August 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 July 2008
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Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General’s progress report on the activities of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) is due on 1 August 2008. It is possible the report will include recommendations on possible adjustments to the mandate and strength of UNMIT as requested in resolution 1802 but it is unlikely these recommendations will require implementation at this time.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, and Timorese Foreign Minister, Zacarias Albano da Costa, are expected to brief the Council on 19 August. A presidential statement or press statement is likely. The mandate of UNMIT expires on 26 February 2009.

Key Recent Developments
Significant underlying problems remain. An estimated 100,000 civilians (10 percent of the population) remain displaced as a result of the political and military crisis in 2006 and further violence in 2007 and 2008. Lack of confidence in the ability of the security forces to guarantee safety has obstructed the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Furthermore, many IDPs no longer have homes to return to. Others seem to have been attracted to IDP camps in Dili because of better living conditions there.

The government launched a National Recovery Strategy in December 2007 to deal with the humanitarian crisis. According to the Ministry of Social Solidarity, under this strategy, 3,200 IDP families have received a package for recovery or reintegration. A further 13,400 families have registered their desire for return or resettlement. As at 8 July, 17 IDP camps had reportedly been closed.

There seems to have been some improvement in law and order. However, the security situation remains fragile due to weaknesses in law and justice institutions, societal divisions, unemployment and poverty.

On 11 February, President José Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão were attacked in Dili by a group led by former military officer Alfredo Reinado. The desertion of 685 soldiers sacked after protesting discrimination sparked the 2006 violence. Reinado was one of the leaders of the deserting soldiers, and was wanted on murder charges related to the 2006 violence.

Reinado was killed in the 11 February attack on Ramos-Horta and Gusmão. Prior to this, he had been engaged with Ramos-Horta in a series of talks to address the deserting soldiers’ grievances. A breakdown in discussions on a possible amnesty is seen by observers as a possible explanation for the 11 February attacks. Ramos-Horta was airlifted to Australia for medical treatment, returning to Timor-Leste on 17 April.

On 11 February, the Council condemned the attacks, and urged the full cooperation of all parties in Timor-Leste to bring to justice those responsible. Timor-Leste’s Prosecutor General is leading the investigation which is yet to be completed. Rebel soldiers involved in the attacks surrendered to Timorese authorities in March and April. An additional four suspects have been extradited from Indonesia.

The security situation nonetheless remained relatively calm following the 11 February attacks. In early July, Gusmão said the problem of the petitioners had come to an end and they would return to their homes by the end of July. Out of a total of 685 petitioners, 605 reportedly have indicated a desire to remain civilians.

On 21 February, the Council held an open debate on Timor-Leste, which included a briefing by the Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno. Amongst the issues raised by members were the need for progress with security sector reform, institution-building, political reconciliation and accountability.

On 25 February, the Council renewed the mandate of UNMIT for another 12 months. It urged UNMIT to intensify its work in strengthening the security sector including the national police. The Council also welcomed the Secretary-General’s intention to send an expert mission to Timor-Leste to conduct an assessment of the requirements of the national police and possible adjustment to UNMIT police skill sets. It further requested the Secretary-General to develop a medium-term strategy for UNMIT with appropriate benchmarks.

The expert mission, led by United Nations Police Adviser Andrew Hughes, conducted its assessment from 17 to 27 March. The mission’s report noted that rebuilding the national police is a long-term undertaking requiring national ownership and continued international assistance for the foreseeable future. The report also says the national police face challenges with capacity and integrity, and are not in a position to fully implement their responsibilities.

The report also highlighted the challenges UNMIT faces in fulfilling two distinct mandated tasks, namely interim law enforcement and police reform, restructuring and rebuilding. According to the report, the mission faces problems of deployment, capacity, conflicting training standards, resources and limited timeframe for its mandate.

The report makes several recommendations for key players including the government, UNMIT and the international community. They include:

  • the development of a plan to reform, restructure and rebuild the national police, as well as the adoption of measures to increase police capacity and integrity;
  • a capacity assessment of the justice sector;
  • measures to improve the capacity and cohesion of UNMIT’s training and mentoring personnel; and
  • a timeline with benchmarks for UNMIT’s police certification and a review of its mentoring programme.

