August 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 July 2007
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Expected Council Action
Later in August, the Council is due to receive a report from the Secretary-General with recommendations on the future of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). It is unclear whether Council members will want to address in August the issue of the mandate and size of the mission in the post-election period. Some preliminary thinking is nonetheless likely once members receive the report, especially in light of the situation in the country following the recent elections.

If the situation remains calm it seems likely that Council discussion will be left until September. A Secretariat briefing is likely. UNMIT’s mandate expires on 26 February 2008.

Key Recent Developments
The situation in Timor-Leste remains fragile. An estimated 100,000 (about 12 percent of the population) are internally displaced and continue to live in camps more than a year after the violence in April-May 2006. Emergency assistance activities of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) ceased in early July because of a shortage of funds.

In a largely peaceful second ballot in early May, José Ramos-Horta was elected president over Francisco Guterres (of the Frente Revolucionária do Timor-Leste Independente, or FRETILIN).

Violent clashes preceded the parliamentary elections held on 30 June. These clashes reportedly involved political supporters of the Congresso Nacional da Reconstrução de Timor (or CNRT, under the leadership of former President Xanana Gusmão) and FRETILIN (under the leadership of former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri). UNMIT police and Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) troops intervened to contain violence. In late July Australian Prime Minister John Howard visited Timor-Leste and was asked by the country’s president to keep the forces through 2008. Howard promised “not to turn our backs on the people of East Timor”.

The parliamentary elections were largely a contest between CNRT and FRETILIN, and Gusmão and Alkatiri in particular. FRETILIN won with a small margin of 29 percent of the vote against 23 percent for CNRT. The lack of a clear majority raised concerns over possible instability and the need for a coalition government. CNRT reportedly had preliminary support from most other opposition parties.

At press time, there were reports that FRETILIN had agreed to a coalition government with CNRT. It is still unclear what this will mean in terms of choosing the new prime minister or how cabinet posts will be divided among political parties. A decision is possible by the end of July, when the new parliament is inaugurated.

On 26 July, the spokesperson for the Secretary-General announced that because of the long standing position of the UN against amnesties for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or gross violations of human rights, UN officials will not testify at CTF proceedings or take any other steps that would support the work of the CTF.

Available options are:

  • an early presidential statement focussed on reinforcing the outcome of the elections;
  • postponing consideration of UNMIT’s future size and mandate until the new government is consolidated;
  • considering repatriation of some of UNMIT’s police, in particular the additional units for election security authorised in resolution 1745 in February;
  • emphasising critical areas such as the formation of the new government, the review of the security sector and the reconstitution of the police, perhaps by requesting a new Secretariat report in three months (after the expected August report, the next one is only due by mid-January); and
  • signalling that accountability issues remain critical to Timor-Leste’s future stability, and that any solution must be compatible with international standards, particularly regarding serious crimes.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council in the short term is ensuring that the security situation does not deteriorate as the new government is formed and starts to work. An underlying factor in that regard will be whether the political parties-particularly CNRT and FRETILIN-can reach a compromise and form a stable and coherent government.

An immediate issue is whether and when to consider changes to UNMIT’s size and mandate in the post-election period. This is likely to depend on the security situation and the potential for instability. Another factor is whether there will be any changes to ISF’s size and status, since the force provides a backstop to UNMIT and quick reaction capabilities.

A longer term question is when to address key aspects of UNMIT’s mandate, in particular:

  • reconstituting the Timorese police (by early June 1,200 out of about 3,200 had completed UNMIT’s preliminary screening process, and full reconstitution could take three to five years);
  • drafting the comprehensive review of the security sector, and the development compact for Timor-Leste as envisaged in resolution 1704 which created UNMIT in August 2006;
  • addressing shortfalls in UNMIT’s personnel, particularly investigators of serious crimes; and
  • balancing the interplay between reconciliation and accountability for the 1999 and April-May 2006 violence.

