October 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 September 2006
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Expected Council Action

No formal action on Timor-Leste is expected for October at press time. But the Council will receive two reports:

  • the report of the Special Commission of Inquiry on facts and circumstances leading to the recent crisis, due by 7 October; and
  • the Secretary-General’s report on arrangements between the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and the international security forces, due 25 October (but it may be discussed only in November).

A statement following discussions on the Commission’s findings is possible.

Preliminary discussions are also underway on a possible Council mission to Timor-Leste in October.

The proposal for a military component for UNMIT and the ongoing potential for further instability will still be on the minds of members as they discuss the reports. UNMIT’s mandate expires in February 2007.

Key Recent Developments
The Council created UNMIT on 25 August through resolution 1704. UNMIT is composed of 1,608 police and 34 military liaison officers.

The resolution did not include a military component for UNMIT-as recommended by the Secretary-General-nor did it authorise the continuation of the Australia-led multinational force. And there is no formal mechanism to review the operations of the Australia-led international forces and no set deadline for their mandate. The forces are deployed in Timor-Leste under a bilateral understanding with the government.

Disagreement resulted in a split within the Core Group, with Brazil and Portugal favouring a UN component and Australia, the US and the UK backing the continuation of the multinational force. Japan (with a degree of sympathy for the latter position, largely on financial grounds) and France assumed a more conciliatory role in the Council.

Timor-Leste eventually acquiesced to the continuation of the multinational force after formally conveying several times its wish for the military component to be under UN command and control.

After a one-week rollover, the Council eventually decided to authorise neither a UN military component nor an Australia-led force. This was indicative of the lack of support within the Council for pushing the issue further.  Resolution 1704, however, requested a report on arrangements between UNMIT and the international forces, and it left open the possibility of considering adjustments to the mandate.

UNMIT started activities in September with the “blue-hatting” of international police, mostly Australian, deployed in Timor-Leste as part of the existing multinational force.

A jailbreak in late August-in which 57 inmates escaped, including some convicted for the 1999 violence and one of the leaders of the unrest in April and May of this year-contributed to the perception that matters in Timor-Leste remain far from resolved.

The Council may continue with the present situation in October and leave the discussion of possible adjustments to the mandate, including the possibility of the establishment of an UNMIT military component, for later. An option favoured by some members is to keep the issue alive through preliminary discussions in October.

The prospects for action are limited given the divisions inside the Council on this issue. There is also a perceived need to allow some time between the adoption of resolution 1704 and a review of the current arrangements.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is to make sure that the country returns to stability.

For some members, an issue is the status of the military component, based on the concern that an Australia-led force may exacerbate divisions among the Timorese. A related concern is whether it is appropriate for Australia to provide the bulk of police contingents for UNMIT.

On the other hand, all members are conscious that the current pressure on troop and police generation for UN peacekeeping in Lebanon, and possibly Darfur, will pose limitations. And there is also concern about creating parallel chains of command.

These issues are expected to be considered in the Secretary-General’s report due 25 October. Key to Council members’ assessment will be the evolution of the situation on the ground and the ability of multinational forces and UNMIT to provide security.

Council and Wider Dynamics
The divisions inside the Council and the Core Group on the military component issue are likely to continue, largely as a reflection of the way in which UNMIT’s creation was handled in August.

However, most members are sceptical about the need to revisit the current arrangements too quickly. Strong reluctance especially from the US and the UK would be expected. Other members are waiting for the Secretary-General’s report so as to form a position on the issue, especially if the report reiterates the recommendation that UNMIT takes over the military aspect.

Underlying Problems
A lingering problem, related in part to the violence in April and May, is accountability for past serious crimes and human rights abuses. So far, the Council has authorised the provision of international investigators through UNMIT, but the prospects vis-à-vis the Timorese government’s capacity to conduct trials for serious crimes is unclear. Dili has in the past expressed a preference for focusing solely on the bilateral Commission of Truth and Friendship, but the Council has indicated that a formal judicial mechanism should also be part of the solution.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions
Selected Meeting Record
  • S/PV.5512 (15 August 2006) contained positions on an UNMIT military component.
 Selected Secretary-General Reports
  • S/2006/628 (8 August 2006) was the report with recommendations for the future UN presence in Timor-Leste.
  • S/2006/580 (26 July 2006) was the report on justice and reconciliation.
 Selected Letters
  • S/2006/620 (7 August 2006) was a Timorese letter requesting, inter alia, that the military component be under UN command and control.
  • S/2006/391 (13 June 2006) contained the Timorese request for a special inquiry into the May violence.

Historical Background

 14 September 2006 UNMIT officially took over policing activities in Timor-Leste with the “blue-hatting” of Australian, Portuguese and Malaysian police contingents.
 25 August 2006 The Council created UNMIT.

For the full background, please see our May and August 2006 Forecasts.

Other Relevant Facts

 Special Representative of the Secretary-General
  Vacant at press time
 UNMIT: Size and Composition
  • Maximum authorised strength: up to 1,608 police and 34 military liaison and staff officers
  • Size as of 31 August 2006: 589 police and 15 military officers
  • Key police contributors: Australia, Malaysia and Portugal
 UNMIT: Duration
  25 August 2006 to present; mandate expires 25 February 2007
 Special Inquiry Commission
 Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Brazil), Chair
 Zelda Holtzman (South Africa)
 Ralph Zacklin (United Kingdom)

Full forecast