Human rights in East Timor

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Coat of arms of East Timor.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Timor Leste

East Timor is a multiparty parliamentary republic with a population of approximately 1.1 million,[1] sharing the island of Timor with Indonesia's Nusa Tenggara province. During the 24 years of Indonesian occupation (from 1975,) and after the 1999 independence referendum, pro Indonesian militias committed many human rights violations.[2] The country gained independence in 2002, and free and fair elections were held in 2007, however the UN Police as part of the UN Integrated Mission in East Timor (UNMIT,) and the International Stabilization Force, remain in the country while it develops its own security forces, the National Police (PNTL) and Defence Forces (F-FDTL).[3]

There are a number of issues concerning civil and political rights including breaches of the right to a fair trial and freedom from arbitrary arrest. The delivery of economic, social and cultural rights is also a concern, such as the right to education, and the right to family life; there is little respect for the rights of women and children and domestic violence and sexual abuse are major problems.[4]

International treaties[edit]

East Timor joined the United Nations (UN,) in 2002 and is a party to seven of the nine core human rights treaties; it has not ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED), nor the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).[5] Its first Universal Periodic Review was held in October 2011.[6]

Constitutional protections[edit]

The constitution enacted in 2002 is comprehensive, however more systems need to be put in place before the rights detailed in the constitution can be said to be guaranteed, for example the right to private property, health, and education is still not realised for many, and there is inefficient delivery of the right to a hearing and defence, free consent to marriage, and freedom to assemble,[7] as detailed below.

Failures of justice[edit]

The failure of justice is a critical human rights concern. In particular there are problems associated with an inefficient legal system which deprives citizens of a fair trial, the use of excessive force by police, and a pervading sense of impunity for past human rights breaches.[8]

The judicial system suffers from a lack of staffing and resources, thus even though the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, incarceration may occur because judges are unavailable, and there are long delays until people are heard at trial.[9] There are also significant comprehension difficulties as although Tetum and Portuguese are both official languages of East Timor, Portuguese is the main legal language, which most of the population does not speak.[10]

There have also been reports of the police and defence force breaching the rights of civilians through cruel or degrading treatment such as beatings, excessive use of force, intimidation and threats made at gunpoint.[11] Allegations of prison guards mistreating prisoners have also been made.[12]

Fighting between the police and defence force led to violent riots in 2006 resulting in civilian displacement and deaths.[13] Additionally, in 2008 the commander of the Military Police, Alfredo Reinado, led an armed attack on the Prime Minister and President, leading to a state of emergency being declared and necessitating the creation of a Joint Command in order to stem the violence and human rights violations.[14] However, significantly, the President commuted the sentences of those responsible for the 2006 riots,[15] and pardons were given to those involved with the 2008 violence,[16] creating a perception of impunity, and the subsequent vetting process has not resulted in any dismissals for past human rights violations.[17] Training programmes have resulted in some improvements,[18] although allegations of human rights violations by the police and military continue to be made.[19]

Furthermore, reconciliation with Indonesia has been pursued rather than focusing on criminal prosecutions for crimes committed during the 1975-1999 occupation.[20] The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (Comissão de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliação), and the Commission of Truth and Friendship merely brought the truth to the fore rather than seeking prosecution for crimes including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, torture, and war crimes.[21] However José Ramos-Horta has accused "the UN of "hypocrisy" for using his government's stance on justice as a pretext for not setting up the tribunal.[22] The Serious Crimes Investigation Team continues to investigate violations committed in 1999.[23]

Freedom of expression[edit]

In East Timor freedom of speech and freedom of the press are protected by law, and this is generally respected by the government. There is also an active independent media operating mainly through television and radio, although there is limited access to televisions and radios, and reception problems limit broadcasting outside of Dili and the district capitals.[24]

Freedom of assembly[edit]

East Timor law requires that four days notice be given to the police before any demonstrations or strikes, and that such demonstrations cannot be within 100 yards of government buildings, or diplomatic facilities.[25] However, in practice demonstrations are allowed without the advanced notifications, and the 100 yard regulation is rarely enforced.[26]

Political participation[edit]

The law provides for a change of government every five years by national election.[27] In 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections were held which led to a change of government.[28] The elections were widely considered to be free and fair, and there was broad participation of the population,[29] despite some violence.[30]

Women's rights[edit]

In East Timor, women are often deemed to have a lesser status than men,[31] despite the constitution guaranteeing equality.[32] Both Portugal and Indonesia in their role as colonists created and maintained traditional patriarchal social structures, marginalising women.[33] Girls are only sent to school for a few years,[34] and young girls are sometimes forced into arranged marriages.[35] Furthermore, in some regions tradition prevents women from inheriting or owning property,[36] despite the right being guaranteed in the constitution.[37]

Sexual and domestic violence is also one of the major human rights concerns in the country.[38] The Vulnerable Person's Unit within the PNTL is responsible for receiving and investigating allegations of sexual violence, however investigations are often delayed due to a lack of resources and institutional support, and cases are often resolved through traditional dispute resolution mechanisms,[39] which do not provide full redress to victims.[40] A continuing effort on behalf of the government, the UN, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs,) has resulted in some improvement,[41] and the recently introduced Law Against Domestic Violence should assist by providing a framework for government, police and community responses to domestic violence.[42]

Children's rights[edit]

There are major issues regarding abuse of children, lack of education and high levels of malnourishment. Child abuse, including physical and psychological abuse and sexual violence is a serious problem in East Timor.[43] Additionally, corporal punishment is still used to discipline children at school and at home.[44] The majority of incidents of violence against children are not formally reported and there are inadequate judicial remedies.[45] There have also been reports of commercial sexual exploitation of minors,[46] and child labour is widespread.[47] Additionally, in some instances, parents have indentured their children in order to settle debts.[48]

Although the constitution states that primary education is compulsory,[49] there is no legislation establishing a minimum level of education, nor a system to ensure free education is provided. Statistics from the UN in 2009 showed that approximately 20 percent of primary school-age children nationwide were not enrolled in school, with even higher levels of non-enrolment in rural areas.[50]

There are also high levels of child malnutrition and infant and child mortality, which the government, in conjunction with UNICEF, is working towards reducing through the “national nutrition strategy”.[51] It is hoped that the newly established East Timor National Commission on Child Rights, mandated to promote, defend, and monitor child rights will improve the situation.[52]

National human rights institutions[edit]

The national institution of human rights is the Provedor de Direitos Humanos e Justiça (The Provedor for Human Rights and Justice (PDHJ),)[53] which has played a key role in promoting and protecting rights since its establishment in June 2005.[54] [55] Its mandate is to investigate complaints of human rights violations, maladministration and corruption, and to carry out monitoring, advocacy and promotional activities.[56] However, there is a need for a PDHJ presence in the regions, as at present complainants from the districts need to travel to Dili to lodge complaints, thus inhibiting the process.[57] In the districts where the Provedoria is not yet established, NGO members often fulfill the role of monitoring rights.[58]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Government of Timor-Leste, [1], “2010 Census Results: Timor-Leste’s population grows slower than projected”, 22 October 2010.
  2. ^ Amnesty International, [2], “Timor-Leste; Justice Delayed, Justice Denied”, 2 August 2011.
  3. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [3], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  4. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [4], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  5. ^ Timor-Leste Ratification History [5]
  6. ^ United Nations Development Programme Timor-Leste, [6], “Timor-Leste Prepares First Human Rights Assessment for UPR”, 10 February 2011.
  7. ^ Government of Timor-Leste, [7], “Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste”.
  8. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [8], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  9. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [9], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  10. ^ Amnesty International, [10], “Timor-Leste; Justice Delayed, Justice Denied”, 2 August 2011.
  11. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [11], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  12. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [12], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  13. ^ UN News Centre, [13], “Timor-Leste has made strides in bolstering human rights, UN report finds”, 5 October 2010.
  14. ^ Human Rights Watch, [14], “Timor-Leste; Events of 2008”.
  15. ^ UN News Centre, [15], “Timor-Leste has made strides in bolstering human rights, UN report finds”, 5 October 2010.
  16. ^ Amnesty International, [16], “Timor-Leste; Justice Delayed, Justice Denied”, 2 August 2011.
  17. ^ Amnesty International, [17], “Timor-Leste; Justice Delayed, Justice Denied”, 2 August 2011.
  18. ^ UN News Centre, [18], “Timor-Leste has made strides in bolstering human rights, UN report finds”, 5 October 2010.
  19. ^ Amnesty International, [19], “Timor-Leste; Justice Delayed, Justice Denied”, 2 August 2011.
  20. ^ Amnesty International, [20], “Timor-Leste President would support international tribunal”, 8 March 2010.
  21. ^ Amnesty International, [21], “Timor-Leste; Justice Delayed, Justice Denied”, 2 August 2011.
  22. ^ Amnesty International, [22], “Timor-Leste President would support international tribunal”, 8 March 2010.
  23. ^ Amnesty International, [23], “Timor-Leste; Justice Delayed, Justice Denied”, 2 August 2011.
  24. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [24], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  25. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [25], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  26. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [26], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  27. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [27], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  28. ^ United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, [28], “Report on Human Rights Developments in Timor-Leste; August 2006 – August 2007”.
  29. ^ United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, [29], “Report on Human Rights Developments in Timor-Leste; August 2006 – August 2007”.
  30. ^ United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, [30], “OHCHR in Timor-Leste (2008-2009)”.
  31. ^ Asia Pacific Online Network of Women in Politics, Governance and Transformative Leadership, [31], “Women’s Rights in East Timor (2001)”.
  32. ^ Government of Timor-Leste, [32], “Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste”, ss 16 & 17.
  33. ^ Asia Pacific Online Network of Women in Politics, Governance and Transformative Leadership, [33], “Women’s Rights in East Timor (2001)”.
  34. ^ Asia Pacific Online Network of Women in Politics, Governance and Transformative Leadership, [34], “Women’s Rights in East Timor (2001)”.
  35. ^ Committee on the Rights of the Child, [35], “Concluding Observations: Timor Leste; CRC/C/TLS/CO/1”, 1 February 2008.
  36. ^ Asia Pacific Online Network of Women in Politics, Governance and Transformative Leadership, [36], “Women’s Rights in East Timor (2001)”.
  37. ^ Government of Timor-Leste, [37], “Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste”, s 54.
  38. ^ United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, [38], “Report on Human Rights Developments in Timor-Leste; August 2006 – August 2007”.
  39. ^ United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, [39], “Report on human rights developments in Timor-Leste; September 2007 – 30 June 2008.
  40. ^ Asia Pacific Solidarity Network, [40], “Human rights in Timor-Leste”, May 2011.
  41. ^ United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, [41], “Report on Human Rights Developments in Timor-Leste; August 2006 – August 2007”.
  42. ^ Asia Pacific Solidarity Network, [42], “Human rights in Timor-Leste”, May 2011.
  43. ^ United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, [43], “Report on Human Rights Developments in Timor-Leste; August 2006 – August 2007”.
  44. ^ Committee on the Rights of the Child, [44], “Concluding Observations: Timor Leste; CRC/C/TLS/CO/1”, 1 February 2008.
  45. ^ Committee on the Rights of the Child, [45], “Concluding Observations: Timor Leste; CRC/C/TLS/CO/1”, 1 February 2008.
  46. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [46], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  47. ^ Committee on the Rights of the Child, [47], “Concluding Observations: Timor Leste; CRC/C/TLS/CO/1”, 1 February 2008.
  48. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [48], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  49. ^ Government of Timor-Leste, [49], “Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste”, s 59.
  50. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [50], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  51. ^ Committee on the Rights of the Child, [51], “Concluding Observations: Timor Leste; CRC/C/TLS/CO/1”, 1 February 2008.
  52. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State, [52], “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice; Timor-Leste”, 8 April 2011.
  53. ^ Committee on the Rights of the Child, [53], “Concluding Observations: Timor Leste; CRC/C/TLS/CO/1”, 1 February 2008.
  54. ^ UN News Centre, [54], “Timor-Leste has made strides in bolstering human rights, UN report finds”, 5 October 2010.
  55. ^ United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, [55], “Report on Human Rights Developments in Timor-Leste; August 2006 – August 2007”.
  56. ^ United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, [56], “Report on Human Rights Developments in Timor-Leste; August 2006 – August 2007”.
  57. ^ United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, [57], “Report on Human Rights Developments in Timor-Leste; August 2006 – August 2007”.
  58. ^ United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, [58], “Report on Human Rights Developments in Timor-Leste; August 2006 – August 2007”.

External links[edit]