[ETAN-key] USGov: 2009 Human Rights Reports: Timor-Leste
John M Miller
fbp at igc.org
Thu Mar 11 17:22:08 EST 2010
[As we have sometimes done in the past, ETAN will be doing analysis
and commentary on this report. Send us your thoughts. Thanks]
U.S. Department of State
2009 Human Rights Reports: Timor-Leste
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Reports on Human Rights Practices
March 11, 2010
Timor-Leste is a multiparty parliamentary republic with a population
of approximately 1.1 million. President Jose Ramos Horta was head of
state. Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao headed a four-party
coalition government formed following free and fair elections in
2007. International security forces in the country included the UN
Police (UNPOL) within the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste
(UNMIT) and the International Stabilization Force (ISF), neither of
which was under the direct control of the government. The national
security forces are the National Police (PNTL) and Defense Forces
(F-FDTL). While the government generally maintained control over
these forces, there were problems with discipline and accountability.
Serious human rights problems included police use of excessive force
during arrest and abuse of authority; perception of impunity;
arbitrary arrest and detention; and an inefficient and understaffed
judiciary that deprived citizens of due process and an expeditious
and fair trial. Domestic violence, rape, and sexual abuse were also problems.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no politically motivated killings by the government or its
agents during the year; however, on May 7, a group of F FDTL members
allegedly beat two men on a beach in Dili, one of whom was
subsequently found dead. At year's end the case was under
investigation by the Prosecutor General's Office.
On December 28, a PNTL officer shot and killed a 25-year-old man in
Dili. A second man suffered injuries in the same incident. The PNTL
suspended the officer and referred the case to the Prosecutor
General's Office. At year's end the investigation continued.
On February 27, the government brought charges, including attempted
homicide and conspiracy, against a group of 28 individuals for their
alleged roles in the February 2008 nonfatal shooting of President
Ramos-Horta, during which the leader of the attackers, Major Alfredo
Reinado, was shot and killed. The trial began on July 13 and
continued at year's end.
The prosecutor general declined to pursue charges against an F FDTL
member who shot and killed a civilian in April 2008 in Bobonaro
District. The civilian reportedly threatened the F-FDTL member with a machete.
In October 2008 the Baucau District Court sentenced PNTL intelligence
officer Luis da Silva to six years' imprisonment for the killing of a
member of then candidate Xanana Gusmao's security detail at a
political rally in Viqueque in 2007.
In November the prosecutor general cited insufficient evidence and
closed the inquiry into the 2007 case of a PNTL unit firing into a
crowd in Viqueque, killing two.
Four trials and 15 investigations continued against individuals
accused of illegal actions during the 2006 political crisis, which,
according to a UN Special Commission of Inquiry estimate, caused 38
deaths, 69 injuries, and the displacement of approximately 150,000
persons. In December the prosecutor general, citing lack of evidence
of unlawfulness or culpability, dismissed weapons distribution
charges against F-FDTL Commander Major General Taur Matan Ruak,
former defense minister Roque Rodriques, Brigadier General Lere Anan
Timur, Colonel Falur Rate Laek, and Colonel Manuel Soares Mau Buti.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices, and the government generally
respected the prohibition against torture; however, there were
incidents of cruel or degrading treatment of civilians by police and
military personnel. Parliamentarians, nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs), UNMIT, and the Office of the Ombudsman (Provedor) for Human
Rights and Justice received numerous complaints of use of excessive
force by security forces. Most involved beatings, use of excessive
force during incident response or arrest, threats made at gunpoint,
On June 7, F-FDTL personnel beat at least two civilians and
reportedly pointed their weapons at UNPOL members after breaking up a
fight between two martial arts groups in Maliana, Bobonaro District.
At year's end a criminal investigation was ongoing.
Also in June an F-FDTL member, using his rifle, allegedly threatened
and beat a residential security guard. The guard filed official
complaints with both the F-FDTL and PNTL, but it was not clear that
an investigation was opened.
On September 26 a group of F-FDTL members physically assaulted a
Timorese woman and two foreign military personnel. One of the F FDTL
members involved was expelled from the military on December 22.
