31 December 2014

Public Order Battalion (BOP) and Task Force police members clash in Dili (June 2014)

ETLJB 31/12/2014 - A violent incident involving the PNTL occurred on 27 June 2014, at Rosario Aldeia, Comoro village, Dom Aleixo Sub-district in Dili. Prior to the incident, on 24 June, a policeman with the Public Order Battalion (BOP) post stationed near the airport attempted to warn a male taxi driver for not obeying a stop traffic sign. He told the driver to stop but the driver ignored him and fled the scene.

On 27 June 2014, the same male taxi driver again did not obey the same stop-sign near the BOP post. He was then physically assaulted by the BOP policeman who had previously warned him. Following the incident, the taxi driver phoned his boss, a member of the PNTL Task Force unit, who came to the BOP post and slapped the BOP policeman. The BOP policeman who had been slapped then contacted the BOP Headquarters, and along with a group of BOP policemen went to the Comoro PNTL Squadron and assaulted the Task Force policeman who had slapped him. The Task Force policeman’s arm was injured in the incident.

Both BOP and Task Force Commanders responded to the incident, placing all those involved under disciplinary investigation. The investigation is continuing and, according to due process, has been sent to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for action. Source: http://belun.tl/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/SituationReview_June2014_Eng_Final-1.pdf

EWER Sit Review Nov 2013: Impacts of sorcery accusations: Violence caused by accusations of sorcery in Timor-Leste

ETLJB 3112/2014 (Liquica) Man chopped with machete by in-laws: In Leomora village (sub-district of Bazartete), an accusation of sorcery escalated into a violent murder, in which a member of the umamane (wife-taker) family accused his male in-law of using aikulit (tree bark). Acting upon these suspicions, he chopped the accused into pieces with a machete.

The attack was followed by the umamane family burning houses owned by the victim’s extended family members. The conflict between these 2 families had a much wider societal impact, with many of the community members fleeing from the area out of fear. The perpetrator was jailed, and both families intend to conduct dialogue and mediation to resolve the issue (Nahe Biti Boot, a stretching of the big mat), however this is yet to take place.

(Dili) House burnt down in Santa Cruz based on suspicions of sorcery practice: Two attempts were made to burn down a house after suspicions arose in the community that the family was practicing black magic and using aikulit (tree bark).

The first attempt burnt down the kitchen, however the second attempt burnt the entire house. The identity of those responsible for the attack is still unknown.

Unexplained illnesses or death are frequently attributed to sorcery. The conflict potential of such suspicions and accusations are a cause for concern, given their demonstrated capacity to escalate into wide-scale conflict within communities and families, sometimes with heavy resulting impacts and possible follow-up incidents if the issue is left unresolved.

Source: http://belun.tl/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/SitRev-Nov-2013-ENG-FINAL.pdf  

See also
Witchcraft and Murder in East Timor
Witchcraft, Conflict and Resolution in Timor-Leste
East Timor Legal News 7-8 May 2009

Parliamentary and Government Resolution continues to affect productivity and normal functioning at the Baucau District Court

ETLJB 31 December 2014 - JSMP Press Release Baucau District Court 2 December 2014 - On 27 November 2014 the Baucau District Court had to adjourn the trial of an aggravated rape case (incest) involving the defendant JX who allegedly committed the crime against his daughter. This case occurred on 12 May 2014 in Tiriloka Village, Baucau Sub-District, Baucau District.

The trial was adjourned because the court had not allocated this case to a new judge so that the trial could commence, in order to replace the international judge who was previously handling this case. Unfortunately the judge had to leave this case as a consequence of the Parliamentary and Government Resolutions on 24 and 30 October 2014.

Previously, on 4 and 5 November 2014, JSMP issued press releases in relation to the consequences of the Parliamentary and Government resolutions that were issued for the purpose of auditing the justice sector and immediately discontinuing the contracts of the international legal actors at the courts, the Public Prosecution Service, and advisors to the Anti-Corruption Commission (KAK).

