Transcript of UNMIT Press Conference 11 January 2007
Transcript of UNMIT Press Conference
Date: 11th January 2007
Venue: UNMIT Conference Room B
Speaker: SRSG Atul Khare
Topic: Update on activities over the past week
UNMIT Spokesperson Allison Cooper:
Good morning everybody. Thank you for coming to our weekly press briefing. This morning we will be hearing from SRSG Khare who will give us an update on activities of interest to the United Nations over the past week.
SRSG Atul Khare:
Thank you to all of you for coming here today.
This week we have seen the beginning of the trial of the former Minister of Interior Mr. Rogerio Lobato, and co-accused. First and foremost, I would like to stress that I do not have any opinion on Mr. Lobato's guilt or innocence. He has four charges against him and it will now be up to the judicial system – the Courts - of Timor-Leste to preside over the trial and to decide upon the outcome. So, what I will comment upon is what is the mandate of UNMIT which has been given to us by the Security Council Resolution 1704 namely the situation for the security in so far as the trial is concerned.
UNPol, through the Police Commissioner Mr. Rodolfo Tor and my Deputy Special Representative for Security Sector Reform and the Rule of Law Mr. Eric Tan Huck Gim was requested to provide security for this trial around the courtroom and of course to provide protection for the witnesses, as well as the accused. We have of course provided the security support and also the protection for the witnesses and the accused.
I am particularly delighted that the Timorese people have maintained calm and there has been no violence. I would like to take this occasion to underline that while of course every citizen has a right to an opinion, and to publicly voice that opinion, no citizen - here or in any other country - has the right to violence.
The peaceful manner in which the trial is proceeding is a very encouraging sign, if we compare today's situation regarding security in this country with the events of April/May 2006. If we continue together on this path, I am convinced that the long term goals of peace, security, political maturity and indeed the creation of a country which is democratic and devoted to accountable and responsive governance working for the uplift of its people would be realised in Timor-Leste. The United Nations will of course monitor the trial, and observe the trial, as it does with all relevant court proceedings, from a human rights point of view.
On a different issue, this Monday, the 8th of January, along with my Police Commissioner Mr. Rodolfo Tor and Chief Military Liaison Officer Colonel Graeme Williams, I accompanied the Prime Minister His Excellency Dr. Jose Ramos Horta to the Western Border to visit four Junction Points – Junction Point F in Suai, Junction Point Charlie, Junction Point Memo and of course the Junction Point Alpha in Motain.
We were also accompanied by the Deputy Prime Minister Engr. Estanislau Da Silva, Minister for Interior Mr. Alcino Barris and the F-FDTL Commander General Taur Matan Ruak. The Prime Minister and his accompanying ministers stated that more efforts would be undertaken by the government to improve the support in the Border Junction Points in terms of logistics and technical requirements for the agencies including the BPU, which are present at the Border Junction Points. Further training will be provided to the Border Patrol Unit by UNPol, as indeed is being provided by UNPol to other members of the PNTL.
Finally the last point that I wanted to talk to you relates to the exhumation and autopsy of a body in Viqueque. You will remember that nearly three weeks ago, just after my arrival, I had spoken to you about an alleged death by firearm that lead to a young man dying in a gang fight in Dili on 17th of December. I had requested the family, through you – through the media – to cooperate with the autopsy, and I would like to take this opportunity, through you, to first and foremost thank the family for their cooperation. I would also like to, once more publicly record my gratitude to His Excellency Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta Prime Minister of Timor-Leste and to the Minister for State Administration Dr. Ana Pessoa and of course other officials of Timor-Leste for their advice and support that we received from them in conduct of this autopsy.
The body was exhumed last Thursday, about one week ago. The exhumation and the autopsy was carried out, as you are aware, following an order issued by the Office of the Prosecutor on 20th of December. It took some time to implement that order because we wanted to do it in a manner which was sensitive and which respected the cultural sensitivities and the demands of the family. After the exhumation of the body last Thursday, the autopsy was completed on Friday and Saturday, and the body has now been reburied with respect in Viqueque again.
As I have said earlier, the autopsy report is the property of the Prosecutor General of Timor-Leste and I believe he will be taking further actions in this matter. I have requested the Prosecutor General to make the findings of the autopsy public as soon as possible. However, yesterday the Prosecutor General told me, in a meeting that I had with him, that there is nothing to indicate that the cause of death of Mr. Sebastiao Pinto was related to a firearms or a bullet injury. I repeat what the Prosecutor General told me yesterday: there is nothing to indicate that the cause of death of Sebastiao Pinto is related to a firearms or bullet injury.
