Expected Council Action
In August the Council will decide on the shape of a new UN mission in Timor- Leste. The Council is expecting a report from the Secretary-General with recommendations regarding the new mandate, based on the conclusions of an assessment mission led by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Timor-Leste, Ian Martin, as well as input from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the country, Sukehiro Hasegawa.
There appears to be consensus within the Council that a new, robust UN mission needs to be established in Timor-Leste. But important differences exist regarding the shape and style of the mission.
One option is a mission that would include a full range of components:
civil affairs with an emphasis on good offices functions in the pre-election period;
human rights and justice;
a large police assistance component (including both performing police functions in near future and training and rebuilding of the National Police Force of Timor-Leste);
institutional capacity building; and
a large military presence (with all the associated logistics and support components).
Another option is a UN operation composed of some of the above components, but with no formal military units and a light policing component. Australia and perhaps others outside the UN structure would provide a military “ready reaction” capability.
The initial duration of the mandate is also under discussion at time of writing.
One option would be to create an initial mandate which would extend well beyond the period of parliamentary and presidential elections, currently planned for May 2007.
Another option is to establish the mandate for an initial period of six months, as it is common for most peacekeeping mandates, but with clear indication of the intention to extend it, as in the case of Haiti.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Many Council members have acknowledged, some of them publicly, that the international community failed to provide the fledging country with adequate support for a sufficient time and acted too quickly in significantly reducing UN presence on the ground. Thus, there is consensus within the Council and the Core Group (comprised of Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and Portugal, in addition to Council members France, Japan, the UK, and the US) about the need to establish a new, much more robust UN operation.
There are significant differences, however, regarding the shape of the future mission. While all agree on the need for UN policing, there seems to be differences over the numbers required, with some arguing that a small number of high-quality police personnel will better meet the needs than a large number of indifferent quality personnel with all the attendant problems of many diverse national origins. Another point of contention will be whether the operation should include a blue helmet military component. Some feel that the military component should be under UN command. However, Australia, currently with some 2,500 troops on the ground, has signalled its willingness to commit to a long-term presence, but not under UN command. Other troop contributing countries like Malaysia seem to prefer the UN route. Council members with particular concern about the cost of UN peacekeeping, the US and Japan especially, find the Australian position attractive.
In an address to an open meeting of the Council on 13 June, the Timorese government expressed its wish for a UN peacekeeping force to replace the multinational force. At the time, the government appeared eager for the peacekeeping force to be more diverse but continue to include some components from neighbouring countries. The government also asked for the presence of UN police, electoral assistance, and advisors on a number of administrative issues as well as assistance in capacity-building. At time of writing it is unclear what position the new Timorese leadership will take on the design of the UN presence.
A second issue is whether some middle ground may exist between the Australian position with those who support a blue-helmet military component. It would be possible to place the Australian forces under clear Council authorisation and oversight, with specific reporting requirements as is the case in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, a small number of blue-helmeted military observers could be included as part of the UN mission to enable the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to form an independent view of the security situation. (This was the model employed by the Council in Haiti in resolution 940 in circumstances where there were similar disagreements in the Council.) And a beefed up Department of Safety and Security team could be used for mission security rather than military units.
A third issue, which may re-emerge, is the past criticism from the Timorese leadership of the “heavy footprint” of the previous UN presence and the dead hand of the UN bureaucracy, as manifested in particular by the huge diversity of international personnel and the inexperience of many UN staff.
In light of April and May’s rapidly escalating violence, the Timorese government requested Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal to send troops to help calm the situation. The Council expressed support for the deployment of a multinational force in a presidential statement. In June, in resolution 1690, it decided to roll over the mandate of the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) until 20 August and requested the Secretary-General to provide the Council by 7 August with a report on the UN role in Timor-Leste following the expiration of UNOTIL’s mandate.
In Timor-Leste, several political changes occurred recently. In the period immediately following the violence in late May, the Timorese ministers of defence and interior resigned and were replaced, with the defence portfolio going to the foreign minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner, José Ramos-Horta. Numerous calls were made for the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. He resigned in late June, and Ramos-Horta took up the post. Ramos-Horta has kept the defence portfolio while the post of foreign minister went to the Timorese ambassador to the UN, José Luis Guterres.
The security situation appears to be stabilised, with different armed opposition leaders having surrendered their weapons voluntarily to members of the international forces or the Joint Task Force.