“JSMP believes that this resolution will continue to impact on the progress of trials at all of the courts because no appropriate solution is apparent to deal with the consequences of this resolution”, said the Executive Director of JSMP, Luis de Oliveira Sampaio.

Specifically in this case, JSMP believes that a sexual crime involving a family member (incest) is a serious crime and can cause great harm to the integrity of the victim as a human being. In this case, in addition to being victimized by a person who is supposed to protect her, the victim also has to accept the consequences of political decisions that do not reflect the reality in the courts.

This trial has been delayed without just cause for a prolonged period of time and this will impact on the quality of the outcome in this case. There are numerous reasons for this, for example, the victim can lose faith in a process that is moving slowly without clear reason, material evidence can be lost or contaminated, the victim can forget important facts about the case and in the end the victim can lose faith in this uncertain legal process.

In this case the victim and witnesses have lost time and paid for transport and food in order to respond to the summons issued by the by the court. However, this trial had to be adjourned without notification from the court about the reason for the delay.

In addition, the defendant who was being held in temporary detention was taken by staff members of the Becora Corrections Facilities in Dili to Baucau Court, but the trial had to be adjourned.

JSMP recommends that the competent institutions give serious attention to this issue, to ensure that the trial process can continue as normal so that the public can continue to have confidence in the formal justice system.

This delay was announced by Judge Hugo da Cruz Pui. The public prosecution service was represented by Luis Hernanio Rangel da Cruz. The Office of the Public Defender was represented by Juvinal Yanes.

Customs Border Control in Timor-Leste: Potential for Corruption?

ETLJB 31 December 2014 - Timor-Leste’s borders have of late been getting a fair bit of attention from the media and Non Governmental Organizations. FM along with the UN have consistently labelled the emergence of transnational crime groups, using Timor-Leste as transit point for drugs and weapons, as one of the great threats to Timor-Leste’s Stability. Indeed there does seem some truth to this claim with media sources reporting on several recent cases where groups producing Sabu-Sabu (Methamphetamine) have been arrested either trying to smuggle it in, or producing it locally for the purpose of exporting it. At a time such as this, it is imperative that customs and border control staff are doing their job as effectively, efficiently and most importantly as cleanly as possible.

This why we here at Fundasaun Mahein have become distressed from reports we have been receiving from the border. Corruption and a lack of discipline seems to be rising among the border post guards, something that until quite recently has not been a problem.

A practice that Fundasaun Mahein has become aware of is that the border security guards will regularly not process some Visa On Arrival formsand, at the end of the day, divide the money that comes from this amongst themselves. If this is the attitude of the border control guards looking to make a quick buck how are we able to trust them when faced with a bribe from a criminal organization with much more money to spend?

These reports seems to indicate that the processes to reduce corruption are either not in place or very poorly monitored and therefore easy to exploit.

FM believes that a simple and easy way to monitor any corruption in the border is to compare the amount of new arrival forms with the amount of money received for a visa on arrival, any discrepancies would indicate that corruption has occurred.

FM is also suspicious from the displays of wealth from the customs department. It has become noticeable that the customs and immigration division is one of the best equipped divisions of the PNTL. While other divisions face pressures in getting the basic necessities such as decent quality uniforms, the customs department is noticeable in that it always has brand new cars and the best weapons and facilities.

In order to try and investigate these claims we here at FM have tried on numerous occasions to try and find statistics and information on the border security. This has been an ongoing process over the past few years and coincided with several other reports that FM has written regarding the border. Inevitably following the formal process with The PNTL Customs Division in order to gain this information seems to yield few results with the information that FM does receive being unreliable and inaccurate.

It is crucially important that the PNTL reports all of important information and makes it readily available to anyone that requests it in order to increase the oversight of the borders. This will ensure that greater transparency and accountability for customs and border control staff and any suspicions of corruption are reduced. This is imperative to the very stability of Timor-Leste and will help us ensure that the borders are protected and corruption reduced to defend us against the threat of transnational criminal organizations infiltrating our land. It is now time to protect that which we have fought so hard to gain.