On November 21, an off-duty policeman allegedly shot and seriously
injured Mateus Pereira in Vila Verde, Dili. The secretary of state
for security said the case was under investigation.
On August 8, a crowd in Suai severely beat Indonesian citizen
Martenus Bere until the police intervened and took him into custody.
Bere commanded one of the pro-Indonesian militias during the 1999
popular consultation that led to Timor-Leste's independence, and the
UN Serious Crimes Unit indicted him for crimes against humanity in
2003. He crossed into Timor-Leste to attend his father's funeral and
was recognized by local citizens (see section 5).
The Ombudsman's Office investigated 40 cases of mistreatment
committed by PNTL or F-FDTL personnel during the state of siege that
lasted from February to May 2008, after the shooting of President
Ramos-Horta. On June 29, the Office of the Ombudsman presented its
findings to parliament. At year's end the report had not been made
public. UNMIT received allegations of 58 incidents of mistreatment by
F-FDTL and PNTL members during the state of siege. Some cases were
investigated by authorities and forwarded to the Prosecutor General's
Office, but no indictments were filed.
On January 26, the Bacau District Court sentenced the former Bacau
PNTL subdistrict commander Fransiso Ersio Ximenes to one year's
imprisonment for using coercion to obtain information from a suspect
in January 2008. Ximenes admitted that he beat the victim with a
baton during questioning. His sentence was suspended for two years,
and at year's end he remained on active duty in Bacau.
At year's end there were no developments in the January 2008 arrest
of three PNTL officers in Suai for allegedly having participated in
gang-related violence that resulted in 15 persons injured and 20
houses burned, or the May 2008 beating of four residents of Dili's
Quintal Boot neighborhood by PNTL Task Force members.
On June 30, two police officers accused of the November 2008 assault
of a woman in Ossu Subdistrict, Viqueque District, were sentenced to
two and six months' suspended imprisonment. The two remained on active duty.
On February 10, the Court of Appeal upheld a four-year prison
sentence for a PNTL officer found guilty of attempted manslaughter
for the shooting and injuring of a civilian in Covalima in 2007.
At year's end there were no developments in the following 2007
incidents: the case in which an armed group wearing F-FDTL uniforms
attacked and burned the homes of six families in Dili, the case in
which six to 10 F-FDTL uniformed persons attacked several homes near
the national hospital, and the case in which F FDTL members detained
and allegedly beat approximately 10 persons for disorderly conduct.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions generally met international standards, although
there were no separate facilities for women and youth offenders.
There were two prisons run by the civilian authorities, located in
Dili (Becora) and Gleno. Together the two prisons held 223
individuals (reliable estimates of the designed capacity of the
prisons were not available). The vast majority were pretrial
detainees charged with homicide, robbery, or sexual assault. Four of
the prisoners were women, and 10 were juveniles. The F FDTL operated
a military prison facility at its headquarters in Dili without
UNMIT personnel noted allegations of mistreatment of prisoners by
prison guards during the first 72 hours of imprisonment and a lack of
special facilities for the mentally ill, who consequently were
detained with other prisoners.
Despite some improvements with regard to access to food and water,
police station detention cells generally did not comply with
international standards and lacked sanitation facilities and bedding.
The lack of detention cells at some police stations discouraged the
initiation of formal charges against detained suspects.
The government permitted prison visits by the International Committee
of the Red Cross and independent human rights observers. The
Ombudsman's Office was able to conduct detainee monitoring in Dili.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, there were
many instances in which these provisions were violated, often because
magistrates or judges were unavailable.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but the
chief of defense, the F-FDTL's senior military officer, exercised
effective day-to-day command. Civilian secretaries of state for
public security and defense oversaw the PNTL and F FDTL, respectively.
UNMIT continued efforts to reform, restructure, and rebuild the PNTL
in the wake of its collapse during the political crisis of 2006. A
central element was a "screening" to ensure that each of the
approximately 3,000 PNTL officers was checked for integrity and past
crimes or misbehavior. Following screening, officers were to go
through renewed training and a six-month UNPOL mentoring program. By
year's end approximately 2,900 officers had completed the UNPOL program.
