Transcript of UNMIT Press Conference 07 August 2008, 10:30 hrs

7 Aug 2008

Transcript of UNMIT Press Conference 07 August 2008, 10:30 hrs

UNMIT Headquarters, Obrigado Barracks, Dili, Timor-Leste

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of a press conference by the UNMIT Spokesperson Allison Cooper and Deputy Police Commissioner for Operations Tony McLeod.

Spokesperson Allison Cooper: Good morning, thank you for coming.

Once again, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has presented his six month report to the Security Council on the progress and challenges in Timor-Leste.

Before we get to that, I would like to have a quick round up of points of interest this week as well as things to look out for next week.

Tomorrow morning you are all invited to the Prime Minister's office at 2.30pm tomorrow for the signing of a document called the United Nations Development Assistance Framework, otherwise known as the "UNDAF".

This document sets forth how the UN country team, which are the funds, agencies and programmes, will be spend $314 million dollars in Timor-Leste over the next five years.

Next week, we will have a press briefing here in this room at 10am. The former finance minister of Pakistan, Dr Hafiz Pashwa, most recently with UNDP, will pay a one week visit to Timor-Leste beginning on Sunday.

Next Thursday, he'll come along and speak to you all about how he is providing economic advice to the Government.

On the humanitarian front, commencing yesterday, 903 families from the Airport IDP camp began to move home. We have checked with UNPol overnight and there are no significant reports of violence associated with the return but UNPol and PNTL are on alert in the areas where the families are returning to.

On Tuesday next week, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. Mr Atul Khare departs for New York. He will be meeting with a number of people and will also update the Security Council on the progress and challenges in Timor-Leste.

His visit coincides with the latest report to the Security Council.

In the report, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that the violence that took place on 11 February was a test of the resilience of the country's institutions, noting that leaders and the Timorese people did not allow the events to jeopardize the country's overall stability.

We have copies of the report here for you as well as a summary of the main points which we've translated in to Tetum.

The report notes an overall improvement in the security situation compared with the same reporting period last year. It also states that considerable progress has been made in the registration, screening and certification programme for the national police.

It also talks about the resumption of responsibility by PNTL and it is not proposed that UNMIT police draw down their presence during the resumption of responsibility by the national police. Rather, they will continue to monitor and report from all districts, while providing advice and operational support.

In the area of the rule of law, it notes signing an agreement on February 12 giving UNMIT access to the archives of the former Serious Crimes Unit, which were handed over to the Prosecutor-General's office in 2005. The Unit will assist the Prosecutor-General in the investigation of serious human rights violations committed in 1999.

And while noting the progress towards holding accountable those for responsible for criminal acts and human rights violations during the 2006 crises, it states that a presidential decree on 20 May, while legal, was considered by many to undermine efforts to promote accountability and justice to combat impunity.

There are also substantial parts of the report devoted to social and economic development, and democratic governance, but I would refer you to the report on those topics.

When Mr Khare addresses the Security Council on August 19, he will advise that given the fragility of the security situation and the capacity constraints of the security institutions and young Government and State institutions, no adjustments in UNMIT's mandate and strength are recommended at this stage

He will also tell the Council that while the future of Timor-Leste lies in the hands of its leaders and people, the continuing engagement of the international community will be necessary as Timor-Leste progresses towards self sufficiency

Spokesperson Allison Cooper: Are there any questions?

Q: Why will UNMIT not draw down in the next six months seeing as Timorese police are resuming their responsibilities? You also mentioned that the Serious Crimes Unit will assist the Prosecutor's office in looking at the serious human rights abuses of 1999. What is UNMIT's position on the recent CTF report that has been handed over to the two countries because in that report there is no mention of punishment by prosecution?

Tony McLeod: UNPol is considering as part of the 2009-10 budget the drawdown. It would be premature to look at drawing down in the immediate future. Although we have an agreement in principle, there are some issues in relation to logistical support and in the areas of communication in the districts. Until they are resolved, UNPol will need to provide a level of support.

Allison Cooper: I would just like to add that in accordance with the "Policing Agreement" signed in 2006, there are three phases of policing where the UN would assist. The second phase is when police begin to resume responsibility and we're at the second phase. And there are criteria attached to the resumption which are: 1) the security environment; 2) staffing levels of certified officers; 3) logistics capability; 4) institutional stability; 5) mutual respect between the F-FDTL and the national police. It takes a very long time to build a police force that meets all of these criteria so it would be premature to consider the drawdown at this stage.

On the second question. When it was given to the Presidents in Bali several weeks ago, we said we welcomed the report and the recommendations within. We also urged both governments to follow up on the recommendations. But a Truth and Friendship Commission is only one mechanism for addressing past atrocities. There is also something called prosecutions and this is where the Serious Crimes Unit's assistance to the Prosecutor-General comes in. You'd be aware that the SCU was working here up until 2005 when all of the files were handed to the Prosecutor-General. So we still support the process of prosecutions through the SCU and its support to the Prosecutor-General. So in essence, we are supporting both mechanisms for addressing crimes committed in the past.

Q: Regarding the 242 police officers mentioned in the SG's report that are under question for breach of conduct. Are they still in uniform? What is there status?

Tony McLeod: Their status varies. Some are suspended, some are still performing duties. I can't give you an estimate on the numbers.

Q: What about the Evaluation Panel. Can you tell us what this is? Can you say who is on the panel?

Tony McLeod: The panel is under the auspices of the Secretary of State for Security. I will provide you with membership details later today.

Q: Do you have confidence that the Timorese panel will be able to solve issues of integrity to a standard acceptable to the UN?

Tony McLeod: I am confident that the Government and the Evolution Panel are aware of what is required and we are all working with the Timorese government to achieve that form of policing for Timor-Leste. There is no secret that there has been difficulties with that, but I think we are making progress.

Q: Is it acceptable to still have those people in uniform? Do you think the Government thinks it's acceptable?

Tony McLeod: I wouldn't want to comment on what the Government thinks is acceptable. I think that the process is under adjudication and the UN is comfortable with that process. You can't make a generalization about all 242 of them. Any police organization with people under investigation may take them off duty, may reassign or may take them out of uniform. That is not unusual.

Q: Is there enough funding in the 2008 budget for the Timorese to be able to provide the logistical needs as recommended by the UN?

Tony McLeod: The Government is reviewing our recommendations and it is not until that review is complete that we will have a clear view on that.

Q: I would like to follow up on the CTF. On the release of the report, the two Presidents said they completely closed the cases of the serious violations of 1999. What will be the reason for UNMIT to continue with the process of investigations? Is the UN serious in its desire to bring to justice those involved in the crimes?

Allison Cooper: The United Nations is serious about this. We have a Serious Crimes Unit that is getting up and running and we will bring them forward to meet you in the next few years. All the case files are currently with the Office of the Prosecutor-General. While statements may have been made by the two Presidents, I am not aware of any statement that has authorized the Prosecutor-General to stop working on these cases. But it's a really good question and I'll refer you to Serious Crimes Unit for a more detailed explanation of exactly what it is they are doing. Either myself, Rama or Hipolito would be very happy to put you in contact with the Serious Crimes Unit.

Q: Is the security situation since the president's shooting stable? And is the UN planning to do anything about it?

Allison Cooper: The attacks on February 11 shows that the security situation is fragile and this is a point accepted by most people. Since the attacks, all the security arrangements have been reviewed and you would see now that the President has more people escorting him. The most notable change is that international security agents were reincorporated into close protection for the President.

Spokesperson Allison Cooper: Thank you everyone. That concludes the press conference.