FM Recommends the following

• For the customs division of The PNTL to publish all statistics and monitoring information and make them readily available to the public.

• For the customs division of The PNTL to increase oversight at all border posts to ensure there is less risk of corruption to occur

Source: http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2014/12/05/customs-border-control-potential-for-corruption/ 

Fundasaun Mahein 2014: A Year in Reflection

ETLJB 31 December 2014 - As 2014 comes to a close, Fundasaun Mahein reflects upon the successes and shortcomings in security-sector development in Timor-Leste. Many lessons learned, and Fundasaun Mahein turns its gaze toward the future of this young democracy.

This year was one of relative peace and stability. From a security standpoint, no significant threats were posed over the course of 2014. Compared to recent years, there were no major acts of violence or uprising. Fundasaun Mahein believes that this calm and peaceful period symbolizes growing solidarity between citizens and security officials alike.

Indeed, this year witnessed a greater cooperation between the security institutions and citizens, as many initiatives have shifted to the community level. Police and community members have teamed up through community policing initiatives to prevent conflict and ensure greater safety for all. Community-level police measures have contributed greatly to security over this past year. Whereas these programs are less visible and less supported here in Dili, they have seen positive results across the country, as citizens have taken greater ownership of security within their communities.

This year, Timor-Leste hosted various international events. Perhaps the most involved was the CPLP Summit, at which representatives of Portuguese-speaking countries met to discuss and celebrate the common heritage of their peoples. Representatives from other governments also visited Dili this year, including the Foreign Minister of New Zealand and Susilo Bambang Yudayono (SBY), the former President of Indonesia, who visited Dili before the end of his political term. These visits, among others, seem to indicate a growing confidence in Timor-Leste as a stable entity.

Timor-Leste is also experiencing greater representation in international politics than before, thanks to the endeavors of former President of the Republic, Jose Ramos-Horta. In addition to his work as the Head of the United Nations’ Integrated Peace building Office in Guinea-Bissau, Jose Ramos-Horta has given countless speeches and lectures in 2014, offering his expertise in peace and conflict resolution.

A major headline this year was the sacking of foreign judges and foreign advisors by Government. This action was controversial, receiving both support and criticism from press entities both at home and abroad. While the long-term impacts have yet to be seen, it is noteworthy that the environment here in Timor-Leste after the event was quite calm and stable.

All of these developments in 2014 seem to indicate growing stability and peace in Timor-Leste, as well as a desire to participate in political discussions at the regional and international level.

It is with all of this in mind that Fundasaun Mahein offers the following hopes for 2015:

We hope that all citizens will contribute to the ongoing peace and security of this nation. We hope that all will join hands to define and support the prosperity of this young country. We hope that this country focuses on stability, in the effort to attract foreign investment, which will prove essential in building the education, economy, and security sector of Timor-Leste. With these goals in mind, we can truly make a difference in 2015.

Source: FM 24 Dec 2014 http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2014/12/24/2014-a-year-in-reflection/

Timor-Leste's judicial lurch could worsen domestic violence trauma

ETLJB 05 December 2014 DILI, 15 December 2014 (IRIN) - Timor-Leste's efforts to reduce the prevalence of domestic gender-based violence through criminalisation and prosecution, already hampered by a general lack of trust in the formal court system, have suffered a fresh setback with the enforced departure of 11 foreign judicial staff who had played a key role in delivering justice in rural areas.

"Decisions by the Timor-Leste parliament and government to arbitrarily terminate the contracts of foreign judicial officers and judicial advisors will have a negative impact on victims and their right to an effective remedy," said Amnesty International, highlighting that the staff shuffle may result in cases being re-tried, which could further delay proceedings and traumatize victims who have to testify repeatedly.

"Cases being re-tried include cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, which make up the vast majority of cases before Timor-Leste's courts," Amnesty said. "Victims - mainly women and children - may be subjected to further traumatization and victimization if required to testify again in new court cases."

