27 November 2017

Statement to Committee against Torture reflects serious misunderstanding of State obligations under Convention

On 23 November 2017, the Committee against Torture completed its consideration of the initial report of Timor-Leste on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

 "Since the ratification of the Convention, the Public Prosecutor had not registered any cases of torture." Sebastiao Dias Ximenes, Vice-Minister of Justice of Timor-Leste

The following extracts of the report are worth noting.

The Vice-Minister of Justice of Timor-Leste, Sebastiao Dias Ximenes, reported that the Government had adopted a range of legal instruments to contribute to the significant improvement of the protection of people’s rights, namely effective measures to prevent acts of torture and ill-treatment.

Timor-Leste’s laws guaranteed that everyone received access to legal aid and a lawyer, to communicating or having contact with their family, and to the provision of medical services. They also prohibited the extradition and return of a person to a country where there was a risk of danger or torture.

Timor-Leste’s legislation treated torture as a serious crime with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. The national police adhered to the concept of the rule of law, and independent institutions had been established to monitor all forms of violence in prisons and other places of detention.

In order to provide support to the most vulnerable victims of past human rights violations, the Government had inaugurated the Centro Nacional Chega! in July 2017 whose mission was to promote the implementation of recommendations of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste.

However, they observed that the statement made by the delegation that there had been no cases of torture recorded since the independence of Timor-Leste reflected a serious misunderstanding of the State party’s obligations under the Convention.

Past cases of torture and disappearance had to be addressed, in particular the abduction of some 4,500 children to Indonesia.

Experts also highlighted recent allegations of torture and ill-treatment, namely the security operation in the Lalulai village in Bacau district.

Other issues raised included the lack of trust in the police and military, autonomous bodies to oversee the police and military, fundamental legal safeguards, detention conditions, alternative measures to detention, lack of separate definitions for torture and ill-treatment, and training programmes on the prevention and early identification of torture.

More information was requested on the functioning of the National Human Rights Institution, interference in the judicial branch, hybrid justice mechanisms, redress to victims of torture, violence against women, abortion, corporal punishment, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, respect of non-refoulement, forced returns of the Rohingya, violations of the rights of persons with mental disabilities, and the juvenile justice system.

See also on ETLJB
UN Committee Against Torture - Failure to investigate allegations of torture and recorded assaults by East Timor National Police

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