27 October 2014

East Timor's Parliament resolves to terminate all foreign judges

ETLJB 27/10/2014 - The Australian Broadcasting Commission has published a report that the Parliament of East Timor has passed a resolution to immediately terminate all existing contracts of international judicial officers including international advisers appointed to the Judiciary, the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Public Defenders Office and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

According to the ABC report, the resolution was passed in a closed session of the country's Parliament in Dili on Friday 24 October 2014. An adviser to the Prime Minister of East Timor is reported to have told the ABC that some decisions by international judges did not comply with the laws of East Timor.

ETLJB would like to express concern about the wholesale dismissal of a group of judicial officers without there having been any independently-proven incapacity or misbehavior. As there does not appear to have been any allegations of misbehavior, the question remains how the incapacity of all of the foreign judges and advisers in the Public Prosecutions Office, the Public Defendors Officer and the Anti-Corruption Commission was estabished.

The Government spokesperson claimed that some foreign judges were not interpreting and applying the law of East Timor properly. But there should have been an independent assessment of each individual judge by the Superior Council of the Judiciary, rather than an intervention by the policital institution of the Parliament, to determine whether any particular judge did not have the capacity to function as a judge under the law. It is the Superior Council for the Judiciary which is the organ of management and discipline of the judges of the courts. It is an institution that is much further removed from politics than the Parliament is.

And in any event, if the executive authorities were of the opinion that a foreign judge had erred in a decision, then it should have followed due process and appealed to the highest court, the Court of Appeal, to seek to correct any error at law or fact in a particular case. The wholesale termination of foreign judicial actors by the Parliament appears to be a political intervention that raises the question whether the Parliament had full regard to the separation of powers, due process and the basic principle of the independence of the judiciary from political interference.

Finally, the immediate loss of all of the foreign appointees will place an enormous burden on the already over-stretched and under-funded court system and contribute to a decline in access to justice by citizens.

See also  Parliament and Government must respect the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers
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