A further UN team visited Timor-Leste in May to begin implementation of the recommendations made in the report. In addition to the capacity and integrity problems, major issues include how best to improve the certification and mentoring programmes, and the adoption of a timeline and benchmarks for the phased handover of UNMIT policing responsibilities to Timorese police. (The planned phased drawdown of UN police personnel in the first half of 2008 had to be postponed because of the prevailing security situation.)

On 13 June, an agreement was signed between the government and the UN Development Programme on technical assistance and advice for a review of Timor-Leste’s security sector. The review will be finalised by early to mid-2009. An initial element of the review is a survey to ascertain public perceptions of security threats and the security sector.

It is expected that the review process will be conducted in parallel with the drafting of the national security policy framework. Since UNMIT’s establishment in August 2006, the issue has made painfully slow progress due to the change in government and the political sensitivity of the issue.

In May the Social Democratic Association of Timor (Associação Social-Democrata Timorense, or ASDT), a party in the governing coalition, signed an accord with opposition Frente Revolucionária de Timor-Leste Independente (Fretilin) to form a ruling coalition in a move to force early elections. Despite the agreement, all five of ASDT’s members of parliament seemingly remained supportive of the governing coalition.

The Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) formally completed its final report on 15 July. The report had not been released publicly at the time of writing. (Indonesia and Timor-Leste had agreed to establish the Commission in 2005 to investigate human rights violations in the lead-up and aftermath of the UN-administered referendum in Timor-Leste in 1999.)

According to media reports, CTF found that the Indonesian police, army and civilian government officials funded, armed and coordinated anti-independence militias, which carried out activities resulting in grave human rights violations, including crimes against humanity. The report said these Indonesian institutions all bear institutional responsibility for these crimes. It also accuses Timorese pro-independence groups of committing human rights violations, but on a smaller scale. The report did not name perpetrators. Significantly it did not recommend an amnesty. (Criticism had earlier been levied against the CTF because it seemed possible it would exclude any formal judicial mechanism to address crimes committed during the 1999 violence. Its terms of reference also allowed it to recommend amnesty for those involved in serious crimes.) In July 2007, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that UN officials would not testify at CTF proceedings unless the terms of reference were revised to exclude amnesty since the UN “cannot endorse or condone” such an outcome. This followed clear statements by the Council in resolutions 1704 and 1745 on the need for credible accountability mechanisms and the importance of justice issues.

Upon receiving the CTF report on 15 July, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and President Ramos-Horta issued a statement accepting the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Commission and committing to implementing the recommendations, which include reforms of judicial and security institutions, human rights training for security forces and training in conflict resolution and survivor healing programmes. They both expressed remorse for the violence. The Secretary-General on 15 July encouraged both governments to ensure full accountability, to end impunity and to provide reparations to victims. Ramos-Horta has said he will not push for an international tribunal. Human rights groups have called for identification and prosecution of those who committed crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste and support the Commission’s recommendation for Indonesia to comprehensively reform its armed forces.

Key Issues
The key issues for the Council regarding Timor-Leste include:

  • helping to ensure that the security situation remains calm;
  • making progress with security sector reform including the justice sector and the national police; and
  • addressing the accountability and victim-related issues in light of the CTF report.

A more technical issue is addressing the recommendations of the expert group on policing as well as questions surrounding the timing for the handover of UNMIT policing recommendations. A procedural question is whether these aspects can be addressed in sufficient depth in August or whether they will be left to a later stage.

Other issues include:

  • humanitarian concerns regarding the future of the remaining 100,000 IDPs;
  • support for the government in areas of institutional capacity building; and
  • how best to support a response to the root causes of instability (including poverty and unemployment).