Foreign judges, mainly from former colonial power Portugal, had served in Timor-Leste since it gained statehood inn 2002, in the wake of a 24-year military occupation by Indonesia, during which rape and sexual assault were widespread and went largely unpunished.

"Removing judges, prosecutors and other court officials creates more work for our justice system, and at the same time takes away important resources," said Casimiro dos Santos, interim director of the Judicial System Monitoring Project (JSMP), a Dili-based NGO, adding that at least two district courts have ordered re-trials for cases heard by foreign judges.

And in a setting where court procedure delays are common, a combination of reliance on informal dispute resolution mechanisms and intense pressure on female domestic violence survivors to remain with families, can result in them opting out of formal justice mechanisms.

"We have women who come to us for therapeutic services after they experience domestic violence, but then after some time they leave," Manuel dos Santos, director of PRADET, a psychosocial recovery NGO in Dili, told IRIN. "They start to realize how long the wait will be for the court system, and they get pressure from their communities. These things combine and lead them to go home before the case ever activates in court," he said.

Research by The Asia Foundation (TAF), which conducts annual perception surveys of law and justice in Timor-Leste as well as other assessments, suggests similar patterns.

"More and more domestic violence cases are entering the formal justice sector each year, but overall our research shows that a lot of cases are still being sent back to communities," said Todd Wassel, director of safety and security programmes at TAF in Timor-Leste. "What we think is happening in most of the cases is that the police are present, and providing conditions for community-led mediation and dispute resolution to take place."

As Timor-Leste comes under mounting pressure to reverse its decision to expel foreign judges, questions emerge as to whether its fragile justice sector can protect the rights of women amid a hybrid legal system that has yet to show equity to female survivors of abuse.

New law, old practices

When Timor-Leste promulgated the Law Against Domestic Violence in 2010, classifying the offence as a "public crime" was seen as a major step forward in ending the scourge of the socially-accepted battering of women. "The public status of the crime requires the state to respond to domestic violence whether a victim files a criminal complaint or not," explained a 2013 UN Development Programme (UNDP) report.

One major component of the 2010 law is that it prohibits customary justice (local, traditional practices carried out by community leaders) from handling domestic violence cases. Nonetheless, UNDP acknowledged: "Given its prominence in Timorese society, [customary justice] is a necessary component of a strategy to combat domestic violence."

The 2010 Demographic and Health Survey in Timor-Leste indicated that nearly 40 percent of women experienced domestic violence. According to JSMP, which as of 2013 noted that 46 percent of the cases it monitored were domestic violence, only one case had been handed an effective sentence by a court.

And research suggests the lethargic courts may only be part of the problem. A combination of weak outcomes in court, and patterns of victims turning to informal measures (including those monitored by the police) can also mean the cases get summarily processed out of court, contrary to the law.

A 2013 International Crisis Group report explained that police "investigative capacity remains very limited. Few officers understand the Criminal Code, and both record-keeping and storage of evidence remain problematic."

TAF's 2013 Timor-Leste Law and Justice Survey found a long-term increase in awareness of, and desire for, formal justice: 80 percent of respondents who had heard of a court reported they would want a court to settle local disputes, up from 54 percent in 2004. The number of cases resolved by the four district courts has also increased - from 808 in 2010 to 1,380 in 2012.

"In 2008, when we asked people how disputes were solved, only 29 percent of them said with police in the community; in 2013, it was 56 percent," said TAF's Wassel. "So clearly the police are more involved in local issues than before - which can be seen as a good thing, community-law enforcement engagement."

But such police-community engagement, while a sign of improved relations, may be clouding the formal prosecution processes the 2010 law mandates.

Reporting, but then what?

With more domestic violence cases entering the formal justice system and police involvement increased, the habit of domestic violence victims still relying on customary procedures in their villages could indicate perceptions of accessibility - and persistent, harmful trends.

