Since its inception in 1999, 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)(former Human Rights Unit) 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.
Achieving reconciliation through the establishment of the truth about the past, the investigation and prosecution of gross human rights violations, seeking ways to prevent these violations from happening ever again through the governmental institutional reform and providing reparations for the victims of such violations are fundamental pillars in any transitional justice process. Timor-Leste is a paramount example of the difficulties and achievements such a process entails. The United Nations has walked along this way together with Timor-Leste.
The Human Rights and Transitional Justice Section (HRTJS) has played an active role in this process.
In this regard, human rights staff supported the works of the Secretariat of the Timor-Leste Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR in its Portuguese acronym, Commissao de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliaçao de Timor-Leste) created in 2001 by UNTAET. Today, 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 for the human rights victims between 1974 and 1999. HRTJS, along with other departments of the mission, will contribute to the discussion of the Commission’s report and its recommendations, "Chega!", in the National Parliament.
The HRTJS is also assisting the Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) in the implementation of relevant recommendations of the UN Special Commission of Inquiry Report (CoI report). This Commission was created upon Timor-Leste’s request to the UN Secretary- General in 2006 to ascertain the facts and circumstances relevant to incidents that took place on 28 and 29 April and 23 through 25 May 2006 and the related circumstances that contributed to the crisis, clarify responsibility for those events, and recommend measures of accountability for crimes and serious violations of human rights allegedly committed during the said mandated period.
The 2 October 2006 CoI report recommended individual prosecutions and investigations over the incidents there related cases and the establishment of a reparations program for the victims of the crisis. So far 18 investigations have been opened by the Office of the Prosecutor- General. Up to July 2008, two trials have been completed, one case is under appeal, one case is now under trial while the rest are still under investigation. HRTJ Section is funding with moneys from the Timor Leste Technical Cooperation Plan (a bilateral agreement between OHCHR and TL government) the recruitment of an international prosecutor for these cases. This prosecutor is based in Dili. Regarding the granting of reparations to the crisis victims, HRTJS’ endeavours greatly contributed to the extension of the original scheme through 30 September 2007 with the aim of addressing the needs of the electoral process related victims.
The HRTJS is providing the mission with advice on clemency measures, including pardons and amnesty, supported by the Government of Timor-Leste. Pardons are technically permissible under both Timor-Leste and international law. However, the HRTJS has raised the following concerns in relation to the 20 May 2008 Presidential Pardon Decree:
Public safety may be compromised. Many of those eligible to be considered for release have committed serious crimes including murder, rape and assault. Four who have been released, were convicted of murder as a crime against humanity.
The pardons may be perceived as undermining accountability for those who commit serious crimes.
Therefore, the HRTJS has urged that,Judges and prosecutors fulfil their responsibilities in assessing eligibility for parole vigorously. Only those found to be able to readapt to society, which implies posing no danger to re-offend, should be eligible for parole.
The HRTJS is also concerned that justice is done, and seen to be done, for perpetrators of serious crimes, particularly crimes against humanity, and serious offences related to the 2006 crisis.
Healing the wounds of the past and moving along the path of development towards a real democratic society in Timor-Leste would be a lengthy enterprise. Nonetheless and despite the challenges, the UN is committed to helping the Government of Timor-Leste in pursuing sustainable reconciliation, supporting the rule of law, fighting impunity and making justice a tangible reality in line with the UN Security Council Resolutions.