02 February 2010

Video shows brutal bashing by East Timor cops

AFP February 01, 2010 6:38pm THE brutal beating of a demonstrator by East Timorese police in front of UN officers raises serious questions about the world body's training of the local force, an opposition lawmaker says.

Opposition Fretilin lawmaker Jose Teixeira said that a video of the assault that had appeared on the internet was indicative of abuse that is "happening with an unprecedented frequency and on an unprecedented scale''.

The video shows a Timorese man being punched, kicked, stamped and struck with a rifle butt by police officers after President Jose Ramos-Horta had opened an international fishing competition on Atauro island in November.

The victim, Llhew Comacoshe, 27, is shown in the video holding up a placard related to a Timorese fishing group before he is knocked down by several men who appear to be uniformed and plain-clothes police officers.

United Nations police officers look on a short distance away but do not intervene to stop the assault. One of them appears to try to talk to his East Timorese counterparts but the beating continues.

"We will be proposing a parliamentary commission of inquiry in addition to any current investigations to review guidelines, regulations and policies for police use of force, including armed response,'' Mr Teixeira said.

"The use of force in the manner we have seen and heard of in recent cases indicates a certain consent from upper echelons, and some suspect at political level also. This must be investigated.''

Complaints against the national police occur on an almost-daily basis, the opposition lawmaker said, casting a shadow over the effectiveness of the UN training process.

"It makes us wonder what sort of training they have been getting, but it certainly is not a police service that is respectful of our citizens' constitutional and human rights,'' he said.

"Certainly the command and leadership of the police is brought into grave question after these events.''

Gyorgy Kakuk, the UN's spokesman in East Timor, said a joint UN-East Timorese investigation had been opened into the alleged assault.

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