Each of the country's 13 districts has a district PNTL commander who
normally reports to the PNTL general commander. In spite of
improvements due to the UNPOL training, the PNTL as an institution
remained poorly equipped and undertrained, subject to numerous
credible allegations of abuse of authority, mishandling of firearms,
and corruption. An opposition parliamentarian and an international
NGO criticized the emphasis on a paramilitary style of policing,
which includes highly armed special units and does not sufficiently
delineate between the military and the police.
Some police officers did not pass the vetting process and were on
suspension pending further investigation. UNMIT conducted human
rights training sessions for senior PNTL personnel, and the PNTL
received training from bilateral partners.
Efforts were made to strengthen internal PNTL accountability
mechanisms. A Professional Standards and Discipline Office (PSDO) was
established as early as 2004. Between November 2008 and June, the
number of pending cases in the PSDO decreased from 373 to 42. The
PSDO reportedly found almost half the cases it investigated to be
"substantiated" and forwarded its findings to the appropriate
authorities; however, it was unclear what actions, if any, these
authorities took. At the district level there were serious obstacles
to the functioning of the PSDO. PSDO officers were appointed by, and
reported to, the PNTL district commander. Persons with complaints
about police behavior experienced obstacles when attempting to report
violations including repeated requests to return at a later date or
to submit their complaint in writing. The Organic Police Law
promulgated in February does not provide for guaranteed participation
from the civilian sector in police oversight.
On February 26, the UN Security Council instructed UNMIT to begin
handing over primary policing responsibilities to the PNTL once PNTL
personnel in a particular district demonstrated the ability to
perform those responsibilities adequately. Of the 13 districts,
handovers occurred in Lautem (May), Oecussi (June), Manatuto (July),
and Viqueque (December).
More than 750 ISF personnel from Australia and New Zealand supported
the police and security forces.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention
The law requires judicial warrants prior to arrests or searches,
except in exceptional circumstances; however, this provision was
often violated. The extreme shortage of prosecutors and judges
outside of the capital contributed to police inability to obtain
Government regulations require a hearing within 72 hours of arrest to
review the lawfulness of an arrest or detention and also provide the
right to a trial without undue delay. During these hearings the judge
may also determine whether the suspect should be released because
evidence is lacking or the suspect is not considered a flight risk.
The countrywide shortage of magistrates meant that police often made
decisions without legal authority as to whether persons arrested
should be released or detained after 72 hours in custody. This
contributed to an atmosphere of lawlessness and impunity. Judges may
set terms for conditional release, usually requiring the suspect to
report regularly to police.
The law provides for access to legal representation at all stages of
the proceedings, and provisions exist for providing public defenders
to indigent defendants at no cost. Public defenders were in short
supply. Most were concentrated in Dili and Baucau, with other areas
lacking the same level of access. Many indigent defendants relied on
lawyers provided by legal aid organizations. A number of defendants
who were assigned public defenders reported that they had never seen
their lawyer, and there were concerns that some low priority cases
were delayed indefinitely while suspects remained in pretrial detention.
The pretrial detention limit of six months and the requirement that
such detentions be reviewed every 30 days need not apply in cases
involving certain serious crimes; however, the 30-day review deadline
was missed in a large number of cases involving less serious crimes,
and a majority of the prison population consisted of pretrial detainees.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides that judges shall perform their duties
"independently and impartially" without "improper influence" and
requires public prosecutors to discharge their duties impartially.
However, the country's judicial system faced a wide array of
challenges including concerns about the impartiality of some judicial
organs, a severe shortage of qualified personnel, a complex and
multisourced legal regime, and the fact that the majority of the
population does not speak Portuguese, the language in which the laws
were written and the courts operate. Access to justice was notably constrained.
The court system consisted of a Court of Appeal and four district
courts (Dili, Bacau, Suai, and Oecussi). The constitution calls for a
Supreme Court and high administrative, tax, and audit courts as well
as other administrative courts of first instance. It also allows for
military courts and maritime and arbitration courts. At year's end
none of these courts had been established. Until a Supreme Court is
established, the Court of Appeal remains the country's highest
tribunal. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for administration
of the courts and prisons and also provides defense representation.
