UNMIT in December 2012. Following the withdrawal of UNMIT, UN agencies such as UNDP and UNICEF are expected to continue working in Timor-Leste."
For more information on the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste and its efforts to foster security and stability, see the UNMIT website at
Journalists are invited to send their questions and requests for information to: Carlos Araujo, UNMIT spokesperson at: email@example.com, 731-1513.
01 October 2011
|Traditional house, Maubisse, East Timor|
The perpetrators were men from the east who, over several years, settled in and around her property in an attempt to squeeze her out, she says.
Her efforts to seek support from the police and courts have largely come to naught. She has abandoned her property and pitted her hopes on an intervention by the country's president.
"I'm afraid for my life. There are people who want to kill me," Madeira told IRIN.
One of many growing pains for this country are land disputes, which remain a potentially combustible issue in Timor-Leste, say analysts.
Land tenure lies at the core of how the country is defined, says Cillian Nolan, a Dili-based researcher for the International Crisis Group, who wrote a report published last year on the issue.
New land tenure legislation raises difficult questions for the government, he says. "What reparations must it make for the wrongs of [the Portuguese and Indonesian regimes]... and how will it enforce the rule of law?"
Tension over land rights is particularly raw because "food consumption, income and security are largely measured by control of and access to land", notes a 2006 report by USAID on the underlying causes of an army insurrection that year in which dozens were killed and some 150,000 people displaced .
The report by the US government's aid wing identified uncertainty over land rights as one of the most likely triggers of future violence in the half-island nation.
History of upheaval
From 1975 to 1999, Timor-Leste was ruled by the Indonesian army, which frequently confiscated land and forcibly relocated communities to break up resistance networks.
Previously, Portuguese colonists imposed onerous taxes that forced some to sell their property and work as landless share-croppers and wage labourers.
When Timor-Leste achieved independence in 1999, most of the land was occupied without official title deeds.
Land claims have become further complicated in recent years following episodes of violence - including the 2006 army uprising - that forced people to relocate and sometimes squat on vacant properties.
Formally regulating land tenure is essential to reduce rural poverty, improve food security and minimize the likelihood of episodes of mass violence in the future, wrote Daniel Fitpatrick, a professor at New York University's Law School, who has focused on land issues in the Pacific region, in a 2010 report commissioned by the World Bank.
"There is an urgent need for legal certainty relating to ownership of rural land, mechanisms for investors to seek access to rural land, and safeguards relating to food and livelihoods security in rural districts," he said.
Horacio da Silva, an official at the Land Department, says his office would benefit from the passage of a land law that was proposed in 2010 but has yet to be voted on in parliament because, say observers, it is politically sensitive.
The law would grant titles to undisputed land, initiate a specific system for resolving land disputes outside civilian courts, and offer formal recognition of plots claimed by villages as "communal land" - a category of ownership with long roots, but no formal legal basis, in Timor-Leste.
Land titling advances
Making headway is Ita Nia Rai, a project that is on the verge of being able to issue title deeds for about a quarter of the total parcels of land in the country.
Started in 2007, it is funded by USAID and operated by Tetra Tech, a global engineering, construction and management consultancy. Ita Nia Rai has organized cadastral surveys for each property under its purview, establishing ownership of 91 percent of some 47,000 parcels of urban land it reviewed.
A government motion passed in July will pave the way for the property claims established by Ita Nia Rai to be converted into formal land titles.
"Many disputes can be resolved once specific systems are put in place," says Kim Glenn, the project's head.
Ita Nia Rai's system has been effective because it is accessible, interactive and transparent, he says.
"Disputes fester in an environment where the information is not easy to understand or to share with others."
He says his organization would like to extend its processes to rural areas but this expansion would require the government first to legally define what constitutes "community land", a step that would require the passage of the land law proposed in 2010.
ETLJB Editor's Note: Please see the Timor-Leste Land Law & Policy Information Centre for more information about the problems of land law, land rights and land conflicts in East Timor.