October 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2009
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Timor-Leste

Expected Council Action
No Council decisions on Timor-Leste are expected in October, but the Council is likely to receive a briefing from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare.

At press time the Secretary-General’s progress report on the activities of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) was expected by 30 September. As requested in resolution 1867 (which in February extended UNMIT’s mandate until 26 February 2010), the report will update the Council on the transfer of policing responsibility from UNMIT to the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL). Khare may also brief on the village (suco) and sub-village (aldeia) elections for chiefs and councils due on 9 October.

Key Recent Developments
The 10th anniversary of the UN-organised referendum that led to Timor-Leste’s independence was marked on 30 August. In remarks to the press, the president of the Council said the Council commended the people and government of Timor-Leste on their efforts towards peace, stability and development. In Timor-Leste Khare said that “in the last 10 years, Timor-Leste had achieved significant progress in the areas of consolidation of the institutions of democracy, respect for human rights”. He noted the development of the police and the local military, but added that “the road ahead is still long.”

In a report released on 27 August, Amnesty International warned the Council that there was a need for a long-term comprehensive plan to end impunity for crimes in Timor-Leste. It proposed that an international criminal tribunal be set up with jurisdiction over all crimes committed in Timor-Leste between 1975 and 1999. There are 400 outstanding arrest warrants issued by the Serious Crimes Unit, originally set up within the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) in 1999.

Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta, speaking on the 10th anniversary of the referendum, rejected the idea of an international tribunal and said it was time for the UN to disband the Serious Crimes Unit.

The impunity issues were highlighted on 30 August with the release of Martenus Bere, who had been indicted in 2003 by the Serious Crimes Unit on charges of crimes against humanity, including the Suai church massacre in September 1999. Bere had been detained in Timor-Leste on 8 August. However, a top Indonesian official invited to participate in the 10th anniversary celebration refused to enter the country if Bere remained in custody. A spokesperson for the Secretary-General has said Bere’s release is contrary to resolution 1704, which set up UNMIT in 2006, and conflicted with the UN’s position of no amnesty or impunity for crimes against humanity. Timor-Leste’s Supreme Court is investigating the case to determine if Bere’s release violated the constitution.

The gradual resumption of policing responsibilities by the PNTL started in 14 May. It had been halted in 2008 due to the security situation following the dual assassination attempt against the country’s president and prime minister. So far the UN Police have transferred to the PNTL control of three of Timor-Leste’s 13 districts. In September the PNTL took over an UN-supported police training centre in Dili. The criteria that had to be fulfilled included: the PNTL being able to respond appropriately to the security environment; final certification of at least 80 percent of eligible officers; availability of initial operational logistical requirements; institutional stability; and mutual respect between the military and the national police.

Council activities in the first half of the year included an open debate of the Secretary-General’s report on 19 February, the renewal of UNMIT’s mandate on 26 February and a private meeting on 27 May with troop-contributing countries to discuss the updating of the concept of operations and rules of engagement for UNMIT.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 13 March the Secretary-General’s Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Walter Kalin, reported to the Human Rights Council on the situation in Timor-Leste (amongst other countries). Kalin commended the government for voluntarily closing the majority of the IDP camps established during the 2006 crisis. The return of IDPs from the Metinaro camp will bring more than 13,500 to the total number of families who have received recovery or reintegration packages under the National Recovery Strategy. This leaves 2,480 individuals remaining in transitional shelters.

Kalin identified a number of ongoing challenges: addressing the underlying causes of violence and displacement, redressing prevailing impunity, adopting a land and property law in order to resolve and prevent further land disputes and adjusting compensation packages to assist the most vulnerable, including those with no place of return.

The UN’s third human rights report on Timor-Leste, covering July 2008 through June 2009, was published on 15 September. The report said that Timor-Leste had made progress in key human rights areas such as the strengthening of the judicial system and adherence to the rule of law, but still had work to do in the area of accountability.

Key Issues
A key challenge for the Council is factoring the specific needs of Timor-Leste into its overall approach to peacekeeping, represented in its most recent review in an August presidential statement (S/PRST/2009/24).

A related issue is finding ways incorporate more peacebuilding elements into UNMIT’s work in light of paragraph 9 of that statement.

Recent history shows the risks in Timor-Leste of the Council and UNMIT being lulled into a sense of security. Ensuring that UNMIT retains an effective oversight function in the districts transferred to the PNTL may be a key issue.

Developments in the Bere case and the response to the Amnesty International proposal suggest that accountability for past human rights violations will continue to be a serious issue. Bere’s release to the Indonesian government may feed underlying discontent among some sectors of the Timor-Leste population about continuing impunity for crimes committed over the years.

Options
The most likely option is a general discussion in the Council of the situation in Timor-Leste, particularly progress in the handing over of policing responsibilities to the PNTL.

Possible options include:

  • initiating expert-level discussions on possible adjustments to UNMIT’s mandate and strength leading to the February 2010 expiry of the mandate;
  • requesting the Core Group to provide Council members with recommendations on how to better involve UNMIT in peacebuilding as well as peacekeeping; and
  • issuing a press statement emphasising the need to see concrete progress in developing a national security policy and reminding the Timor-Leste government of its pending accountability and justice obligations.

Council Dynamics
Timor-Leste struggles to get priority attention from most Council members. The apparently stable security situation again leads most members into feeling that things are moving in the right direction. In the last debate most members welcomed the benchmarks and the positive assessment of the overall situation.

Members are interested in Khare’s assessment of the transfer of policing responsibility to the PNTL in the three districts and the prospects for it to continue smoothly for the next ten. But members are not currently expecting any surprises from the report that would require them to make any immediate decisions.

Japan is the lead country on Timor-Leste.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1867 (26 February 2009) extended UNMIT until 26 February 2010.
  • S/RES/1704S/RES/1704 (25 August 2006) established UNMIT.

Latest Report of the Secretary-General

Other

  • S//PV.6086 (26 February 2009) was on the adoption of resolution 1867.
  • S/PV.6085 (19 February 2009) was the last Council debate on Timor-Leste.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Atul Khare (India)

Size, Composition and Cost

  • Maximum authorised strength: up to 1,748 police and 34 military officers
  • Size as of 31 July 2009: 1,582 police and 33 military liaison officers
  • Civilian staff as of 31 July 2009: 364 international and 880 local, 170 UN Volunteers
  • Key police contributors: Malaysia, Portugal, Bangladesh and Pakistan
  • Approved budget (1 July 2009–30 June 2010): $205.94 million

Duration

25 August 2006 to present; mandate expires 26 February 2010

International Stabilisation Force

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

Additional Useful Sources

Full forecast