One option for Council members is to simply hold a debate on the situation in Timor-Leste and UNMIT’s activities but leave action to a later stage. Alternatively the Council could adopt a statement:

  • reiterating concern with and support for progress with security sector reform;
  • reminding the Secretary-General of the Council’s interest in a medium-term strategy to measure and track progress;
  • noting the CTF report and the importance of the remaining issues and requesting the Secretary-General include analysis of recommendations of these issues in his future reports in light of resolutions 1704 and 1745;
  • encouraging key players to seriously consider the policing experts’ recommendations;
  • directing the Secretary-General to continue to address the problems raised in the experts’ report regarding UNMIT, while perhaps expressing support for the recommendations particularly regarding certification and mentoring programmes;
  • expressing support for a UNMIT police handover strategy with clear and sound benchmarks that bear in mind the ongoing problems within the Timorese police; and
  • reinforcing the importance of national ownership of donor programmes designed to strengthen state institutions in ensuring sustainability.

Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council voted unanimously in February for a 12-month extension of the UNMIT mandate. In the open debate, members highlighted the importance of security sector reform, accountability for previous crimes, resolving political divisions, strengthening weak institutions, and resolving the enduring issues of IDPs, poverty and unemployment.

There is continued support for the current UNMIT arrangements and a strong desire for progress in the implementation of its mandate, particularly with regards to security sector reform. Members of the Council and the Core Group have expressed support for the continuing transfer of policing authority from UNMIT police to the Timorese Police, providing benchmarks are met and substantial UNMIT police remain in a mentoring and support role.

On justice issues, there is wide sympathy for the need to balance both accountability and reconciliation, especially with respect to the 1999 violence. Some members of the Council and Core Group see UNMIT support for the Timorese Government’s implementation of the recommendations made in the Commission of Inquiry as the priority focus. On accountability for the 1999 independence-related violence, most appreciate the reasons for the bilateral approach taken by the Timorese government with the Indonesian government. But there also seems to be strong support, especially now that the CTF report is complete, for solutions compatible with international standards. It remains to be seen whether this will translate into any specific proposals for Council action or, more likely at this stage, appropriate language in a Council statement based on the Council’s earlier language (eg: in resolutions 1704 and 1745) on the importance of ongoing efforts to reach accountability and justice for the events of 1999.

Finally, given the relative stability in the last reporting period, there is a lingering concern from some members that pressure may emerge for a drawdown of UNMIT during the February 2009 mandate renewal.

Underlying Problems
Problems related to justice and accountability continue. Weaknesses in the law and justice sector have resulted in impunity at all levels. There is a considerable backlog of cases related to the crises in 1999 and 2006, as well as recent violence.

Serious questions have also been raised on whether the government struck an appropriate balance between reconciliation and accountability with the granting of pardons to 94 prisoners in May. These included several pro-Indonesia militia members implicated in the 1999 violence and former Minister of Interior Rogerio Tiago Lobato, accused of involvement in the illegal transfer of security forces’ weapons during the 2006 crisis.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1802 (25 February 2008) extended UNMIT until 26 February 2009.
  • S/RES/1745 (22 February 2007) renewed UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months.
  • S/RES/1704 (25 August 2006) established UNMIT.

Selected Security Council Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2008/5 (11 February 2008) was the statement condemning the attacks on Ramos-Horta and Gusmão.

Latest Report of the Secretary-General


  • S/2008/329 (16 May 2008) was the report of the expert mission on policing.
  • S/PV.5843 (21 February 2008) was the Council debate on Timor-Leste.
  • S/2007/711 (6 December 2007) was the report on the Security Council mission to Timor-Leste, 24 to 30 November 2007.
  • SG/SM/11101 (26 July 2007) was the statement regarding UN officials not testifying before the CTF.
  • S/2006/822 (2 October 2006) was the report of the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste.
  • S/2006/580 (26 July 2006) was the report of the Secretary-General on justice and reconciliation for Timor-Leste.

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 officers
  • Size as of 30 June 2008: 1,527 police and 31 observers
  • Civilian staff as of 29 February 2008: 332 international and 796 local
  • Key police contributors: Malaysia, Portugal, Bangladesh and Pakistan
  • Approved Budget (1 July 2008–30 June 2009): $173.44 million


25 August 2006 to present; mandate expires 26 February 2009

International Stabilisation Force

  • Size as of 1 July 2008: approximately 920 troops
  • Contributors: Australia (750 troops) and New Zealand (170 troops)

Useful Additional Source

International Crisis Group, Timor-Leste: Displacement Crisis, Asia Report no. 148, 31 March 2008

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