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Timorese General's Election Threats Undermine Democracy, Rule of Law

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) is concerned by military threats to kill people who disrupt the electoral process in Timor-Leste.

April 13, 2012 - PRLog -- The U.S.-based solidarity network condemns last week's public statement by Major General Lere Anan Timur, commander of Timor-Leste's military (F-FDTL), that "anyone who would carry out a crime they must accept the consequence of being jailed or if not jailed, will be put in the hospital or shot to death and their place will be in the cemetery."*  (see full article below).
The F-FDTL should not arbitrarily take on the role of the police, and this role should never include threats to take extrajudicial actions which violate fundamental human rights,

Police officials have made similar threats (see for example http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2012/02/23/komandu-pntl-haforsa-numeru-violensia/ ), and prominent politicians have called on the police not to hesitate to arrest people who use strong language.

While there have been a few worrying examples of violence against property during the Presidential campaign, police or soldiers should not summarily punish perceived lawbreakers. Everyone accused of a crime has a right to a fair trial.

After suffering 24 years of illegal Indonesian occupation, Timor-Leste is struggling to create a government and society based on the rule of law, which respects fundamental human rights. These rights, as guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, include the right not to "be arbitrarily deprived of his life." (Article 6) The Covenant also protects free expression (Article 19) and bars arbitrary punishment and detention without charge (Article 9).

Timor-Leste ratified the covenant and other key human rights treaties soon after independence in 2002. Timor-Leste's constitution establishes a "State based on the rule of law, the will of the people and the respect for the dignity of the human person" (Section 1) and integrates approved international conventions into domestic law (Section 9), as well as guaranteeing freedom of speech (Section 40).

Commander Lere's comments on election security were especially inappropriate because the internal security role of the military is limited.  Under Timor-Leste's constitution (Section 146), military forces are to defend against external threats or aggression, and are involved in domestic security only when the police request backup in an emergency or when the President has declared a state of siege or emergency.  

The F-FDTL should not arbitrarily take on the role of the police, and this role should never include threats to take extrajudicial actions which violate fundamental human rights, like those recently made by the F-FDTL commander.

Fundasaun Mahein recently wrote "There is currently no directive from the Ministry of Defence and Security outlining the function of the F-FDTL in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections."

The organization also urged Timor-Leste's security forces not to "take the law into their own hands by applying the system of shoot first, ask later." The military and police are supposed "to protect and serve the community and to uphold the rule of law."

ETAN was formed in 1991. ETAN will be monitoring Timor-Leste's upcoming Parliamentary election and has been present at every Timor election since the 1999 vote on independence. ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. See ETAN's web site: http://www.etan.org; Twitter: @etan009

* This quote in the article is translated from the original Tetum. As reported by the Independente newspaper, Lere said "Atu garante eleisaun la'o di'ak, atu dehan ba se de'it maka halo krimi nia tenki simu konsekuensia tama kumarka, ou selai baisa iha ospital ka tiru mate no nia fatin maka iha rate."


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ETAN is a U.S.-based grassroots organization working in solidarity with the peoples of East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN provides information about, and ways to help, East Timor (Timor-Leste), which was invaded and subjugated by U.S. ally Indonesia in 1975. East Timor chose independence in August 1999 and was soon destroyed by the Indonesian military. East Timor finally became independent on May 20, 2002. ETAN educates, organizes, and advocates for justice for historic and ongoing crimes against humanity, war crimes, and human rights violations in East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN supports democratic reconstruction of East Timor. ETAN supports restrictions on military assistance to Indonesia in order to support democracy and justice in both countries.

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Source:East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
Location:United States
Tags:Timor-leste, East Timor, Elections, Human Rights
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