20 September 2009

UNMIT launches third human rights report on Timor-Leste

United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) - 15 September 2009. Dili - In a public report released in Dili today, the United Nations noted that in the past year, Timor-Leste made progress in key human rights areas, including strengthening of the judicial system and enactment of important legislation.

Launched ten years after the popular consultation that paved the way for Timor-Leste's independence, the UNMIT report, covering the period July 2008 to June 2009, focuses on key developments in relation to accountability and combating impunity for past and present human rights violations.

In the past year, the authorities have taken steps to consolidate progress in relation to human rights. The Government presented its report to the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The judiciary strengthened its presence in the districts, and the Office of the Provedoria for Human Rights and Justice opened regional offices. Through its National Priorities, the Government also began to implement strategies to fulfil basic economic and social rights.

Nevertheless, in the area of accountability much remains to be done. In spite of progress, access to justice is limited, particularly in the districts, where the population often relies on traditional mechanisms that do not always conform to human rights standards. The conviction in national courts of a number of police officers who committed human rights violations is a positive indication of the increasing ability of national mechanisms to address such cases. However, the internal police disciplinary mechanism is weak, and in most cases police officers accused of human rights violations continue to enjoy impunity.

In relation to bringing to justice those who committed criminal acts during the 2006 crisis, five cases are on trial, and 14 under investigation. So far progress has been slow, with only two cases completed, and the way in which current trials and investigations are handled will be an important indication of the authorities' commitment to establishing accountability for crimes committed during the 2006 crisis.

As Timor-Leste commemorated 30 August, little had been achieved to address the many human rights violations that occurred between 1974 and 1999, though investigations into grave human rights violations committed in 1999 continue. In a step which violates Timor-Leste's human rights obligations and undermines efforts to end impunity, Militia leader Maternus Bere who faces charges of Crimes Against Humanity, was released from pre-trial detention and handed to the Indonesian authorities.

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