Amnesty International Report 2014/15 - The State of the World's Human Rights - Timor-Leste

Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
Head of state: Taur Matan Ruak
Head of government: Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão

Impunity persisted for gross human rights violations committed during the Indonesian occupation (1975-1999). Security forces were accused of ill-treatment and unnecessary or excessive use of force. Levels of domestic violence remained high. Parliament passed a restrictive media law before the Court of Appeal declared it unconstitutional.

Background

In March, two groups, the Maubere Revolutionary Council (KRM) and the Popular Democratic Council of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (CPD-RDTL), were declared illegal by a parliamentary resolution for “attempting to cause instability”. Two of their leaders were charged and were awaiting trial.

Impunity

Little progress was made in addressing crimes against humanity and other human rights violations committed by Indonesian security forces and their auxiliaries from 1975 to 1999. Many suspected perpetrators remained at large in Indonesia where they were safe from prosecution.1

In August, the Court of Appeal upheld the sentence of a former AHI (Aileu Hametin Integrasaun) militia member imprisoned for crimes against humanity committed in Aileu district around the 1999 independence referendum.

The Timorese government failed to implement recommendations from the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) and the bilateral Indonesia-Timor-Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) relating to impunity. Parliament continued delaying consideration of two draft laws providing for a National Reparations Programme and establishment of a “Public Memory Institute”, a body which would implement the recommendations of the CAVR and CTF, including the reparations programme. A commission to examine enforced disappearances, recommended by the CTF, had not been established by the end of the year. Initiatives undertaken with the Indonesian government to reunite children separated from their families in 1999 lacked transparency and adequate consultation with civil society.

Justice system

Reports continued of ill-treatment and unnecessary or excessive use of force by security forces. Accountability mechanisms remained weak.

Security forces reportedly arbitrarily arrested and ill-treated dozens of individuals in March allegedly linked to the two groups KRM and CPD-RDTL. Concerns were raised that the government may have violated the rights to freedom of association and expression by using parliament rather than the courts to declare the organizations illegal.

In October, the Timor-Leste parliament and government arbitrarily terminated the contracts of foreign judicial officers and advisors, raising serious concerns about judicial independence and impacting negatively on victims and their right to an effective remedy.2

Women’s rights

The 2010 Law against Domestic Violence continued to be used to prosecute cases of domestic violence but many challenges remained for victims seeking to access justice. According to NGOs, courts tended to hand down suspended prison sentences or fines instead of imposing terms of imprisonment.

Freedom of expression − media

In May, parliament passed a Media Law which would impose severe restrictions on journalists and on freedom of expression. In August, the Court of Appeal found the law unconstitutional and returned it to parliament for review.3 A revised law removing some restrictions was approved by the President in December.

  1. Timor-Leste/Indonesia: Governments must expedite establishing fate of the disappeared (Public statement) www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA57/001/2014/en/865d8509-6e47-4778-a573-8fbb633b9b7c/asa570012014en.pdf
  2. Timor-Leste: Victims’ rights and independence of judiciary threatened by arbitrary removal of judicial officers (ASA 57/003/2014)  www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA57/003/2014/en
  3. Timor-Leste: Unconstitutional media law threatens freedom of expression (ASA 57/002/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA57/002/2014/en/b24a55e6-5eae-4ced-afd7-9158aac52adf/asa570022014en.pdf