Subject: East Timor urged to curb police after shooting

also Calls for East Timor police to disarm

East Timor urged to curb police after shooting


January 7, 2010

AN EAST Timor police officer's alleged killing of a popular musician has prompted demands for the Government in Dili to rein in heavily armed police units.

The shooting of 25-year-old Baldir Cesar ''Kuka'' Lebre, allegedly by an off-duty policeman with a police-issued weapon, has also raised questions about the success of training given to East Timor police by foreign security forces in Dili, including Australian personnel.

Paramilitary-style policing has blurred the lines of responsibility between police and the country's soldiers, increasing the possibility of conflict between the two forces, according to the International Crisis Group.

Violence erupted between police and soldiers in 2006, plunging the country into chaos.

The ICG says a police taskforce established in 2007 that provides most of the routine police patrols in Dili and elsewhere has been responsible for an increase in alleged excessive use of force and ill-treatment during arrest, unlawful searches of houses and abusive behaviour.

Despite the presence of hundreds of foreign police serving in the United Nations mission in East Timor, the taskforce has had only limited international oversight, the ICG says.

It says that the UN has effectively bungled the redevelopment of the police force that collapsed amid the 2006 violence and will leave behind a weak institution when it hands back all formal control this year.

The UN had failed to resolve serious disciplinary or criminal charges against more than 250 still-serving police officers, the ICG said.

Fretilin, the largest opposition party, will demand a parliamentary inquiry into the issue and management of police weapons after the shooting of Lebre at an alcohol-free party he had helped organise in Dili on December 28, which was gatecrashed by troublemakers.

Police refused for 45 minutes to allow Lebre, the youngest survivor of the 1992 Dili massacre, to be taken to hospital after he was shot in the stomach.

The UN mission in Dili issued a statement saying a police officer had been suspended "due to the gravity of the alleged misconduct and in order to allow an objective disciplinary inquiry''. The death of Lebre, who was from a prominent Dili family, prompted an outpouring of grief and tightening of security in the capital.

Fretilin's spokesman, Jose Teixeira, called on Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who is also Security Minister, to tighten control of police weapons and management, including an immediate audit and inspection of arsenals.

"It is a major concern that weapons are supposed to be secured in police stations but police instead take them home," he told The Age. "There have been too many incidents of police officers using weapons in inappropriate ways."

Much of the training of the police since 2008 has been done by Portugal's Republican National Guard, made up of soldiers subject to military laws.

Australia has about 55 police and civilian advisers in the police force in a variety of roles, including training, management and administration.

The Australian Defence Force website published photographs of Australian soldiers with East Timor police on a shooting range in August. An ADF spokesman said yesterday it was committed primarily to helping the East Timorese army.

The ICG recommended in a report that the Timorese Government develop independent oversight for the police force by overhauling its internal disciplinary functions, in addition to making them transparent to the public.

Another option it put forward was the appointment of an ombudsman.

The ICG said the Government should avoid the militarisation of policing and clearly demarcate in law and policy the roles of the police and army.


ABC Radio Australia

<> Connect Asia

Calls for East Timor police to disarm

Updated January 6, 2010 11:00:14

East Timor's Chief of Police has suspended an officer while police investigate the shooting death of a 25-year-old man. The incident sparked angry protests on the streets of the capital and some victims advocacy groups are calling for East Timorese police to be disarmed.

Presenter: Stephanie March

Speakers: Jose Ramos Horta, East Timor's President; Gyorgy Kakuk, spokesman, UN Mission in East Timor; Francisco Gutteres, East Timor's State Secretary for Security * Listen: <> Windows Media

MARCH: The day after 25-year-old Baldir Lebre Correia died at a home in Dili, his supporters took to the streets. They wore t-shirts with Mr Correia's image and nickname 'Kuka' printed on the front. The demonstrators chanted and carried banners with messages like "an innocent youth brutally killed by a policeman". East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta responded strongly to the man's death in an interview with the East Timorese newspaper and online broadcaster Tempo Semanal.

HORTA: There cannot be leniency when it comes to issues of discipline. Any police officer or army soldier who misrepresents his or her uniform with indiscipline, with abuse, use weapons - not only threatened people but shooting at people for absolutely no reason - there cannot be any flexibility on that they must be summarily fired.

MARCH: President Ramos Horta met with the dead man's family the day after the shooting. He says the state should be prepared to pay compensation if police officers act inappropriately. One police officer has been suspended from duty over the incident. The spokesman for the United Nations mission in East Timor, Gyorgy Kakuk, says two investigations are under way.

KAKUK: There is an ongoing internal inquiry to see exactly what has happened that goes within the police system. And there is a criminal case which has already been handed over to the public prosecutor.

MARCH: Like many East Timorese who lived through the brutal Indonesian occupation, the dead man was no stranger to violence and guns. He was one of the youngest survivors of a massacre in Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery in 1991, when Indonesian troops opened fire on thousands of young East Timorese, killing many. In the wake of Mr Correia's death, victims advocacy groups are calling for police to be disarmed before they attend public disturbances and only be allowed to carry tear gas and batons. East Timor's State Secretary for Security Francisco Gutteres says many of the police that patrol the streets of Dili are unarmed. He says for those who do carry guns, the policy is that police should only use weapons as a last resort.

GUTTERES: Weapons is the last resort. This is a policy that was established. Now we look at the implementions and how could implement that policy effectively. Then maybe we look at the training. We see maybe we need more training because this is a police force that is only 10 years old, so we need a bit more time in terms of getting these things done.

MARCH: A representative for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in East Timor said in the year July 2008 to July 2009 there were too many incidents of police using excessive force during arrests. However, the overall number of alleged human rights violations by East Timorese police has been declining. Mr Gutteres says police disciplinary measures and the criminal justice system are getting better at dealing with incidents.

GUTTERES: In the recent month we have dismissed seven police officers, one including a high level commander of a district, he was dismissed.

MARCH: East Timor's police force is in the process of introducing a new merit-based promotion system, that Mr Gutteres hopes will encourage officers to do the right thing.

GUTTERES: We take into account disciplinary issues as the most important element of the promotion. And at least this give some impact. And it discourage many of the police officers to act beyond the rules and regulations established.

MARCH: The United Nations has had responsibly for security in East Timor since 2006, when the police and military engaged in bloody conflict. The U-N is now almost half way through the process of handing responsibly to local forces district by district, and unit by unit. The United Nations say they hope the hand over will be complete by the end of 2010. 

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