[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

<http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/index.htm>2009 Country 
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.


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.

b. Disappearance

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, 
and intimidation.

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 
civilian oversight.

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 
required warrants.

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.

Trial Procedures

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.

Internet Freedom

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 
groups occurred.


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 
found at 

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.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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 
political crisis.

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
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Winners: John Rumbiak Human Rights Defender Award for 2009


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