10 August 2011

The Rule of Law: Theoretical, Cultural and Legal Challenges for Timor-Leste

First published on the East Timor Law Journal - Ema Denby  Dec 20101. Introduction The rule of law is a pervasive phrase with contrasting views and usages. This paper attempts to respond to Warren Wright's comments that Timor-Leste's political leaders have not always demonstrated a clear comprehension of the rule of law and essential democratic principles.

This poses two main challenges: first, the assumption that there is a clear accepted notion of the rule of law that political leaders, democratic ones at least, should understand and demonstrate in their public life; and second, as comprehension is the "capacity of the mind to perceive and understand" it is unrealistic to speculate on the mental capacities of these leaders.

Hence, this paper will focus on some theoretical and historical underpinnings of the rule of law followed by cultural, legal and leadership challenges facing post-conflict Timor-Leste. Where appropriate, the name “East Timor” will be used instead of Timor-Leste.

2. Comprehension of the rule of law: history and theory
The history of the rule of law spans over two millennia. Professor Tamanaha traced Greek, Roman, and Medieval underpinnings, revealing pre-modern liberal conceptions that shaped present day Western democracies.

In 5th century BC, popular democracy in Greece required males over the age of thirty to engaged in the polis, the political community and to serve as magistrates in a governing Council. To ensure accountability magistrates could be charged with violations of the law following complaints by citizens. Legislation could not be changed arbitrarily and laws were...Read the full article on East Timor Law Journal

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