2008 began on a very challenging note for the Human Rights and Transitional Justice Section (HRTJS).
Following the events of February 11, the HRTJS focused on cases of ill-treatment, use of excessive force, cases of intimidation and other human rights violations that had occurred during the state of siege by security forces, particularly the PNTL Task Force and Joint Command. The HRTJS actively monitored, reported on and lobbied for accountability and an end to violations throughout this period.
As the state of siege ended and the Joint Command was disbanded, there was a marked decrease in the number of allegations of human rights violations. However, the excessive use of force used by the PNTL during arrests remained a concern.
Some progress towards accountability for 2006 Commission of Inquiry crimes was made with investigations progressing under the leadership of the OHCHR/UNDP funded Prosecutor.
The trials began in October with further trials scheduled to begin in January 2009. Another accomplishment was the human rights education training provided to 356 elementary school teachers from all 13 Districts in a joint effort of the Section, the Government and the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice (PDHJ). Capacity building and lobbying for additional resources proved successful as the PDHJ's budget was increased and 17 new posts were created. The first PDHJ office in the Districts was opened in Oecussi in December 2008.
The year ended on a positive note with the first Sergio Viera de Mello Human Rights Awards being presented by the President to two Timorese recipients during a Special Plenary Session of the National Parliament to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December. On 16 December, the HRTJS launched the first-ever public report by a UN Peace Mission on The Right to Food. The same week the Government announced that two of the seven working groups on the national priorities for 2009 would be dedicated specifically to issues affecting 80% of the population who rely on subsistence agriculture.
In 2009 HRTJS will continue to work towards ensuring accountability for perpetrators of all human rights violations while at the same time building the capacity of national actors to understand and respect these principles. The Section will continue to focus on the four key challenges of ensuring accountability and combating impunity, contributing to security sector reform, reducing gender based violence and advocating for substantive improvements in the realization of economic, social and cultural rights for all citizens of Timor Leste.
Voices of East Timor