The prosecutor general--independent of the Ministry of Justice--is
responsible for initiating indictments and prosecutions.
Progress in establishing justice sector institutions and recruiting
and training qualified judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys was
slow. By year's end, 14 judges, 14 prosecutors, and 11 public
defenders of Timorese nationality were assigned to the country's
judicial institutions. However, the system remained heavily dependent
on international judges, prosecutors, and public defenders.
Judges, prosecutors, and public defenders assigned to other districts
outside Dili often did not reside in these areas. Their intermittent
presence continued to severely hamper the functioning of the
judiciary outside the capital.
The trial process often was hindered by nonattendance of witnesses
due to lack of proper notification or lack of transportation. The
shortage of qualified prosecutors and technical staff in the
Prosecutor General's Office hampered its work and resulted in a large
case backlog. International prosecutors continued to handle sensitive
cases related to the 2006 crisis. At year's end there was a
nationwide backlog of approximately 5,200 cases. The length of time
for cases to come to trial varied significantly, with some delayed
for years and others tried within months of accusations.
The law provides for the right to a fair trial; however, the severe
shortages of qualified personnel throughout the system led to some
trials that did not fulfill prescribed legal procedures. Trials are
before judges. Except in sensitive cases, such as crimes involving
sexual assault, trials are public; however, this principle was
inconsistently applied. Defendants have the right to be present at
trials and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Attorneys
are provided to indigent defendants. Defendants can confront hostile
witnesses and present other witnesses and evidence. Defendants and
their attorneys have access to government-held evidence. Defendants
enjoy a presumption of innocence and have a right of appeal to higher courts.
The legal regime was complex and inconsistently applied, but the
government adopted a new criminal procedure code and a penal code;
the latter came into force on June 7. The criminal procedure code was
translated into Tetum (the language spoken most widely in the
country), but the penal code was available only in Portuguese.
The Court of Appeal operated primarily in Portuguese. The UN
regulations, many of which remained in force, were available in
English, Portuguese, Indonesian, and Tetum. Laws enacted by
parliament, intended to supplant Indonesian laws and UN regulations,
were published in Portuguese but were seldom available in Tetum.
Litigants, witnesses, and criminal defendants often were unable to
read the new laws. Trials are required to be conducted in Portuguese
and Tetum. However, the quality of translation provided in court
varied widely, and translations into Tetum were often incomplete summaries.
On July 6, a witness protection law came into force, but protection
arrangements remained lacking. In many violent crimes, witnesses were
unwilling to testify because of the high potential for retribution
against them or their families. Court personnel also reported
increased concern regarding their own safety.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Civil judicial procedures were beset by the same problems encountered
by the judicial system as a whole. The ombudsman for human rights and
justice can sue government agencies/agents for alleged human rights
abuses; however, the ombudsman's approach has been to refer
allegations of abuse to the prosecutor general or the leadership of
the PNTL or F-FDTL.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally
respected these prohibitions in practice.
A 2003 land law broadly defines what property belongs to the
government and was criticized as disregarding many private claims.
Many Dili residents arrived as internal migrants and occupied empty
houses or built houses on empty lots. The majority of properties in
Dili are deemed state property, and in previous years the government
evicted persons from land identified as state property at times with
little notice and with no due process.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
Freedom of Speech and Press
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the
government generally respected these rights in practice. Individuals
generally could criticize the government without reprisal. The
criminal code, which came into force on June 7, decriminalizes
defamation. A defamation case brought by the minister of justice
against a journalist was dropped on June 15.
There were three daily newspapers, three weeklies, and several
newspapers that appeared sporadically. All frequently criticized the
government and other political entities editorially.
Television and radio broadcasts were the primary sources for news.
However, there was often no reception outside Dili and district
capitals, and broadcasts were often irregular due to technical or
resource problems. Many persons did not have access to televison or radio.
On September 2, members of the media complained that the PNTL
interfered with their ability to cover the arrest of three
individuals at a political event on August 31.
