Head of state José Manuel Ramos-Horta
Head of government Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 1.1 million
Life expectancy 60.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 92/91 per 1,000
Adult literacy 50.1 per cent
Impunity persisted for grave human rights violations committed during Timor-Leste’s 1999 independence referendum and the previous 24 years of Indonesian occupation. The judicial system remained weak and access to justice was limited. The police and security forces continued to use unnecessary and excessive force. Levels of domestic violence remained high.
In February, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend its mission for another year. In September, a National Commission for the Rights of the Child was established and the government signed the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. All 65 camps for internally displaced people were officially closed during the year. However, around 100 families remained in transitional shelters.
In June, a new Penal Code came into force which incorporated the Rome Statute provisions but was insufficient to challenge impunity for past crimes. The Penal Code made abortion a punishable offence in most cases. A Witness Protection Law which came into force in July contained some serious shortcomings, such as the failure to include victims of crime under the definition of “witness”. In spite of an increased number of judges and lawyers in the districts, access to justice remained limited.
Police and security forces
There were at least 45 allegations of human rights violations committed by the police and eight by the military, in particular ill-treatment and unnecessary or excessive use of force. Accountability mechanisms for the police and military were weak. Holding accountable those responsible for the 2006 violence, which erupted after the dismissal of one third of the country’s military, remained slow and incomplete but a number of cases were investigated, awaited trial or completed. No members of the security forces were held accountable for the violence during the 2008 state of emergency.
Violence against women and girls
High levels of sexual and gender-based violence remained. Women reporting violence were often encouraged to resolve the cases through traditional mechanisms, rather than seeking remedy through the criminal justice system.
Reports by both the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) and the Indonesia- Timor-Leste Truth and Friendship Commission (CTF) documenting human rights violations had not been debated in parliament by year’s end. However, in a positive move, a parliamentary resolution on the establishment of a follow-up institution on the CAVR/CTF recommendations was passed in mid- December. The Prosecutor General did not file any new indictments based on findings of the UN Serious Crimes Investigation Team into crimes committed in 1999. Only one person remained in jail for these crimes.
- On 30 August, the government released Martenus Bere, a militia leader indicted by the UN for crimes against humanity committed in 1999. He returned – a free man – to Indonesia in October.
In August, the President rejected calls to set up an international tribunal for past crimes. In September, a National Victims’ Congress called for an international tribunal.
Amnesty International visits/report
Amnesty International delegates visited Timor-Leste in June and July.
‘We cry for justice’: Impunity persists 10 years on in Timor-Leste (27 August 2009)