Expected Council Action
The Council will receive the Secretary-General’s report on Timor-Leste by early February, and it will consider renewal of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) before its mandate expires on 25 February. Approval of the extension is expected, but the timing may be influenced by the availability of the Timor-Leste prime minister, José Ramos Horta, who wants to attend the discussions.
The Council will also be mindful of the security situation in the lead-up to the elections expected before May.
Key Recent Developments
In creating UNMIT, the Council was split over the command and control of the military forces. Australia, supported by the US and UK, had pushed for the international forces to remain under its command. Members of the Core Group, such as Portugal and Brazil, strongly preferred UN command. Unable to agree, the Council decided not to authorise either a UN military component or an Australia-led force in resolution 1704. Instead, it asked the Secretary-General to consult all stakeholders, review the arrangements and to present his views on 25 October. However, in a letter to the Secretary-General on 19 October, the Timor-Leste government asked that the police be under UN command but accepted an international security force rather than a UN military contingent. As reported to the media by the president of the Council during its informal consultations on 27 October, the Council noted this request. The Secretary-General is expected to report to the Council if there is any need to change the arrangement.
On 26 January the UN, Timor-Leste and Australia signed a security agreement. The agreement sets up a Trilateral Coordination Body which will allow better coordination on security issues. This is seen as particularly important in the lead-up to the elections.
UNMIT on 1 December signed a Police Supplemental Agreement with the Timor-Leste government. This provides the legal framework for UNMIT’s role in reforming, restructuring and rebuilding the national police of Timor-Leste (PNTL). On 7 December the Timor-Leste government asked the Secretary-General for reinforcements to UN police (UNPOL) in the run up to the elections, seeking specifically an additional company of Portugal’s Guarda Nacional Republicana.
On 30 October the Secretary-General appointed Atul Khare as his Special Representative in Timor-Leste to replace Sukehiro Hasegawa, who left at the end of September. Khare, who started work on 17 December, was the deputy special representative of the Secretary-General at the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) from May 2004 to May 2005.
In January, the chairman of the Commission of Truth and Friendship, which was created by the governments of Indonesia and Timor-Leste in May 2005, announced that the Commission was ready to commence the truth-seeking phase of its investigations. Seventy people suspected of human rights violations during the 1999 independence referendum events will be invited to share information from February to June 2007. These include former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie and current Timor-Leste President Xanana Gusmão. Council members and human rights organisations will watch this process with interest, but there will still be concerns that the Commission is unlikely to prove an effective mechanism for dealing with serious human rights violations.
The Timor-Leste parliament set up an ad hoc parliamentary committee to examine the recommendations of the Report of the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste issued on 17 October. So far, no public action has been taken. (This Commission was established by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights after the Timor-Leste government asked the Secretary-General to establish an independent mechanism to investigate the violence of April and May 2006.)
Renew UNMIT for six months but increase the maximum authorised strength to include an additional police company. This is the most likely outcome. Most members do not want major changes to the mandate but appear open to a small increase in UNPOL’s numbers.
Renew UNMIT for six months at existing strength. This is possible, but seems less likely.
Roll over UNMIT’s mandate for a short period to enable continuing discussions on changes to its size and mandate. This is possible if the Secretary-General’s report produces a wider discussion involving more fundamental changes to the mandate.
The main issue is whether there are additional elements of guidance the Council can give at this stage to help ensure that UNMIT is able to maintain public security before, during and after the elections. UNMIT’s security role is crucial given the ongoing fragile situation.
The timing of presidential and parliamentary elections is a related issue. The former will likely take place in April as the president’s five year term ends on 20 May. However, political parties want to hold the parliamentary elections in August. Some Council members are concerned that this could give peace-spoilers an opportunity to create trouble. This would also significantly extend the intensive period of UNMIT´s commitment beyond what was planned when the mission was established.
Another issue arises from concern about UNMIT’s slow progress in assisting the PNTL. While the recent Police Supplemental Agreement seems an encouraging development, little has been done on the comprehensive review of the security sector requested in resolution 1704. Screening for readmission of PNTL officers began in September 2006 and by last month, 250 officers had been screened. The process will need to accelerate to meet security needs during elections.
The fourth issue is whether to meet Timor-Leste’s request for another police unit. Council consent is needed to increase the maximum authorised strength of UNMIT. Differences between members could reopen the previously divisive debate about police numbers and UN command and control of forces.
As we flagged in our October 2006 Forecast report on Timor-Leste, pressure on troop and police generation for peacekeeping in other parts of the world is making it difficult to staff UNMIT. At the time of writing, only one-third of the political section was filled and the key position of Deputy Special Representative for Security Sector Support and Rule of Law was still being advertised. A full complement would be vital to ensure that UNMIT carries out its mandate in the coming months.
Council and Wider Dynamics
In the short-term, the Council seems agreed that the UN has a crucial role in ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections. It is possible that new members, including Indonesia, may produce different dynamics. However, Indonesia has built up a good relationship with the Timor-Leste leadership and is keen to see stable government. Indonesia’s past history in Timor-Leste is only likely to seriously impact Council dynamics if it becomes necessary to revisit the 1999 events. South Africa, not a member of the Core Group, is lead country on this issue but US, UK and France as Core Group members may also want to play a leading role. Non-Council members of the Core Group – Australia, Brazil, Japan, New Zealand, and Portugal – are likely to continue to be active behind the scenes.
Accountability for past serious crimes and human rights abuses remains a neglected area. While resolution 1704 on 25 August 2006 authorised international investigators through UNMIT, little action has been taken. Dili has been reluctant to use the Serious Crimes Unit set up under the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, preferring to focus on the bilateral Commission of Truth and Friendship.
In the past, there has been general agreement in the Council that the Timor-Leste government should be responsible for bringing to justice those involved in the unrest last year and events in 1999. But there has been little appetite to pressure Timor-Leste to act on issues of justice. Council members were sensitive to Dili’s claims that it first needed to build a healthy relationship with Indonesia. However, the renewed violence in 2006 led to some revision of thinking on justice and impunity issues. If little headway is made by way of the truth and friendship reconciliation process, the need for greater Council involvement to uphold the principle of accountability is likely to reappear.
While the overall security situation has improved since August, gang activity continues and there is increasing discontent among internally displaced Timorese in camps.
|Selected Security Council Resolution|
|Selected Secretary-General Reports|
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General|
|Atul Khare (India)|
|UNMIT: Size and Composition|
|25 August 2006 to present; mandate expires 25 February 2007|