Subject: TIMOR-LESTE: Concerns over emergency powers

TIMOR-LESTE: Concerns over emergency powers 28 Feb 2008 13:11:03 GMT

Source: IRIN

DILI, 28 February 2008 (<>IRIN) - More than two weeks after the assassination attempts against Timor-Leste's president and prime minister, the security situation remains fragile, with a state of emergency continuing for another month and 18 arrest warrants issued in connection with the 11 February attacks. President José Ramos-Horta is still in a hospital in Darwin, Australia, but conscious and recovering slowly.

In recognition of the continuing unsettled political, economic and security climate in Timor-Leste, the UN Security Council mandated on 26 February a one-year extension of the UN Integrated Mission in East Timor (UNMIT).

According to UN officials, the hunt for the rebels involved in the assassination attempt continues but with a clear objective of avoiding confrontation and further violence. Members of the International Stabilization Force (ISF) have been handing out leaflets urging the 18 rebels suspected of being involved to peacefully surrender.

The UN Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, said: "I want to stress that those who follow my appeal … to surrender voluntarily to justice will be treated with dignity and according to the constitution and applicable laws of Timor-Leste."

By 28 February, 490 of some 600 petitioning soldiers, who were dismissed in 2006, had gone to Dili, the capital, for talks with the government regarding the possibility of reinstatement to the military or other options to reintegrate into the work force.

Joint military/police operation

While security has remained relatively stable, concerns have been raised regarding a government initiative to merge the police and military, particularly given their past animosities, in a campaign against the renegade petitioners.

A one-page resolution was issued that "mandates the general chief of the armed forces to create a joint command integrating PNTL [the police] and F-FDTL [the army] for the execution of security operations conducted during the declaration of the state of siege". There is also a worry that given the emergency status, such a force might overstep its authority.

Sofia Cason, the International Crisis Group representative in Dili, said the government resolution outlining the police/military merger was vague and did not clearly explain the distinction between the roles of the two forces.

"It could be interpreted much more broadly and then we may see FTDL doing what we presume are police functions and police doing what we presume are military functions and I think that's the danger of this," she said.

A UN spokeswoman, Allison Cooper, said the UN's Human Rights Unit (HRU) was monitoring the situation.

"Any concerns about breaches to human rights should be reported to the UN or to the Office of the Provider for Human Rights," said Cooper. "Once the complaints are received by the HRU, they will be investigated and if found to be upheld, they will be dealt with accordingly," she said. The UN has not yet cited any specific complaints although the human rights unit is compiling the figures.

According to Timor Post editor Mouzinho Lopez de Aroujo, the security problems should not impact on the public's right to be treated with dignity and to be provided with access to critical information.

"The state of emergency doesn't mean there is no more human rights in East Timor," he said. "It doesn't mean there is no more democracy."


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