Timor-Leste NGO Forum Statement by NGOs Timor-Leste and Development Partners’ Meeting 7 April 2010
NP 4 Access to Justice
Justice for past human rights violations
We are very concerned about accountability for past human rights. Again, we welcome the resolution from Parliament to follow up on the CAVR and CTFCVA reports and hope that Parliament, Government and the Development Partners to implement the recommendations in these reports. We urge leaders not to undercut international efforts - including those from civil society – to bring those responsible for past human rights violations to justice.
When Timor Leste surrendered to pressure from Indonesia and released Maternus Bere, it signaled that our government does not support accountability for past human rights violations. We believe this undermines Timor Leste’s national sovereignty, constitution and the rule of law. We urge development partners, especially the United Nations, to implement the often repeated promise that impunity can never be tolerated for crimes against humanity.
In relation to the Crisis of 2006 – we urge all parties and leaders not to interpret or make political comments on trials. Rather, we counsel that concerns about perceived unfairness of judicial decisions should be dealt with through legal mechanisms, such as appeals.
In relation to the 11 February trial, we are concerned that although the court convicted 24 people including some who were involved in the attack on the President and the Prime Minister, the Court did not identify who shot the President and at the Prime Minister’s car. Neither was it proved by the Court who shot at Alfredo Reinado and Leopoldino. Although this was the largest trial yet held in Timor-Leste, and was done by Timorese judges, the limited capacity of the court made it difficult to ascertain all the facts. We urge the Government to strengthen the court system.
We commend the Government’s commitment to create a Supreme Court as an important appeal mechanism to make judicial processes fairer, and we hope it will be implemented soon. We request that the Government clarifies its plan to establish the Supreme Court.
Separation of powers
Executive interference in the Maternus Bere case is an alarming violation of separation of powers. Although the Prime Minister was able to avoid a vote of no confidence, that does not make his action constitutional. The Tribunal Recurso stated that Bere’s release was illegal, but we are concerned that they did not take further action. If similar violations recur, they will further weaken our judicial system, endanger our democracy, and make our country less stable. We urge all state organs to respect the separation of powers and the rule of law.
NGOs welcome the general Parliamentary approval of the Domestic Violence law. This is an important step forward to protect women and children from domestic violence. The law emerged from a thorough consultative process and reflects inputs from a range of sectors including government, service providers and civil society organizations. We hope that the members of Parliament will recognize this fact and enact the law in its current form. We urge Parliament to approve the law this year.
We warmly endorse the initiative of the government to develop a gender justice policy and its plans to link the policy to RDTL’s obligations under CEDAW. We urge the government to ensure a genuine effort to address gender justice issues.
Legal aid law
We salute the government’s draft law on legal aid which has recently been released for consultation, and the agreement from the Ministry of Justice to consult widely with civil society. We trust that inputs from civil society will be taken into account and that the final law will reflect the needs of those who are vulnerable and most in need of legal aid.
Juvenile Justice and Adoption Laws
NGOs express concern at delays in parliament discussing the Juvenile Justice and Adoption Laws. We urge the parliament to ensure that concrete progress is made this year.
Private Lawyers training
We are concerned that although the Private Lawyers Bill (Law No 11/2008) provides for a transition period of four years (from promulgation of the bill) for private lawyers to have completed practical training at the Judicial Training Centre, the first private lawyers course at the Judicial Training Centre has still not started. NGOs recommend that the Government extend the transition period in the Private Lawyers.
Draft laws in Tetum and Portuguese
When draft laws are only available in Portuguese, civil society, Parliamentarians and others have difficulty analyzing and commenting on them. NGOs urge government and development partners to ensure that all draft Parliamentary and decree-laws are available in a timely manner in both Tetum and Portuguese so that more people can participate.
As a key justice institution, we urge that the police have access to more training in national and international law, including in understanding their legal mandate.
Law of Association and Foundation (5/2005)
NGOs are meant to operate under this law, but fewer than 50 NGOs, international and national have succeeded in registering. Most local NGOs are unable to meet its criteria, making the law unusable. We strongly recommend that this decree law be reviewed in light of the operating environment and the nature of rurally based NGOs in Timor-Leste.
Presence of legal actors in the districts
Increasing human resources in the justice sector must continue to be a priority, especially in the districts where access to justice is limited by the few judicial actors. Private legal aid lawyers continue to fill in for absent public defenders and prosecutors, and a lack of official interpreters for regional languages reduces the fairness of trials. We recommend that district human resource constraints are prioritised for action in 2011.
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