Subject: 11 Timorese Citizens File Case Requesting Court to Rule Presidential
Decree on Clemencies Unconstitutional
Press Release For Immediate Release 27 June 2008
Eleven Timorese Citizens File Case Requesting Court to Rule Presidential
Decree on Clemencies Unconstitutional
Regarding the decision of President of the Republic, José Ramos-Horta’s,
to grant executive clemency to 94 prisoners, today, Friday, 27 June 2008, eleven
Timorese citizens delivered a
petition to the Provedor
(Ombudsman) for Human Rights and
Justice (PDHJ) asking him to use his powers according to Section 150 of the
Constitution to request that the Court of Appeals examine the constitutionality
of the Presidential Decree “Presidential Clemency of 20 of May” (No.
The eleven Timorese citizens, Fernanda Mesquita Borges (Member of the
National Parliament, José Luis de Oliveira (Director, Association HAK), Father
José Filipe de Jesus Pereira and Higinio Posinato Zamor E Silva (Justice and
Peace Commission, Dili Diocese), Father Angelo Salsinha Trindade (Youth
Department, Dili Diocese), José Amaral (NGO Forum), Maria Afonso de Jesus and
Edio Saldanha Borges (Board members, Timor-Leste National Alliance for an
International Tribunal), Sisto dos Santos (National University Student Front),
Manuela Leong Pereira (International Center for Transitional Justice, Timor-Leste)
and Luis de Oliveira Sampaio (Timor-Leste Lawyers Association), made the request
based on Constitution Article 48 (right to petition).
The citizens delivered the petition directly to the Provedor, Mr. Sebastiao
Dias Ximenes, in his office on Kaikoli Street in Dili on June 27. The petition
was also delivered directly to the Appeals Court by the group’s lawyer, Ms.
Natercia Barbosa de Deus, on the same day.
The petition asks the Appeals Court to declare the Presidential Decree on the
executive clemencies null and void and that the decree be revoked and not
implemented. According to the petitioners, the Presidential Decree is
unconstitutional because it does not follow requirements or does not properly
implement Section 85 (i) that pardons or commutation of sentences by the
President must consult with the Government.
President José Ramos-Horta issued his clemency decree without first
listening to advice from Government. The decree was publicized on 19 May 2008,
and the letter with the Minister of Justice’s recommendations reached the
President on that same day. This means that when the President issued his decree
he had not considered the recommendations of the Minister of Justice who is
responsible for the prisoners’ eligibility. The facts also reveal that in the
Justice Minister’s letter, Ms. Lucia Lobato recommended that only 83 of the
prisoners have their sentences reduced, between two to six months each. However,
in the decree President Ramos-Horta granted 94 prisoners clemency, with their
sentences commuted or reduced.
Additionally, on 20 May 2008, the Prime Minister sent the President of the
Republic a letter saying that the situation of prisoner Rogerio Lobato is very
sensitive and that the concerns of civil society must be taken into account.
Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao suggested that Rogerio Lobato’s sentenced be
reduced by only one year, and that he must return to Timor-Leste to complete his
sentence. However, President Ramos-Horta did not consider the suggestions from
Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and had already reduced Mr. Rogerio Lobato’s
sentence by three and a half years. That is why Mr. Rogerio Lobato is already
Rogerio Lobato, former Minister of the Interior, was convicted of
distributing guns to civilians to kill leaders of opposing political parties and
petitioners who had deserted the military. He was sentenced to seven years and
six months imprisonment on 10 May 2007, when he was incarcerated. He had been
under house arrest since 18 September 2006. In early August 2007, he was
hospitalized and on 9 August 2007 he left Timor-Leste for medical treatment in
Malaysia. He was provisionally free after the President’s 19 May clemency
In addition, the Presidential Decree did not adhere to the penal procedure,
because the decision on executive clemency or commutation of sentences for
prisoners must have a legal basis and follow clear criteria. According to this
decree, the President considered the situation of all the prisoners as the same.
Also the decree does not show the process of reintegration of the prisoners back
into the community. The decision may create confusion about the legal process,
and may create a threatening situation again for some of the prisoners who
return to live in the community. If there are problems for the prisoners, who is
On the other hand, the decree reveals a conflict of interest. The President
is using his powers to serve personal interests (to satisfy his friends) rather
than the public interest, according to principles found in Sections 1 and 6 of
the Constitution of RDTL (democratic state and state objectives).
Finally, the worst is that the Presidential Decree violates Section 160 of
the Constitution and the principle of international law for serious crimes that
violate human rights which our state adheres to, according to the principles in
Section 9. According to these sections, perpetrators of serious crimes are not
eligible for executive clemency. Those who commit serious violations of human
rights must be tried by a national or international court and be properly
sentenced, thus all people learn not to repeat nor continue such practice in the
future. Unfortunately, our President does not respect these human rights laws.
That is why convicted murderers like Jhoni Marques and his group of
pro-Indonesia militia who killed nuns, priests, an Indonesian journalist, and
raped many women in Lospalos in 1999 already enjoy freedom.
Jhoni Marques was sentenced to 33 years and 4 months imprisonment for Crimes
Against Humanity including torture, murder, deportation or forcible transfer of
civilian population and persecution on 11 December 2001by the Special Panel for
Serious Crimes in Dili, Timor-Leste. Upon appeal, his sentenced was reduced to
25 years. He entered prison on 8 May 2000 and was provisionally released after
the President’s 19 May clemency decree.
The decision of the President is a gross injustice to the victims who still
suffer because they have not yet received adequate justice and reparations from
our State. It is also unjust to other prisoners who have not received a final
decision from the courts. For example, people who illegally distributed guns and
authored the crimes are already free, and people who received and used them to
shoot people are still in prison. Where is justice? Where is truth? How will the
state guarantee that crimes by armed militia that occurred in 1999 and 2006 will
not happen again?
For More Information Contact: Fernanda Mesquita Borges Spokesperson for the
“Petitioners Against Clemency” Member of the National Parliament
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