11 December 2013

Bringing Justice to the People in Timor Leste



ETLJB 11 December 2013 - Maliana –  A father’s assault on his eight-year old daughter. Five violent deaths rooted in a land dispute between family members. A conflict involving religious differences results in homes being destroyed and neighbors in fear for their lives. Since these three crimes happened in Maliana, trying the cases would normally require all those involved to travel three and half hours on often barely passable to reach the local district court in Suai.

Instead, these and nine other cases were heard in a makeshift courtroom at Maliana’s Municipality Building from 25-27 November as part of a mobile court programme that brings Timor-Leste’s justice system to people living in remote areas.

”Bad road conditions, the lack of money for transportation, and the remoteness of some areas hamper our efforts to get defendants, victims and witnesses to the court in Suai,” said Álvaro Maria Freitas, Suai Judge Administrator. “With the mobile court, we can facilitate communities’ access to justice, resolve pending cases and reduce backlogs.”

Support for the mobile court initiative has been provided by UNDP’s Justice System Programme (JSP) since being launched in 2010. It is part the JSP’s efforts to help citizens understand their rights and ensure they know how to access those rights.

Currently, the four district courts of Dili, Baucau, Oecussi and Suai cover Timor-Leste’s 13 districts. Tough terrains, transportation and limited financial resources often make it difficult for people in remote areas to reach their local district court.

Support for the mobile court initiative has been provided by UNDP’s Justice System Programme (JSP) since being launched in 2010. It is part the JSP’s efforts to help citizens understand their rights and ensure they know how to access those rights. The project also includes legal outreach sessions which are held throughout the country to raise communities’ awareness of their rights and of the mechanisms in place to ensure they can realize those rights, ultimately increasing access to justice for the population.

In the last mobile court session of the year, defendants, victims and community members attended hearings both of simple cases presided over by a single judge, and of more complex cases requiring a trial panel of three judges.

“When community members are able to attend the sessions and see how the Court works, their trust in the formal justice increases”, said Florencia Freitas, Suai District Court Judge.  “People feel encouraged to come forward and give their testimony after attending the hearings”.

 “Mobile justice is a wonderful example of a simple solution to the problems people in remote areas face in going to court,” said Mikiko Tanaka, UNDP’s Country Director. “UNDP is pleased to have supported this issue and will continue to provide technical, financial and logistical support to the government until such time as it is ready to fully take on the initiative.”

For more information, please contact Slava Mysak, Access to Justice Advisor, at slava.mysak@undp.org.

About UNDP: UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in 177 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. In Timor-Leste, UNDP provides technical advice and assistance to build strong and capable public institutions at national and sub-national levels in justice, parliament, human rights, anti-corruption, police
economic development, environmental management and disaster risk management that bring development, peace and justice to the population and reach out to the poor and vulnerable sections of society.

About UNDP’s Justice System Programme: The Justice System Programme (JSP) aims to support Timorese justice institutions to provide a fair, efficient and effective justice system for all in Timor-Leste, and improve access to justice for the poor and disadvantaged. The JSP works in partnership with the courts, the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Public Defender’s Office and the Ministry of Justice. The JSP’s current phase was launched in 2008 and concluded in October 2013. A new project document for the next phase (2014-2018) is due to be signed with the national stakeholders. The JSP was first launched in 2003 and is supported by the Governments of Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Australia and Brazil. Source: UNDP Press Release 6/12/2013 Edited by Warren L. Wright

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