Friday, April 17, 2009
The top United Nations envoy to Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, who heads the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), has given a quite positive view of the situation there as it has developed over the past seven years. He told a Timorese Ministry of Justice Workshop this week that in its seven years of independence, Timor-Leste has demonstrated its commitment to justice, rule of law, and democracy. He noted that when he first arrived in 2002, judicial institutions were dysfunctional due to a lack of trained judges, prosecutors, and public defenders. But he said that Timorese justice personnel are increasingly taking on functions as they receive training and that access to justice has been improved with districts courts functioning outside Dili, the capital. He also said that the prison service has improved and the country has also ratified all major international human rights instruments. Timor-Leste also recently adopted important legislation, such as the criminal code, which is broadly in line with international standards, he said.
He noted that the UN family in Timor-Leste has been continuously supporting the authorities in their efforts by providing technical advice and mentoring with the strong support of bilateral partners. Challenges include the completion of investigations of crimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed during the violence before independence and in 2006, he said.
He also said that pending key legislation, such as the Civil Code, the law on Domestic Violence and a Juvenile Justice Law must be adopted swiftly and implemented efficiently. There is also a need for additional human rights education and raising legal awareness, with particular emphasis on women’s rights and gender based violence, he maintained.