Council and Wider Dynamics
There seems to be wide sympathy in the Council for Timor-Leste especially considering the challenges the country faces and the uncertain political environment. 

Within the Council and the Core Group (Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Portugal, the UK and the US) this seems to have translated into support to continue the current UNMIT and ISF arrangements for the time being. There is a sense that much remains to be accomplished before a revision of current UNMIT levels is explored.

At press time, there were no signals of proposals to the contrary. However, positions are still being formed within the Council and the Core Group, and positions may change depending on developments on the ground, as well as the assessment and specific recommendations of the Secretary-General.

Underlying Problems
Important questions remain regarding the future of accountability issues relating to the violence surrounding the 1999 independence referendum and the riots in April-May 2006, including the lack of follow-up on some of the recommendations of the International Commission of Inquiry.

A Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) between Timor-Leste and Indonesia was established to prepare a truth-seeking report on the 1999 violence. This was the means by which both countries would “close the chapter” on crimes committed in East Timor in 1999 while preserving bilateral relations. The CTF was renewed in June and its final report is now due by February 2008. So far, the CTF has conducted three rounds of hearings.

However, the CTF has attracted considerable international criticism, including from the Secretary-General, regarding the parts of its terms of reference allowing it to recommend amnesty for those involved in human rights violations.  The Commission has also been criticised regarding the conduct of hearings in which individuals allegedly involved in the 1999 violence have offered new versions of events, sometimes blaming other actors, including the UN, without cross-examination or questioning in light of contrary evidence. It seems the UN has chosen not to participate in CTF hearings.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1745 (22 February 2007) extended UNMIT until 26 February 2008 and increased its size by up to 140 police personnel.
  • S/RES/1704 (25 August 2006) created UNMIT.
Selected Report of the Secretary-General
  • S/2007/50 (1 February 2007) was the latest Secretary-General’s report.
  • S/PRST/2007/14 (23 May 2007) was a Council presidential statement welcoming the conclusion of the presidential elections.
  • S/2006/822 (17 October 2006) was the International Commission of Inquiry report.

Historical Background

30 June 2007 

Parliamentary elections took place.

Mid- May 2007

Ramos-Horta was confirmed as the new president.

April-May 2007

Presidential elections took place in two ballots.

February 2007

The CTF began hearings on the 1999 violence.

25 August 2006

The Council created UNMIT.

April-May 2006

Riots mostly involving police, armed forces and gangs took place leaving 100,000 civilians displaced.

5 August 2005

The CTF began its work.

May 2005

The Commission of Experts conducted its fact-finding mission, the UN Serious Crimes Unit concluded its activities and the residual UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) was established.

December 2004

Timor-Leste and Indonesia decided to establish the CTF.

May 2002

The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) was brought to an end with Timor’s official independence. The residual UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) was established.

October 1999

The Indonesian parliament recognised the Timorese independence referendum. UNTAET was established.

September 1999

Anti-independence violence stepped up. The Council authorised the deployment of a multinational force.

August 1999

The referendum took place, showing 78 percent supported independence.

January 1999

Indonesia decided to carry out the referendum.

December 1975

Indonesia occupied East Timor.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General
  •  Atul Khare (India)
Size, Composition and Cost
  • Maximum authorised strength: up to 1,748 police and 34 military liaison and staff officers
  • Military component as of 30 June 2007: 1,626 police and 33 military observers
  • Civilian component as of 31 May 2007: 583 international and 907 local personnel
  • Key police contributors: Portugal, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh
  • Cost: 1 July 2007-30 June 2008: US$153.1 million (commitment authority for 25 August 2006 to 31 March 2007)
  •  25 August 2006 to present; mandate expires 26 February 2008
International Stabilisation Force
  • Size as of 14 May 2007: approximately 1,270 troops
  • Contributors: Australia (1,100 troops) and New Zealand (170 troops)

Useful Additional Sources
CTF Website:
Full forecast

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