In December a journalist with Tempo Semanal was subpoenaed as a
witness in the trial of the 28 suspects in the February 2008 attack
on President Ramos-Horta; the journalist had conducted a telephone
interview with an alleged leader of the attackers after the events
(see section 1.a.). The journalist invoked his rights to protect his
sources, and the judge permitted him to leave without providing testimony.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or
reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms.
Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of
views via the Internet, including by e-mail. Internet access was
extremely limited. According to International Telecommunication Union
statistics for 2008, approximately 0.2 percent of the country's
inhabitants used the Internet.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
The government generally did not restrict academic freedom or
cultural events. Academic research on Tetum and other indigenous
languages must be approved by the National Language Institute.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of Assembly
The law on assembly and demonstrations establishes guidelines to
obtain permits to hold demonstrations and requires police be notified
four days in advance of any demonstration or strike. The law also
stipulates that demonstrations cannot take place within 100 yards of
government buildings or facilities, diplomatic facilities, or
political party headquarters. In practice demonstrations were allowed
to take place without the requisite advance notification, and the
100-yard regulation was rarely observed. However, on August 31, the
PNTL detained three individuals at a political event for not having a
proper permit and for demonstrating too close to government-owned
port facilities. The detainees were released within 72 hours, and
there were no reports of mistreatment.
Freedom of Association
The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the
government generally respected this right in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government
generally respected this right in practice.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Outside the capital, non-Catholic religious groups were at times
regarded with suspicion. There were reports that Catholics who
converted to other religions were subjected to harassment and abuse
by community members, and there were instances of Protestant churches
being harassed during the year.
There was no indigenous Jewish population, and there were no reports
of anti-Semitic acts.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious
Freedom Report at
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of
Refugees, and stateless Persons
The law provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign
travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally
respected these rights in practice. The government cooperated with
the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other
humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to
internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum
seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
Travel by road to the western enclave of Oecussi required visas and
lengthy stops at Timorese and Indonesian checkpoints at the border crossings.
The law prohibits forced exile, and the government did not employ it.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
In June the government formally closed the last of the IDP camps set
up after the 2006 political crisis displaced an estimated 150,000
individuals. Approximately 3,000 persons remained in transitional
shelters pending final resettlement. The Ministry of Social
Solidarity administered reintegration assistance in coordination with
local and international NGOs.
Protection of Refugees
The country is a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status
of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The laws provide for the granting
of asylum or refugee status, and the government established a system
for providing protection to refugees. The government granted refugee
status or asylum in the past; however, there were concerns that the
country's regulations governing asylum and refugee status may
preclude genuine refugees from proving their eligibility for such
status. For example, persons who wish to apply for asylum have only
72 hours to do so after entry into the country. Foreign nationals
already present in the country have only 72 hours to initiate the
process after the situation in their home country becomes too
dangerous for them to return safely. A number of human rights and
refugee advocates maintained that this time limit contravened the
1951 convention. These advocates also expressed concern that no
written explanation is required when an asylum application is denied.
In practice the government provided protection against the expulsion
or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would
be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality,
membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to
Change Their Government
The law provides citizens with the right to change their government
peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through
periodic, free, and fair elections based on universal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
On October 9, voters chose village leaders in local elections held in
442 Sucos (villages) throughout the country.
The president and parliament were elected in generally free and fair
national elections in 2007. The government headed by Prime Minister
Gusmao is a four-party coalition controlling 37 seats in the 65 seat
There were 19 women in parliament. Women held three senior
ministerial positions--finance, justice, and social solidarity--one
vice-minister position, and one secretary of state position.
The country's small ethnic minority groups were well integrated into
society. The number of members of these groups in parliament and
other government positions was uncertain.
Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency
The law provides for criminal penalties for official corruption;
however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and
officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices. By law the Office
of the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice is the institution
charged with leading national anticorruption activities and has the
authority to refer cases for prosecution.
The Ombudsman's Office was investigating several high-profile
corruption cases at year's end, including accusations against the
prime minister, involving government contracts awarded to a company
affiliated with his daughter, and the minister of justice.
