31 December 2009

Timor-Leste: UN helping to investigate deadly police shooting

30 December 2009 – The United Nations today confirmed its participation in the criminal investigation of a deadly shooting allegedly committed by the police in the capital of Timor-Leste, and has called on the people of the nation to respect the law.

Late in the evening of 28 December, members of the Timorese National Police (PNTL) and UN Police (UNPOL) arrived at a scene in the Comoro area of Dili and called for backup.

A PNTL detachment responded to the situation, which saw one person killed and another injured by gunshots, allegedly fired by an officer in the national police force.

Addressing reporters today, Acting UN Police Commissioner Idris Ibrahim and Acting PNTL chief Afonso de Jesus said the deadly incident was very regrettable and offered their condolences to the families and friends of the victims.

The police officials also confirmed that a joint internal inquiry into the shootings is under way.

Mr. Ibrahim noted that excessive use of force by the police is prohibited by both Timorese and international law, and stressed that it will not be tolerated.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the country, known as UNMIT, called on all people to remain calm as the police complete their investigation.

For their part, UNMIT’s Human Rights and Transitional Justice Unit will carry out a separate inquiry into the incident.

The UN has been handing over policing responsibilities to Timor-Leste as part of the gradual transfer of the security functions it assumed in 2006 after dozens of people were killed and 155,000 others – 15 per cent of the population – were driven from their homes in an eruption of violence in the newly independent country.

Earlier this month, the PNTL resumed responsibility over the Police Intelligence Service, the seventh police entity that UNMIT has handed back.

PNTL has already resumed responsibility in four districts – Lautem, Oecusse, Manatuto and Viqueque – as well as for the Police Training Centre and the Maritime Unit.

UNMIT, set up in 2006 to replace several earlier missions in the small South-East Asian country that the UN shepherded to independence in 2002 after it voted to separate from Indonesia, currently has some 1,550 police and 30 military liaison officers on the ground.

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