Subject: UN critical of East Timor human rights
UN critical of East
Timor human rights
August 21, 2008 - 4:28PM
Complaints of human rights abuses by East Timor's fledgling national
police have shown a "notable increase" over the past year, the United
The UN report said East Timor was at a crossroads in terms of rights,
with progress since independence from Indonesia in 2002 tempered by
abuses by the security forces and judicial shortcomings.
"The Timorese people and state institutions can continue to build on
progress achieved or can turn back towards a more violent past," the UN
mission's rights chief, Louis Gentile, said in a statement.
The report by the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) said a
new national police taskforce created in the capital Dili in December
had had a significant impact on crime.
But there had also been a sharp rise in the number of complaints about
abuses by the security forces, it said.
The taskforce had been accused of "excessive use of force and
ill-treatment during arrest, unlawful searches of houses and abusive
behaviour," it said.
"In some cases, victims described being kicked, punched and beaten
during arrest. The ill-treatment sometimes continued after the suspects
were lying on the ground or had been taken inside a police vehicle."
Police had also forced suspects to do push-ups in public, "apparently as
a form of instantaneous punishment and public humiliation."
UNMIT had also received reports of death threats, as well as arreststhat
did not follow legal procedures. National leaders had made commitments
to address such violations but accountability mechanisms remained weak.
The report welcomed progress in strengthening the justice system, namely
the increasing number of Timorese judicial personnel and their
heightened presence in the districts.
But it said effective access to justice was constrained and there was a
backlog of some 4,700 criminal cases.
East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, gained formal independence in
2002 after a 24-year Indonesian occupation that is estimated to have
caused the deaths of as many as 200,000 people.
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