June 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 May 2006
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Timor-Leste

Expected Council Action
The Council is likely to be devoting more attention to Timor-Leste in June than expected. In May, it postponed consideration of the UN political presence there until 20 June due to uncertainty about the security situation in the country. But in the days following that decision, violence rapidly escalated and the government requested Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal to send troops to help calm the situation. On 24 May a Council press statement expressed “deep concern” and “understanding” about the requests for military assistance. On May 25 the Council issued a presidential statement expressing deep concern about the situation and supporting the deployment of the multinational force.

The Council will expect briefings on developments in Timor Leste in June. (The Secretary-General has sent a Special Envoy, Ian Martin, to assess the situation.) It is now most unlikely that the Council will pursue its previous plans to wrap up the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL).  At this moment a further rollover is probable.  The earlier divisions inside the Council, as outlined in our May 2006 Monthly Forecast, are likely to be muted in light of the current instability.

The Secretary-General’s report on prospects for addressing serious crimes is now expected for June. It is still unclear whether any Council decisions on this will emerge.

Council Dynamics
The growing instability in Timor-Leste in April led to a one-month rollover of UNOTIL’s mandate. It represented a compromise given the US reluctance to support a follow-on mission. Subsequent events seem likely to further complicate plans to terminate UNOTIL.

On the serious crimes issue, despite the appeals from civil society, there is no appetite within the Council or the Core Group (comprised of the US, Portugal, Brazil, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and France) either to create new mechanisms to prosecute serious violators of international criminal law or to pressure Timor-Leste to do so. Many Council members are sympathetic to Dili’s concerns about its relations with Jakarta. Some are also concerned about their own relations with Indonesia. But others believe it is important to uphold accountability as a matter of principle and are concerned about setting precedents for other post-conflict situations and especially other processes under negotiation.  Rampant violence that erupted in April and May, resulting in numerous deaths and affecting thousands of civilians, will probably play a role in members’ approach to accountability.

Key Facts
The Council established UNOTIL in April 2005 as a follow-on UN presence. Since January, three letters from the Timorese government have urged the Council to endorse a follow-on special political mission. Key concerns are deficiencies in the security and justice sectors, as well as the potential for destabilisation prior to the 2007 elections.

The Secretary-General recommended the establishment of an integrated UN Office for 12 months for election assistance, support to the security and justice sectors, border patrol, and assistance with human rights and reconciliation.

Underlying Problems
Tensions in Timor increased when about 40 percent of the Timorese armed forces were dismissed in mid-March. The grievances of those soldiers, which led to protests and tensions with the government, were linked to complaints of discriminatory practices and ill-treatment. In turn, violent riots erupted on 28 April that led to the displacement of thousands of civilians. Observers note that other areas have also witnessed protests, including from groups not necessarily associated with the soldiers.

The security situation further deteriorated in late May with an outbreak of armed violence between former military police units and government troops resulting in several deaths and dozens of wounded. 

The Secretary-General’s envoy Ian Martin was formerly his representative in Timor-Leste during the 1999 post-referendum violence.  Martin is currently the head of the UN Human Rights Office in Nepal. 

For more details and historical background, please consult our December 2005 and May 2006 Monthly Forecasts.

UN Documents

 Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1677 (12 May 2006) renewed UNOTIL until 20 June.
  • S/RES/1599 (2005) established UNOTIL.
  • S/RES/1543 (2004) determined that the serious crimes process be concluded by 20 May 2005.
 Selected Presidential Statement
  • S/PRST/2006/25 (25 May 2006) supported the deployment of the multinational force.
 Selected Press Statement
  • SC/8728 (24 May 2006) expressed deep concern over the deteriorating situation.
 Selected Secretary-General’s Reports
  • S/2006/251 (20 April 2006) was UNOTIL’s end of mandate report.
 Selected Letters
  • S/2006/320325326 and 327 (24 and 25 May 2006) letters from New Zealand, Australia and Portugal to the Council president regarding Timor-Leste.
  • S/2006/319 (24 May 2006) was the letter from three Timor-Leste leaders informing the Secretary-General about the request to Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal for defence and security assistance.
  • S/2006/196 (29 March 2006) contained the Council’s request for options for post-UNOTIL assistance.
  • S/2006/39 (20 January 2006), 157 (13 March 2006) and 230 (10 April 2006) contained Dili’s requests for a follow-on special political mission.
  • S/2005/613 (28 September 2005) was the Council’s request for recommendations on justice and reconciliation for Timor-Leste.
  • S/2005/459 (15 July 2005) contained the Timorese position on the CoE report.
  • S/2005/458 (15 July 2005) contained the CoE Report.

Full forecast