27 November 2017

UN Committee Against Torture - Failure to investigate allegations of torture and recorded assaults by East Timor National Police

ETLJB 27 November 2017 United Nations Committee Against Torture Member, Felice Gaer, who is the Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Timor-Leste, made some very critical observations of East Timor at the Committee's hearing of East Timor's report, in relation to allegations of torture and ill-treatment, assaults by police and many additional complaints of problematical behaviour by the East Timor National Police.

"Turning to recent allegations of torture and ill-treatment, Ms. Gaer drew attention to dozens of reports of individuals in the Lalulai village in Bacau district suspected of supporting the rebel KRM group who had been arbitrarily arrested and tortured by the police to compel them to divulge information about the whereabouts of members of the group in 2014 and 2015.

Ms. Gaer pointed out to the September 2017 case in Oecussi Special Administrative Region in which the police had publicly beaten, kicked and whipped a group of young men for suspected involvement in an illegal Martial Arts Group, which had been captured on video.

Non-governmental organisations alleged that they had received many additional complaints of that kind involving the police.

It seemed that very few, if any, of those alleged assaults had led to penalties being imposed.

It appeared that the State party’s position was that the police and military were capable of addressing allegations of torture and ill-treatment on their own and that the involvement of prosecutorial authorities was not really necessary.

That position was not consistent with Timor-Leste’s obligations under the Convention.

What was the number of complaints of maltreatment received since 2014, and the number of investigations into alleged torture and ill-treatment that had been carried out since 2014?

Had the State party carried out measures to ensure that impartial investigations were carried out into allegations of torture and ill-treatment?

Had the Police Forensic and Criminal Investigations Unit carried out any investigations into torture and ill-treatment? What was the size of the unit and how powerful was it? Did it have the power to carry out investigations on its own initiative?"

Here is the response from the East Timorese delegation to the Committee's hearing, which, do not appear to have answered the questions from the Committee member sufficiently.

"Turning to questions about police brutality and excessive use of force, the delegation clarified that investigations had been carried out in the Atauro, Oecusse and Maliana cases. Punishments could be prison sentences or disciplinary measures. Police officers wore distinctive uniforms and insignia, in accordance with relevant laws, except intelligence officers. Law enforcement officers received training in human rights. Recently, the Police Criminal Investigation Service had received training from the Chinese National Police on forensics, gender-based violence and domestic violence, as well as investigation, community policing and leadership training from the New Zealand and Australian police. The police had established an incident management system, which recorded any complaints from the community. In addition, the police liaison officer to the prosecutor had been established and extended to regional courts.

With respect to the security operation in the Lalulai village in Bacau district, the operation had turned violent because the leader of the KRM group had not cooperated. Several members of the police force had been shot and injured by the KMR group."

Seven disciplinary penalties were applied to police officers, including suspension, compulsory retirement and dismissal, the delegation explained. In the Oecusse case, the member of the police force had been transferred to another station."

See further on ETJLB
Statement to Committee against Torture reflects serious misunderstanding of State obligations under Convention
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