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22 August 2008

UNMIT Press Release- Timor Leste at a Human Rights Crossroads

United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste UNMIT

Timor Leste at a Human Rights Crossroads

UNMIT launches second human rights report on Timor-LesteTimor-Leste, 21 August- In a public report released in Dili today, the United Nations noted that Timor-Leste has continued to consolidate progress in key human rights areas, including adherence to the rule of law, strengthening of the judicial system and addressing past human rights violations. Nevertheless, in a number of areas further progress is needed.

The UNMIT report, covering the period September 2007 to June 2008, focuses on key human rights developments in relation to the security sector and access to justice, and provides a list of recommendations.

The report notes that the 11 February attacks against President José Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão constituted a significant security challenge. The national authorities responded to these challenges in a way which indicates increasing institutional stability and adherence to the rule of law. The cooperation between the military and police, as well as the successful efforts to apprehend those wanted in connection with the attacks without resorting to use of force, were positive developments.Nevertheless, important challenges remain.

The notable increase in the number of cases of ill-treatment by members of the security forces reported during the state of exception is of particular concern. UNMIT also received reports of death-threats and arrests that did not follow legal procedures.

While national leaders made commitments to address such violations, accountability mechanisms remain weak.Some progress has been made in strengthening the justice system. The increasing number of Timorese judicial personnel and their increased presence in the districts are of particular importance.

However, effective access to justice remains constrained. The backlog of cases has grown to an estimated 4,700 criminal cases. Gender based violence remains a major concern with key legislation for dealing with such claims not yet adopted.

In terms of justice for past violations, the final report of the Indonesia–Timor-Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship was submitted to the Presidents of Indonesia and Timor-Leste on 15 July. The two Presidents issued a joint statement recognizing that gross violations of human rights had occurred, expressing remorse to all those who suffered. However, progress towards holding accountable those responsible for criminal acts during the 2006 crisis was slow.

Having emerged from a critical period “Timor-Leste is now at a human rights crossroads” said Louis Gentile, Chief of UNMIT’s Human Rights and Transitional Justice Section. “The Timorese people and state institutions can continue to build on progress achieved – or can turn back towards a more violent past. The United Nations stands ready to assist them to move forward”, he concluded.

The Human Rights Report on Timor-Leste can be accessed at the following link:

http://unmit.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=827

For more information, please call Allison Cooper on +670 7230453 or Hipolito Gama on +670 7311839.

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