25 September 2014

CNRT and Fretilin parties support JSMP initiative on the issue of presidential pardons through legislative intervention

ETLJB 25/09/2014 From JSMP Press release 23 Setembru 2014 - On 17 and 19 September 2014, JSMP had a meeting at the National Parliament with the President of the CNRT Bench Natalino do Santos, and the Vice President of the Fretilin Bench, Francisco Miranda Branco, to discuss the issue of presidential pardons.

This initiative was based on JSMP’s concern with the practice of Presidential pardons which has resulted in a controversial debate at all levels of society after the President pardoned several convicted persons on the anniversary of referendum day on 30 August 2014.

The President of the CNRT Bench, Natalino dos Santos, expressed appreciation and support for JSMP’s initiative in setting up a meeting to discuss the issue of pardons with his party. He stated that the CNRT Party would consider the view of JSMP and analyse it in greater detail when the government submits a draft law on pardons to the National Parliament.

To date CNRT, and the other parties, have wanted to draft a law but they have encountered difficulties because there are no legal experts on the staff to support their initiative. Therefore, many laws are submitted by the government and the National Parliament only examines them and amendments to certain articles are suggested in committees and in the plenary before a law is passed.

On the other hand, the Vice President of Fretilin Bench stated that Fretilín’s position is that there should be no possibility of a pardon for corruption, sexual violence or incest.

Fretilin understands that the Constitution provides the President with competence to grant pardons to convicted persons. However, Fretilin believes that exceptions should be made in cases involving the public interest. Fretilin expressed its appreciation to JSMP for having the initiative to bring the issue forward for discussion and for reminding Fretilín to give it consideration because everyone is concerned about this issue.

JSMP believes that it is important for the National Parliament to take a legislative step to prevent the same thing from happening in the future. This is important to ensure that the President exercises his constitutional authority to grant pardons in a balanced and proportional manner.

JSMP has observed that the exercise of constitutional authority to grant pardons has the potential to continue to result in problems and controversy if there is no legislative mechanism to control this process in the future.

Without a legal framework the President will make a decision based on his political convictions and will ignore efforts by other institutions to strengthen the justice system.

JSMP believes that cases involving the public interest such as those involving corruption, sexual violence against minors, incest and aggravated murder must be carefully considered before a decision is made. JSMP asks the National Parliament if it is possible to limit the authority of the President so that there can be exceptions in these types of cases in the future.

“JSMP understands that the President has the authority to grant pardons as provided by the RDTL Constitution and this is the prerogative of the President. However, it is important to have a law to guide this process and if possible to limit this authority so that it is exercised in a proportional manner,” said the Executive Director of JSMP, Luis de Oliveira Sampaio.

Pardons can be given in all cases, however bad precedents need to be avoided, as they will undermine the efforts of judicial institutions to build the people’s confidence in the justice sector, particularly in relation to cases of corruption which continue to increase.

JSMP recommends that the granting of pardons or any other measures exercised by the President should include an option to reduce the penalty gradually, rather than granting a full pardon, which has been the practice to date. This will further strengthen people’s confidence in judicial institutions and will limit the public interpretation and perception that the law only applies to the common people.

At the end of this meeting JSMP handed over a proposal regarding the issue of pardons that was drafted by JSMP in 2010.

Note: Please consider this press release is the final version.

See also
JSMP: Competency of the President to Grant Pardons: Prerogative Right versus Credibility of the Justice System 
President Horta grants pardons to prisoners who engage in crime in 2006 crisis
EAST TIMOR: 'Presidential Pardon May Hurt Legal System'

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