Law No. 13/2017 of June 5 SPECIAL REGIME FOR THE DEFINITION OF THE OWNERSHIP OF PROPERTY The present law aims at clarifying the legal situation of land ownership, bringing into effect the different dimensions of the right to private property provided for in Article 1 (1). Article 54 of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
The process of regularisation of the ownership of immovable property provided for in this law is essential to ensure peace and social and economic development of the country. The solutions adopted take into account the history of Timor-Leste in the last decades and were informed by the knowledge accumulated over several years of studies and public consultations on issues related to property ownership, in order to ensure a balance between the different existing positions in Timorese society.
In this sense, and based on the historical and juridical situation of East Timor, the main objectives of this law were to clarify the legal status of property and to promote distribution and access to land. Clarification of property rights is done through the recognition of prior property rights.
In fact, the Constitution and subsequent legislation require the safeguarding of previous formal rights belonging to Timorese who validly acquired them during previous administrations. Articles 54 and 165 of the Constitution, Law no. 2/2002 of 7 August, which collectively receives the previous legislation, as well as Law No 1/2003 of 10 March, in relation to the State's property, require the recognition of these rights.
In turn, it is necessary to take into account the limit established by the constitutional prohibition in Article 54 (4), which prohibits foreign citizens from owning land.
In addition to the recognition of previously formalised rights, this law creates the figure of informal property rights with a view to redressing the injustices practiced before Timor-Leste's independence due to the lack of formalisation of rights.
This informal property right corresponds to a traditional and individual right to land, allowing those who have not previously obtained documents regarding their property rights to now be able to invoke them in the same terms as those who previously had their rights formalised. In this field, this law operates the formalisation of these rights through its registration.
The promotion of land distribution is done through the recognition of the right of ownership to owners of the land or to holders of other rights other than the right of ownership, in accordance with the criteria established by law.
Centralised ownership and management of land is avoided, giving ample opportunity for private individuals to have legally recognised land rights and to be independent in the management of their property.
Access to land is guaranteed in two ways: on the one hand, through the creation of the National Land Registry, allowing the emergence of a safe and transparent real estate market; on the other hand, through the clarification of the assets belonging to the State, enabling the State to better manage its assets, which can be distributed to those who otherwise did not have access to land.
The present law also establishes the criteria for the resolution of disputes and the principle of compensation when there are duplicity of rights. In fact, there are situations where, by virtue of the allocation of rights by different administrations or by application of the criteria laid down in this law, there will be more than one valid declarant for the same property.
In these cases, the law establishes the criteria for the resolution of disputes and determines the payment of compensation to the party to whom the property right is not recognised, in order to repair the loss of its right.
The law also recognises community ownership and creates the picture of community protection zones. Although some aspects of these figures need to be densified in later legislation, the right of communities as such to reclaim their real property and to see their community property is recognised, and also establishes principles that guide the regulation of community protection zones .
Special attention has also been given to bringing the law into conformity with the instruments of international law to which Timor-Leste is a party, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The National Parliament decrees, in accordance with paragraph 1 Article 95 and Article 54 of the Constitution of the Republic, to be valid as law, the following: [to be continued]
Machine translation compiled by East Timor Law & Justice Bulletin