11 December 2012

Police and military commit serious human rights violations in Timor-Leste

Police brutality in East Timor
East Timor police violate human rights
ETLJB  11 December 2012 - East Timor's leading human rights monitoring civil society organisation, HAK, has been cited in a report by The Dili Weekly today as saying that human rights violations by the police and military in East Timor are serious.

“We can say that the human rights situation is grave because government institutions are actively involved in direct physical action to frighten people or citizens. Currently there is stone throwing, that is just classified as crime but when police use extreme force against the stone throwers, it is a violation of human rights", Manuel Monteiro Fernandes, Human Rights Education Manager for the HAK Association is quoted while in his office last Tuesday in Farol..

Mr Fernandes is further quoted as saying that “We have not fully compiled our data. The process is currently underway. Prior to the elections we congratulated ourselves for having a good human rights record, but soon after the police shot dead a youth which has thrown the whole situation into chaos.”

Meanwhile, according to data from East Timor's conflict monitoring NGO, Belun, in 2012, 15 members of Timor-Leste’s armed forces (F-FDTL) were involved in violence in the community in nine Districts across the country.

“These violent incidents took place in the Districts of Dili, Bobonaro, Covalima, Oe-Cusse, Ermera, Liquisa, Viqueque, and Manufahi,” said Belun’s Program Manager Marilia Oliveira da Costa, from her office in Farol, Dili (03/11). She said in Dili on 18 February 2012, in the village of Lao Rai, in Kuluhun, a member of the F-FDTL and another youth physically attacked another youth after the F-FDTL member’s motorcycle hit the youth who was injured. The case was referred to the police and other agencies.

In another incident that occurred on 10 March 2012 in the village of Oplegul, in Holsa, in the Sub-District of Maliana, an unknown group threw rocks at an EDTL [Electricity of Timor-Leste] vehicle and the EDTL staff requested help from the F-FDTL border post in Tunibibi.

By the time an F-FDTL deployment arrived at the scene, the perpetrators had left but there was another three youths who were drunk in the area complaining about power cuts.

The F-FDTL members descended upon the three youths and bashed them. The police are still investigating this case,” said the Project Manager.

In another case on 1 April 2012 at 10:00 in the evening in the village of Fatuk oan, in  Holpilat, in the Sub-District of Maucatar, in the District of Covalima, a member of the F-FDTL punched a youth in the mouth breaking his teeth.

According to sources this case took place after the Police Commander of Covalima District telephoned the F-FDTL to ask them to capture a group allegedly involved in confrontations on 1 April 2012 in the village of Akar Laran, in Suai Loro, in the sub district of Suai Vila, Manufahi Covalima.

The F-FDTL, rather than capturing those involved in the conflict, went directly to the victim’s home and assaulted him.

Meanwhile Member of Parliament (MP) Camelita Moniz said these actions are criminal and regardless that members of the military committed these crimes, the actions are still punishable.

“Regardless of being F-FDTL or individuals or groups, whoever commits a crime, or does any violation, must be prosecuted by law. There are legal processes in place. If they commit a crime then there are administrative procedures in place within their own institution, but these cannot interfere with the judicial procedures,” said MP Moniz, at the National Parliament, Dili (04/11).

According to the Mrs. Moniz, the F-FDTL is the fence for the nation so when it commits violations this makes the people afraid.

“The F-FDTL are the people’s spirit, they hold the trust of the people, they provide security to all. F-FDTL’s presence should make us feel safe,” added the MP.  

Other cases archived by ETLJB involving the military and the police violating their constitutional roles and the law include:

Related reports
Civil society human rights organisation reports 90 cases of criminal acts by police
Most of human rights violations involve PNTL and F-FDTL
Role of military in internal security re-emphasised by Prime Minister Gusmao
Joint Command for PNTL and F-FDTL Undermines Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform in Timor-Leste
Tension between security institutions and community flares

Sources: The Dili Weekly 11 December 2012, Suara Timor Lorosae 5 February 2009, East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin, Fretilin Media Release. Edited by Warren L. Wright

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