The country does not have financial disclosure laws. Prime Minister
Gusmao demanded that all cabinet officials in his government complete
financial disclosure documents, but by year's end none had done so.
The law stipulates that all legislation, Supreme Court decisions
(when the court is established), and decisions made by government
bodies must be published in the official gazette. If not published
they are null and void. Regulations also provide for public access to
court proceedings and decisions and the national budget and accounts.
In practice there were concerns that public access to information was
constrained. For example, the official gazette was published only in
Portuguese, although by law it is to be published in Tetum as well.
Moreover, its irregular publishing schedule and varying cost meant
that few journalists, public servants, or others had regular access
to it or knew how to access it.
Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups
generally operated without government restriction, investigating and
publishing their findings on human rights cases. NGOs also played an
active role in assisting and advising in the development of the
country. The government generally cooperated with these
organizations, but during the year there were instances of security
authorities preventing or resisting efforts to monitor human rights compliance.
The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, originally established
pursuant to a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution with its mandate
extended by the UNSC of February 26, continued to play an important
role in the country's development and cooperated closely with the government.
The Office of the Ombudsman is responsible for the promotion of human
rights, anticorruption, and good governance, and the ombudsman has
the power to investigate and monitor human rights abuses, corruption,
and governance standards and make recommendations to the relevant
authorities. The Ombudsman's Office was located in Dili and had
limited ability to conduct outreach or other activities in the
districts. The Human Rights Monitoring Network, made up of 10 NGOs,
closely cooperated with the ombudsman.
In July 2008 President Ramos-Horta and Indonesian President Yudhoyono
publicly accepted the bilateral Commission on Truth and Friendship's
(CTF) finding that gross human rights violations had been committed
during and after the 1999 independence referendum. The report
assigned "institutional responsibility" for such violations to the
Indonesian Armed Forces. Presidents Yudhoyono and Ramos-Horta also
accepted the report's other findings, conclusions, and
recommendations. Neither government pursued individuals responsible
for abuses at this time. On December 14, parliament adopted a
resolution acknowledging the work and reports of the CTF and the
Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation. The resolution
instructed that legislation be drafted to implement the
recommendations of the two reports and to establish an autonomous
body to carry them out.
On August 30, the government released indicted war criminal Martenus
Bere from detention without charge, trial, or proper court
authorization. Bere, an Indonesian citizen, was the leader of the
Lauksaur militia at the time of the 1999 popular consultation that
put Timor-Leste on the path to formal independence from Indonesia. In
2003 the UN Special Crimes Unit indicted him for his role in the 1999
Suai church massacre, in which at least 30 civilians, including three
priests, were killed as the church where they had taken refuge was
attacked with grenades and burned. The crimes against humanity
charges against Bere included murder, extermination, enforced
disappearance, torture, inhumane acts, and rape. Article 160 of the
constitution makes illegal "acts committed between the 25th of April
1974 and the 31st of December 1999 that can be considered crimes
against humanity." The PNTL had detained Bere in Suai on August 8
after he entered the country from Indonesian West Timor.
Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Government regulations prohibit all forms of discrimination.
Nonetheless, violence against women was a problem, and discrimination
against women, persons with disabilities, and members of minority
Gender-based violence remained a serious concern. Although rape is a
crime, failures to investigate or prosecute cases of alleged rape and
sexual abuse were common as were long delays. Authorities reported
that the backlog of court cases led some communities to address rape
accusations through traditional law, which does not always provide
justice to victims. The definition of rape under the June 7 penal
code appears broad enough to make spousal rape a crime, although that
definition had not been tested in the courts.
Key legislation that would address legal gaps or establish clear
guidelines to handle gender-based violent crimes had not been adopted
by year's end.
Domestic violence against women was a significant problem often
exacerbated by the reluctance of authorities to respond aggressively.
Cases of domestic violence and sexual crimes generally were handled
by the PNTL's Vulnerable Persons Units (VPUs). Women's organizations
assessed VPU performance as variable, with some officials actively
pursuing cases and others preferring to handle them through mediation
or as private family matters. VPU operations were severely
constrained by lack of support and resources. Police at times came
under pressure from community members to ignore cases of domestic
violence or sexual abuse.
