15 September 2012

Justice Minister Dionisio Babo-Soares entitled to presumption of innocence in alleged assault case

ETLJB 15 September 2012 - A woman has made public certain serious allegations against the V Constitutional Government's Justice Minister, Mr Dionisio Babo-Soares.

Minister Babo-Soares is also the Secretary-General of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction which won the largest block of seats in the National Parliament in the general election in 2012.

Justice Minister Babo-Soares publicly denied the allegations and Radio Liberdade then published a letter that the woman wrote to the radio station in response to the Minister's denial.

“I totally reject the news reports or false allegations attempting to defame me both as a person and as member of the fifth constitutional government,” the Minister for Justice told journalists.

The central difficulty with this matter is that the complainant does yet appear to have made any report to the police about the allegations. Furthermore, several parties have already reached the conclusion that her allegations are true before there has been a charge brought against Minister Babo-Soares, a court hearing or a conviction - which is the normal legal process governing allegations of criminal conduct in a democratic society under the rule of law.

A fundamental principle of the democratic rule of law is that persons against whom criminal allegations are made are entitled to the presumption of innocence and the Justice Minister has not been accorded this basic legal right. As Article 34 (Guarantees in criminal proceedings) of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of East Timor provides: Anyone charged with an offence is presumed innocent until convicted.

Rather, in this matter, there has been a trial and conviction by the media which would prejudice any legal proceedings if they are ever brought against the Minister who has not been afforded this guarantee.

The question that must be asked is if what the woman alleges is true, then why has she not immediately reported the allegations and made a statement to the police so that a decision could be made under due process whether or not charges should be made against the Minister. Instead, she has gone to the media with her allegations and attacked the Minister's integrity and reputation.

It appears also that there were no witnesses to the alleged assault.

Everyone should respect the individual's right to the presumption of innocence under the law; no matter whether they be an ordinary citizen or a high official of the state.

No comments: