Since its inception, the UN mission has stressed the importance of building institutions and a culture of human rights in order to ensure the long-term peace and stability of Timor-Leste. The Human Rights and Transitional Justice Section (HRTJS) of the UN Mission was established to assist in further strengthening Timor-Leste’s capacity to monitor, protect and promote human rights and to promote justice and reconciliation.
Timor-Leste’s commitment to human rights is reflected in the fact that it has acceded to almost all core international human rights treaties and is now working towards the effective implementation of these.
The HRTJS provides human rights capacity development assistance and advice to ensure that Timor-Leste’s laws, regulations, policies and programmes are in compliance with international human rights standards. The HRTJS also monitors the response of Timor-Leste’s State institutions in relation to the international standards on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that is has subscribed to.
The Timorese people place great significance on holding public officials accountable and for achieving justice for the victims’ of human rights violations. This underlines the importance of implementing the recommendations of the 2005 Commissao de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliacao de Timor Leste (CAVR Report) and the 2006 UN Special Commission of Inquiry Report (CoI Report) by the Government of Timor-Leste. Where possible, the HRTJS supports the initiatives of the Post-CAVR Secretariat – particularly in relation to the preparation of a concept paper on possible reparations schemes. The HRTJS also assists the Office of the Prosecutor General in the implementation of relevant recommendations of the CoI Report.
The HRTJS observes and reports on the human rights situation in Timor-Leste. These reports are disseminated locally and internationally through the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN New York Headquarters.
The HRTJS has observed that there have been many positive developments in Timor-Leste. The security situation has largely been brought under control since the violence of 2006. The 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections were held in an environment relatively free from violence and intimidation and where all sides were able to voice their opinions. The Office of the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice has been able to expand its activities. Several national judges, prosecutors and public defenders have been sworn in. There have been great inroads made into the return and reintegration of internally displaced persons and finally, the response of the Government into the events of 11 February 2008 bodes well for the future of this nation.
In spite of these significant developments however, the HRTJS notes that important human rights challenges remain. The promulgation of the Penal Code is still pending after its approval by the National Parliament in 2005. A draft juvenile justice law and draft domestic violence law are yet to be finalised and debated in Parliament. Effective access to justice is constrained as the judicial system remains weak, particularly in the districts. A considerable backlog of pending cases hampers the work of the courts and impacts negatively on the right of victims to a legal remedy. There is no witness protection law, critical to the success of criminal investigations and trials. The legal mechanisms to address property disputes do not yet exist, such as a law on land and property rights. Finally, the recently drafted Civil Code is yet to be discussed.
Despite the challenges, the UN and Government of Timor-Leste are committed to pursuing development goals in the context of democracy, respect for the rule of law and human rights of everyone.