Thank you and I will be very happy to take any questions.
Question and Answer session:
Cesar from Kyodo news. I was in the court this morning and the concern of provision of protection to witnesses was mentioned. What do you think about it?
SRSG Atul Khare:
I am not aware of what has happened in the court today morning, so I would not wish to comment on a court proceeding. But as I told you, UNPol has been providing protection to the witnesses and the accused and if there are further directions from the court, certainly these directions will be implemented.
[Cesar: Given that the court might ask you to provide this service, will you do it?]
SRSG Atul Khare:
I would not like to answer a hypothetical question. I would wait to see what the Court directs us to do.
[Cesar: Are you also aware of threats to witnesses?]
SRSG Atul Khare:
We are aware of threats that have been received by some witnesses and also a co-accused. I would not like to comment upon individual cases but people are aware of what I am talking about. These threats have been received; some damage to property of a witness has also taken place including damage resulting from firearms.
It will be the continuous effort of UNPol to ensure that the trial can proceed in the smoothest manner possible, particularly because I believe that a conduct of a fair and free trial would also help in restoring the confidence of the people in the judicial system. And I would like to take this opportunity to again stress my conviction that justice has to prevail; it is an essential precondition for reconciliation and I trust that not only this trial but other trials which are required would also take place in the near future.
All branches of UNMIT and the United Nations will be ready to support in whatever manner possible, for example, UNPol with providing security or other branches of UNMIT and UNDP with providing assistance for the development of the judicial sector to ensure that rule of law can prevail. And finally, I do believe that people of Timor-Leste want justice, and I trust that they will cooperate by maintaining peace and calm during all the judicial proceedings.
What has happened to the attackers of Railos.
SRSG Atul Khare:
Investigations are still continuing on those people who attacked the house of Railos, but separately as you might be aware, that security and protection is being provided to Railos. He was brought here with the protection of UNPol and now I believe that he has returned back but still the protection of UNPol continues to ensure that nothing undesirable happens to him.
Cesar: How can people report on the misconduct of UN staff, in particular, the UNPol?
SRSG Atul Khare:
I hope that this is a hypothetical question, because I consider the conduct of all members of United Nations, UNMIT and particularly UNPol must be beyond any criticism. Not only are we here to assist the Government and the people of Timor-Leste, but we are here also to demonstrate by example of personal behaviour how a peaceful, democratic country should and can behave. I consider the duty of care towards the people as indeed one of the founding principles of any UN operation and as I have said before, if there is any complaint we would take the strictest possible action against it and institute mechanisms to ensure that it is not repeated.
There is a suggestion box, which has been placed just outside my office, and people can simply drop a letter in that suggestion box. They can also write to me directly by post, or they can send an e-mail. Finally, they can also register a complaint by phone. The phone number, which is the normal police number 112, can still be used. I again would like to stress that I trust, and I have full faith, that the question is being asked more out of curiosity rather than because of an actual case. But having said that, I would like to reassure that I would hold everybody, including myself, to the highest standards possible in the world for our personal conduct.
We have received some Information that there are some illegal groups in Ermera that are trying to create disturbances. Have you heard anything about this information?
SRSG Atul Khare:
Unfortunately I have not yet received this information, but now that you have given it to me I will make enquiries and ask the Police Commissioner to make appropriate enquiries in the matter. And I would again request a two-pronged activity on part of all Timorese - firstly, when you get such information, as I have requested earlier, please inform the police - there are several numbers that can be used including the number 112. They will respond quickly.
And secondly, not to believe in rumours which sometimes circulate in this country. For example, just to cite one incident, yesterday night UNPol received two calls about some destruction of property and threats in out lying areas of Dili. Very quickly the police responded on both occasions and the information that I have received this morning leads me to believe that the quick response during nighttime by the police was a major factor in helping to calm the situation immediately.
And that is why I would again, as I said, request that a) whenever you get information, please pass it on to the police and b) wait for the police to attend; they will attend the situation quickly and do not unnecessarily feel too much worried. I can understand that people are concerned and worried, but they should rest assured that we will try to provide the maximum security throughout the country.
If there no other questions; I find very strange that I do not get any questions from women journalists in the last four meetings, and I trust that the gender balance in the questions coming from journalists will be restored soon.