The new penal code makes "sexual exploitation of a third party"
criminal but does not criminalize prostitution.
There was no law prohibiting sexual harassment, and sexual harassment
was reportedly widespread, particularly within some government
ministries and the police.
Women's access to family-planning information, education, and
supplies was limited principally by economic considerations.
Contraceptive use was low, although the Ministry of Health and NGOs
promoted both natural and modern family planning methods, including
the distribution of intrauterine devices, injectable contraceptives,
and condoms. Maternal mortality was estimated at 660 deaths per
100,000 births, and less than one-quarter of deliveries took place
with a skilled birth attendant. Both women and men had equal access
to diagnostic and treatment services for sexually transmitted
infections, including HIV.
Some customary practices discriminate against women. For example, in
some regions or villages where traditional practices hold sway, women
may not inherit or own property. Traditional cultural practices, such
as payment of a bride price and occasionally polyandry, also
occurred. Women were also disadvantaged in pursuing job opportunities
at the village level.
The secretary of state for gender issues in the Prime Minister's
Office is responsible for the promotion of gender equality. UNMIT's
Gender Affairs Unit also monitored discrimination against women.
Women's organizations offered some assistance to female victims of
violence, including shelters for victims of domestic violence and
incest, a safe room at the national hospital for victims of domestic
violence and sexual assault, and escorts to judicial proceedings.
Children acquire citizenship both through birth within the territory
of the country and by having a citizen parent. A Central Civil
Registry registers a child's name at birth and issues birth
certificates. The rate of birth registration was low.
The constitution stipulates that primary education shall be
compulsory and free; however, no legislation had been adopted
establishing the minimum level of education to be provided, nor had a
system been established to ensure provision of free education.
According to UN statistics, approximately 20 percent of primary
school-age children nationwide were not enrolled in school; the
figures for rural areas were substantially lower than those for urban areas.
In rural areas heavily indebted parents sometimes provided their
children as indentured servants as a way to settle the debt. If the
child was a girl, the receiving family may also demand any dowry
payment normally owed to the girl's parents.
There is no clearly defined age below which sex is by definition
nonconsensual. Violence against children and child sexual assault was
a significant problem. Some commercial sexual exploitation of minors
occurred. The June penal code describes a vulnerable victim for
purposes of rape as a "victim age less than 17 years" and provides an
aggravated sentence. The penal code separately addresses "sexual
abuse of a minor," which is described as one "age less than 14
years," and also separately addresses "sexual acts with an
adolescent," which it defines as "a minor age between 14 and 16
years." The penal code also makes both child prostitution and child
pornography crimes and defines a "child" for purposes of those
provisions as a "minor age less than 17 years." The penal code also
criminalizes abduction of a minor, although it does not define what
constitutes a minor for purposes of that section.
Following the closing of IDP camps during the year (see section
2.d.), only a small number of children remained in transitional
settlements pending permanent resettlement of their families.
Trafficking in Persons
The Immigration and Asylum Act prohibits trafficking of adults and
children for prostitution or for forced labor; however, there were
reports that persons were trafficked to and within the country.
A local NGO estimated that more than 100 foreign prostitutes in the
capital might be victims of trafficking, either forced into the
commercial sex industry or subjected to exploitative conditions they
had not agreed to. Several establishments in the capital were known
commercial sex operations and were suspected of involvement in trafficking.
Although most trafficking victims in the country were in the sex
industry, two men were rescued in the country's waters after being
subjected to forced labor aboard a foreign fishing vessel.
The June penal code criminalizes "human trafficking," "enslavement,"
and the "sale of persons."
In July police conducted raids on two bars/brothels, freeing eight
women identified as possible trafficking victims. However, credible
reports indicated that some police and immigration officials colluded
with such establishments or with those who trafficked foreign women
into the country to work in them.
The government cooperated with various international organizations
and local NGOs to assist trafficking victims. The government also
provided documentation and exit assistance to three trafficked
persons returning voluntarily to their home countries. The government
granted temporary residence, on humanitarian grounds, to two
trafficked persons who did not wish to return to their countries of origin.