PRADET's dos Santos says he and his staff have a difficult time persuading women who have reported domestic violence to wait for official procedures to be carried out. "They are accustomed to life in the village, with their relatives and their husband, so they get depressed when they are away, and feel pressure to return to handle the matter perhaps with customary justice practices," he said.

According to TAF, customary justice mechanisms are not standardized and rely more on personalities than procedure, which means they can "have serious flaws in the administration of justice, with particular reference to matters involving domestic violence and violence against women".

"This trend poses really big questions for formal justice in Timor-Leste," explained TAF's Wassel. "Obviously the accessible method of justice is informal. The question is whether the informal system can be done in a way that respects women's rights in cases of domestic violence - that's unknown, and so far has not been universally the case."

Image added by ETLJB

American Bar Association concerned about judicial independence in Timor-Leste

ETLJB 31 December 2014 - The American Bar Association (ABA) notes with concern that the Timor-Leste Government and Parliament, acting on October, 24, 2014, ordered the termination of all international judicial personnel and advisors working in the Timor-Leste judicial sector.

We further note with concern that, on October 31, the government ordered eight international persons, including five judges, two prosecutors, and one advisor, to leave the country within 48 hours.  The orders are apparently in response/retaliation for recent court decisions that displeased the government.

In addition to threatening the vitality of judicial independence in one of the world’s most newly independent nations, these actions seriously undermine ongoing trials and investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity for events that took place following the 1999 independence referendum, given that national law requires that panels investigating such crimes include two international judges.

The ABA urges the Timor-Leste Government and Parliament to reconsider their decisions in light of international concerns about judicial independence, reflected in guarantees of judicial independence and security of judicial tenure in the Timor-Leste constitution.

The ABA also supports the call of Gabriela Knaul, theUnited Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, that the Timor-Leste Government and Parliament initiate a dialogue with relevant partners, including the United Nations, to address this serious situation and map an appropriate way forward in compliance with Timor-Leste’s international human rights obligations and best interests.

The ABA has a long-standing commitment to advancing human rights and the rule of law throughout the world.  As part of this commitment, the ABA works to support efforts to combat corruption, to support legal transparency, to reform the law enforcement system, and to support independent judiciaries worldwide.

Wed Dec 17 08:43:08 CST 2014 http://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2014/12/statement_of_america.html

Dili District Court adjourns trial involving infanticide because the judge was dismissed by Parliamentary and Government Resolutions

ETLJB 31 December 2014 JSMP Press Release Dili District Court 5 December 2014 - On 4 December 2014 the Dili District Court adjourned the trial in a case of infanticide involving the defendant NF that occurred on 4 March 2014, in Aileu District.

Previously this matter was tried by a panel of judges that included an international judge who was affected by the Parliamentary and Government Resolutions introduced on 24 and 31 October 2014.

In addition to the judge, the public prosecutor representing the State in this case was an international prosecutor who has returned to his country in compliance with a Government Resolution that requested him to depart Timor-Leste within 48 hours.

“JSMP is very concerned that important cases involving women and children have been delayed as the result of these resolutions. These resolutions significantly affect people’s rights to receive speedy, affordable and fair justice without unnecessary delay,” said the Executive Director of JSMP, Luis de Oliveira Sampaio.

JSMP notes that most cases requiring a panel of judges involve women and children who are victims of rape, violence against children, like incest and infanticide, such as the case before the Suai District Court on 4 November 2014.

Recently on 27 November 2014 the Baucau District Court also had to adjourn the trial of a case involving aggravated sexual violence (incest), because a panel of judges could not be established.

JSMP believes that the cases that have been delayed will need to be completely retried because there was no handover of cases after the resolutions were introduced.

If there is no appropriate mechanism and policy to remedy this situation, JSMP believes that there will be many other delayed cases without just and necessary grounds. These circumstances greatly prejudice the rights of all people to obtain justice.

JSMP continues to encourage the National Parliament and the Government to remedy this situation to ensure justice for all, especially those vulnerable people seeking justice.