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16 July 2019

Courts must be "firm and strict" in sentences for sexual violence against minors, says JSMP

Image by Arte Moris East Timor Law Justice Bulletin Warren L. Wright Timor-Leste

ETLJB 16 July 2019 - The Judicial System Monitoring Programme, JSMP has called on the Courts to be strict and firm on sentences for sexual violence against minors. This follows the decision by the Dili District Court in Case No. 0059/14.PDDIL on 15 May 2019 to refuse a request for the conditional release of a convicted person who had served only one-half of his 10 year prison sentence (5 years) for the crime of aggravated sexual abuse against the victim.

In a press release dated 7  June 2019, JSMP congratulated the Court on its decision to keep convicted persons in jail to serve their entire sentence, especially for crimes characterised as rape. 

The "courts must be firm and strict in their decision making because these crimes have serious consequences for victims and destroy their future,” said Luis de Oliveira Sampaio, then the Executive Director of JSMP.

The court decided to order the defendant to serve his full sentence with consideration that the crime committed by the defendant not only destroyed the future of the victim who is a minor, but this sentence is proportional to the defendant's behaviour. 

The decision to keep the convicted person in prison was also aimed at strengthening the perception in society that crimes characterised as rape are serious crimes that cannot be tolerated in society.

Rape of Minors Prevalent in All Jurisdictions

JSMP monitoring has found that cases characterised as rape against minors continue to be prevalent in all jurisdictions. 

According to JSMP, "if the court grants such a request from a convicted person, it can create a precedent in the future, and society might believe that crimes characterised as sexual violence are simple or minor crimes and therefore the courts can release convicted persons who have not served their full sentences and grant them conditional release."

JSMP Overview of the Justice Sector Report 

JSMP's annual Overview of the Justice Sector Report demanded the courts impose heavy penalties against defendants in cases of rape. 

"This is a concrete step towards protecting women and minors. JSMP has also regularly recommended for the courts and the public prosecution service to establish ‘guidelines’ for charging and sentencing in these cases to ensure consistency in their decisions." 

Due to its concern about the rising number of cases of sexual abuse against minors, in January 2016 JSMP presented an opinion to the National Parliament on Procedures for Pardons.  

In that submission, JSMP posited that "pardons should not be given for crimes characterised as rape, such as the sexual abuse of minors and incest. These recommendations were given consideration by the National Parliament in Law No. 05/2016 dated 25 May on the Procedure for Granting Pardons and Commuting Sentences that excludes crimes against physical integrity or personal freedom with a prison sentence of 8 years and above."

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