In early June, the government sent a letter to the Secretary-General asking the UN to establish an independent special inquiry commission to review the incidents of late April and May as well as other events that contributed to the crisis. A three-person commission, led by Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro of Brazil, was appointed on 28 June. It will be working with the assistance of a team from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and is due to travel to Timor- Leste in August. Its report will be submitted in October.
The violent incidents that occurred in the first half of 2006 have revealed deep political problems in Timor-Leste, and there are particularly deep rifts between and within the defence and police forces. The military, traditionally associated with the country’s president, Xanana Gusmão, has been accused by a large portion of its ranks of favouritism. The police, under the control of former interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, drew a number of its officers from the ranks of the former Indonesian police and was seen as strongly favouring individuals hailing from the west of the country. Observers agree that the underlying cause of the current crisis lies in the security sector and that the thorough rebuilding of this sector will be critical for any future success.
Some members of the Council have acknowledged their lack of appreciation, in the period leading up to the violent events of 2006, of the depth of the country’s political problems.
Another lingering serious problem, related in part to the problems in the security sector, is the issue of accountability for past serious crimes and human rights abuses. In 2000, the UN mission established a judicial mechanism, called the serious crimes process, to bring to justice those responsible for gross violations of human rights in Timor-Leste in 1999. It was brought to a closure in May 2005 by Council decision, after producing 95 indictments and charging 440 individuals. Numerous cases were left outstanding, including 200 arrest warrants. Of about 1,370 reported cases of murder, only 572 resulted in indictments.
In the aftermath of the 2006 violence, the government asked the Secretary-General to establish an independent mechanism to investigate all the recent incidents, perhaps understanding that it would be hard to expect political reconciliation without full accountability. But several observers, including members of the Council, have pointed out that in order to create an atmosphere of lasting trust and reconciliation within the Timorese society, accountability for past crimes against humanity and serious human rights violations is likely to prove just as important as accountability for the recent events.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Presidential Statement|
|Selected Press Statement|
|Selected Secretary-General Reports|
|Security Council Debates Transcripts|
|14 July 2006||
José Luis Guterres, Timor-Leste’s ambassador to the UN, was appointed foreign minister.
|10 July 2006||
José Ramos-Horta was sworn in as the new prime minister.
|28 June 2006||
Protesters set fire to some twenty houses in Dili; Secretary-General Annan appointed a special inquiry commission to investigate the May and June violence.
|26 June 2006||
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri resigned.
|20 June 2006||
The Council extended UNOTIL’s mandate until 20 August and requested that the Secretary-General submit by 7 August a report with recommendations regarding strengthened UN presence in Timor-Leste.
|13 June 2006||
The Council held an open debate during which the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Timor-Leste, Ian Martin, provided a briefing.
|6 June 2006||
a rally of some 2000 called for prime minister’s resignation.
|2 June 2006||
Ramos-Horta was named minister of defence in addition to his post as foreign minister; Mari Alkatiri continued to reject calls for his resignation.
|1 June 2006||Defence Minister Roque Rodriguez resigned.|
|25 May 2006||
The Secretary-General sent Ian Martin, his representative in Timor-Leste in 1999, on a fact-finding mission to the country. The Council issued a presidential statement supporting the deployment of the multinational forces.
|24 May 2006||
The Timorese government requested security assistance from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal. The Council expressed deep concern over the deteriorating situation in a statement to the press.
|23-25 May 2006||
Violence continued, with several people killed and several dozen injured. Timorese politicians called on the prime minister to resign.
|28-29 April 2006||
Violent riots took place in Dili leading to the displacement of thousands of civilians.
|Late March 2006||
Numerous violent incidents occurred in Dili, leading to 48 arrests. Eight of those arrested were from among the 591 dismissed soldiers.
Nearly 40 percent of the armed forces (591 soldiers) were dismissed by the commander of the armed forces.
|8 February 2006||
Some 400 members of the armed forces demonstrated in front of the president’s office in Dili demanding a response to their January petition alleging discrimination in promotion and ill-treatment against members of the military from outside the eastern parts of the country.
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General|
|Sukehiro Hasegawa (Japan)|
|Size and Composition of UNOTIL|
|As many as 130 staff members|
|US$5.78 million, 6 June through 31 December 2006|
|Special Inquiry Commission|
|Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Brazil), Chair
Zelda Holtzman (South Africa)
Ralph Zacklin (United Kingdom)