Subject: AFP: Amnesty faults E. Timor police force for detentions, beatings

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Agence France Presse July 1, 2003

Amnesty faults E. Timor police force for detentions, beatings

An international rights group criticised East Timor's new police force for arbitrary detentions, beating some detainees and a trigger-happy response to last December's riots in which three people died.

Amnesty International said Tuesday that time is short to correct the defects, with the United Nations which oversees the force due to withdraw from the newly independent country at the end of next May.

In a report, the London-based group said there has been significant progress.

But the police force or PNTL "remains a fragile and underdeveloped institution which is not yet adequately trained, equipped, or sufficiently well-supported to maintain law and order in a manner consistent with international human rights standards."

Amnesty said there were "serious failings" in the response to riots in Dili and Baucau last December "in which three people were allegedly shot and killed by the police" and several dozen others injured.

"There are also reports of individuals being arbitrarily detained and of beatings of detainees by PNTL officers," it said.

Deeper problems in the police and the criminal justice system included an incomplete legislative and procedural framework; inadequate training; lack of effective oversight; a lack of understanding of the rule of law; and the absence of an effective judiciary.

The rights group said some important remedial steps had been taken. "However, with less than one year before the UN's peacekeeping operation in Timor-Leste (East Timor) is due to end, time is short."

It urged the UN and the government of the nation which became independent in May 2002 to speed up efforts to strengthen the force.

This should include legal reform; better training: fairer recruitment procedures for former guerrillas; higher pay; and remedial training in the use of force and firearms and in the rights of suspects.

"Particular attention should be paid to the rights of children, which have been violated on several occasions in police custody," Amnesty said.


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