14 July 2017

JSMP launches its Report on Contact Points Between Community Dispute Resolution and the Formal Justice System

Press Release 14 July 2017

JSMP launches its Report on Contact Points Between Community Dispute Resolution and the Formal Justice System

On 14 July 2017, JSMP, with technical support from USAID Mai Munisípiu project (formerly Ba Distrito) launched its thematic research report on how the courts (formal justice) consider community resolutions of disputes (non-formal justice).

The report titled “Court and Alternative Dispute Resolution” is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United State Agency for International Development, as part of JSMP’s partnership with Mai Munisípiu project implemented by Counterpart International and Tetra Tech DPK.

The report is produced based on research and monitoring JSMP conducted in Baucau, Covalima, Dili, and Oecusse District Courts during a five month period (January to May 2017).  Throughout the period, JSMP observed analyzed a total of 108 cases from which 26 were resolved within families/communities before brought to the court while 82 cases were conciliated before and by the courts. The objective of the report is to have a better understanding of how the courts, which administer the formal justice system, take into consideration resolutions of disputes which occurred at the community level in their decision-making process. In giving his observation to the report, the Executive Director of JSMP Mr. Luis Oliveira Sampaio said “the research also found that conciliation that occurred before the court was an important instrument to reduce court caseload.”

The report concludes that although community resolutions have positive aspects that are beneficial to the formal justice system-i.e. minimizing the court workload by solving some of the minor crimes (semi public crimes), the courts’ consideration of the resolutions should follow the existing laws. “Basically the Office of Prosecution Services also has the competence to withdraw cases constituting semipublic crimes during the questioning which can lead to terminate the process, but this does not happen so far” - Mr. Sampaio continued.

The President of the Court of Appeal Hon. Judge Deolindo dos Santos who gave his remarks at the launch event said “The Timorese Constitution recognizes customary norms and practices which have existed long before the courts. This practice, which varies from one place to another,  is quite widespread throughout Timor-Leste attempts to provide solutions to problems or disputes in the communities”

Also present at the launch event was Dr. Jorge Graca- the President of Legislative Reform and Justice Sector Commission (CRL). The Commission is established to undertake research studies and make recommendations to the Government of Timor-Leste (GoTL) about legislative reform necessary to strengthen the justice system. In his remarks, the president of CRL stated that “community dispute resolutions are have their own social legitimacy and spiritual power which originated from historical convictions and this is what our communities practice. Value of community dispute resolutions are underpinned by a collective will of those involved in committing offence to create peace and social harmony, and it’s allowed by our Constitution”.

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