Expected Council Action
No Council decisions on Timor-Leste are expected in October, but the Council is likely to have a debate and receive a briefing from Ameerah Haq, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste.
At press time the Secretary-General’s report was expected before the middle of October. The key area of interest is likely to be the Secretary-General’s assessment of the resumption of policing responsibilities by the local Timorese police, as well as what has been done to reconfigure UNMIT since its mandate renewal in February.
The Council may also want to review progress on the medium-term strategy and benchmarks for UNMIT’s priority areas (security and stability; rule of law and justice; governance and dialogue; and socioeconomic reform).
UNMIT’s mandate expires on 26 February 2011.
Key Recent Developments
In September the Timorese national police force (PNTL) resumed primary policing responsibilities in four districts—Alieu, Ermera, Liquica and Manufahi. In April the PNTL resumed responsibilities for Ainaro and Baucau districts. There are 13 districts that are to be handed over and by the end of September resumption of primary policing responsibilities by the PNTL had taken place in ten districts since the transfer of security functions began in May 2009. In September the PNTL also assumed responsibility for the administration and management of the Immigration Department, Border Patrol Unit and Interpol Office. The Police Training Centre, the Maritime Police Unit and the Police Intelligence Service had been handed over to the PNTL earlier. Delays are expected with the final three districts as some of the more difficult personnel cases from other districts had been moved into these three districts.
On 23 February the Council held an open debate on Timor-Leste, during which it was briefed by Haq and Deputy Prime Minister of Timor-Leste José Luís Guterres. Haq told Council members that although Timor-Leste had made remarkable progress since 2006, the country was still fragile and there were many socioeconomic challenges. Guterres spoke about Timor-Leste’s growth rate and the country’s strategic plan, as well as challenges, such as high unemployment, that would need international cooperation. Several members of the Core Group, including Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal also participated in the debate. (The Core Group on Timor-Leste was established in 1999 and is made up of Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, the UK and the US.)
On 26 February the Council adopted resolution 1912 extending the UN Mission in Timor-Leste’s (UNMIT) mandate for a year at current levels while endorsing the Secretary-General’s intention to reconfigure its police component in line with the phased resumption of policing responsibilities by the national police.
In line with the request in resolution 1912 for regular updating of the concept of operations and rules of engagement, on 4 June Council members held a private meeting with countries that contribute police and military liaisons to UNMIT. Atul Khare, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping (and the former Special Representative for the Secretary-General in Timor-Leste) and Ata Yenigun, the Mission Management Coordinator in the Civilian Police Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the meeting.
The UN Secretariat has plans to send a technical assessment mission to Timor-Leste at the end of the year or in early 2011 to review the draw-down of the police component.
The Timor-Leste parliament has before it legislation to create an institution to implement some of the recommendations from the Commission of Truth, Reception and Reconciliation report.
On 20 August, President of Timor-Leste José Ramos-Horta pardoned and commuted the sentences of 26 convicted persons who had been found guilty of the 2006 violence, as well as the attack on the Timor-Leste president and prime minister in February 2008. Some NGOs are concerned about how the pardons could affect the functioning and credibility of the legal system.
On 6 September Deputy Prime Minister Mário Carrascalão resigned following a public disagreement with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão whom he had accused of embezzling public funds.
Legislative reforms to harmonise national legislation with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) include adoption of land laws giving both women and men equal rights to use and own land obtained through matrimony and inheritance and changes to the criminal code to categorise domestic violence as a public crime. A candidate from Timor-Leste, Maria Pires, was also elected to the CEDAW Committee in June, marking the first victory for a nominated candidate from Timor-Leste in a UN election.
A key issue for the Council is the sustainability of the handover of responsibility to the local police. Haq suggested in February that the end of 2010 was a strong possibility for full transfer. This is now likely to be revised as three districts are unlikely to be ready for handover till 2011 at the earliest.
A connected issue is the presence in those districts of police personnel with dubious records and the implications of this for the certification process of the three remaining districts.
A key issue for the institutional development of the PNTL is how to speed up the recruitment of UN police who can train and advise the local police. Although resolution 1912 endorsed reconfiguring UNMIT to more accurately reflect current skill requirements, recruitment notices for officers with the relevant skills only went out in September.
An issue related to UNMIT’s mandate renewal in February 2011 is whether a Council mission to Timor-Leste may help Council members obtain quality information so that the Council can make an accurate assessment of UNMIT’s future.
Also an issue is the delay in dealing with justice and impunity issues and the impact of this on the development of an independent and trusted judiciary.
A related issue is whether Timorese law sufficiently guarantees that there will be no impunity for serious crimes. (Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have expressed concern about some aspects of the 2009 Penal Code.)
Also an issue of concern for the Council is how to contribute to building trust between the security forces and the people of Timor-Leste.
Other options include:
an initial discussion on UNMIT’s longer-term role including ways of incorporating peacebuilding tasks and addressing justice and impunity questions;
agreement that a technical assessment team should visit Timor-Leste later this year and report to the Council at least a month before UNMIT’s 26 February 2011 expiry date;
an analysis of the process of UNMIT police reconfiguration has been so slow following Council approval in February; and
agreement on a possible Council mission in late 2010 (perhaps by 4-5 Council members if there is resistance to a full Council visit).
A key underlying problem is the need for more progress in socioeconomic development efforts, particularly in the rural areas. A related problem is high youth unemployment, which is a problem for both economic development and a possible security risk.
Members are not expecting any new decisions on UNMIT in October. In February there was unanimous agreement to renew UNMIT’s mandate with no major changes. There was also a general sense of cautiousness towards the drawdown of UNMIT police and agreement that the resumption of policing should not be rushed. Most Council members are now waiting for an update from the Secretary-General before formulating their positions on UNMIT’s future.
During the February debate, a number of members, including Lebanon, Mexico and the US, voiced concern about the need to address impunity, build the justice sector and strengthen the rule of law and security sectors. Several members also showed awareness of the importance of addressing socioeconomic issues.
While countries such as Japan, the lead country for Timor-Leste in the Council, and Brazil are supportive of a Council visit to Timor-Leste this year, some others feel that there have been too many Council visits this year and appear less keen.
Selected Security Council Resolutions
Selected Meeting Records
Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission
Ameerah Haq (Bangladesh)
Size, Composition and Cost
25 August 2006 to present; mandate expires 26 February 2011..
International Stabilisation Force