The government facilitated a seminar for police, military, civil
servants, NGOs, and government officials to increase understanding of
international antitrafficking conventions and to combat widespread
ignorance about the trafficking issue. High-level officials served as
keynote speakers at the workshops, and antitrafficking and
gender-based violence posters containing emergency contacts for
victims were distributed throughout the districts to assist potential victims.
The Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report can be
Persons with Disabilities
Although the constitution protects the rights of persons with
disabilities, the government had not enacted legislation or otherwise
mandated accessibility to buildings for persons with disabilities,
nor does the law prohibit discrimination against persons with
disabilities. There were no reports of discrimination against persons
with disabilities in employment, education, or the provision of other
state services; however, in many districts children with disabilities
were unable to attend school due to accessibility problems.
Training and vocational initiatives did not address the needs of
persons with disabilities. In the past some persons with mental
disabilities faced discriminatory or degrading treatment due in part
to a lack of appropriate treatment resources or lack of referral to
existing resources; it was not clear whether this situation had
improved. Mentally ill persons were imprisoned with the general
prison population and were denied needed psychiatric care. An office
in the Ministry of Social Solidarity is responsible for protecting
the rights of persons with disabilities.
Some tensions between persons from the eastern districts (Lorosae)
and persons from the western districts (Loromonu) continued, although
this was greatly diminished from levels witnessed during the 2006
Relations were generally good between the ethnic majority and members
of several small ethnic minority groups including ethnic Chinese (who
constitute less than 1 percent of the population) and ethnic-Malay Muslims.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual
Orientation and Gender Identity
The law makes no reference to homosexual activity. Gays and lesbians
were not highly visible in the country, which was predominantly
rural, traditional, and religious. According to the East Timor Law
and Justice Bulletin (ETLJB), the principal international NGO that
runs an HIV-AIDS transmission reduction program excludes gays from
its program. Aside from the ELTJB report, there were no formal
reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation, due in part to
limited awareness of the issue and a lack of formal legal protections.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
There were no formal reports of discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status.
Section 7 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The country has a labor code based on the International Labor
Organization's standards. The law permits workers to form and join
worker organizations without prior authorization. Unions may draft
their own constitutions and rules and elect their representatives;
however, attempts to organize workers generally were slowed by
inexperience, a lack of organizational skills, and the fact that more
than 80 percent of the workforce was in the informal sector. There
are official registration procedures for trade unions and employer
The law provides for the right to strike, but few workers exercised
this right during the year. The law on assembly and demonstrations
could be used to inhibit strikes but was not used in this way.
The Immigration and Asylum Act prohibits foreigners from
participating in the administration of trade unions.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
While collective bargaining is permitted, workers generally had
little experience negotiating contracts, promoting worker rights, or
engaging in collective bargaining and negotiations.
There are no formal export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Government regulations prohibit forced or compulsory labor, and there
were no reports that such practices occurred.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The labor code generally prohibits children under 18 from working;
however, there are circumstances under which children between the
ages of 15 and 18, as well as children under 15, can work. The
minimum age does not apply to family-owned businesses, and many
children worked in the agricultural sector. Child labor in the
informal sector was a major problem. In practice enforcement of the
labor code outside of Dili was limited.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The labor code does not stipulate a minimum wage. The labor code
provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours, standard benefits such
as overtime and leave, and minimum standards of worker health and
safety. A National Labor Board and a Labor Relations Board exist, and
there are no restrictions on the rights of workers to file complaints
and seek redress. Workers have the right to remove themselves from
hazardous conditions without jeopardizing employment; however, it was
not clear whether they could avail themselves of this right in practice.
Support ETAN in 2010! To make a contribution go to
http://etan.org/etan/donate.htm Thank you for your support.
John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: +1-718-596-7668 Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391
Email john at etan.org Skype: john.m.miller
Web site: http://www.etan.org
Send a blank e-mail message to info at etan.org to find out
how to learn more about East Timor on the Internet
Winners: John Rumbiak Human Rights Defender Award for 2009
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