Torture, Truth and Justice: The Case of Timor-Leste (Politics in Asia)

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The Supreme Court of Justice, constitutionally to be the highest court, is not yet established. The Penal Procedure Code is expansive in that it includes all rules for procedure as well as evidence and sentencing. It largely follows the Portuguese tradition. There is no death penalty in Timor-Leste, with the highest punishment being a term of 30 years in prison. Timor-Leste currently has no juvenile justice law.

Under the current law, any juvenile under 16 years of age is immune from criminal responsibility, and those are to fall within the juvenile justice system, which has not yet been established.

After 10 Years, CAVR Report Still Resonates in Timor-Leste and Around the World

There is a draft juvenile justice law to alleviate these issues; however, its passage is currently stalled. The Civil Code of Timor-Leste is expansive— encompassing family law matters, some property issues, contracts, and civil law generally. There is no English version available of the Civil Procedure Code, other than a draft law.

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The Timorese Parliament passed its Labor Law in , which governs both labor and employment law. The law provides, inter alia, significant maternity and paternity leave, a month bonus salary, mandatory paid vacation, sick and family leave, and many additional protections. It also establishes specific procedures for termination and winding-up as well as procedures and relief for cases of wrongful termination. In addition, it codifies laws regarding rights and procedures for unions. Implementation and awareness of the law remain slow to develop.

As a country heavily dependent on petroleum funds, Timor-Leste has enacted clear legislation on petroleum issues. It has also adopted a specific law regulating the use and reporting of petroleum dollars. Timor-Leste has developed a broad base of business regulations including efficient procedures for registering a business, though implementation remains slow to develop.

For more information on business law in Timor-Leste, click here. Elections and Political Parties. Independent only since , Timor-Leste has seen just two rounds of elections. Nonetheless, in that short history, it has established, and largely followed, modern election norms. The Timorese election laws are divided into: election of the Parliament; election of the President; finance; and political party law. The laws on elections have been amended several times, producing a large body of law.


The Constitution sets terms of five years for both the Parliament and the President, [20] with the President elected first and then calling for Parliamentary elections within a certain timeframe thereafter. These timeframes have been followed in both elections thus far. As a parliamentary system, the election laws govern party lists and financing. Therefore, specific laws focus more largely on party finance and actions rather than those of individual candidates. The STAE is responsible for the general running and procedures of elections— implementing voter registration, ballot collection, etc.

The CNE is responsible for the overall monitoring and enforcement of election laws. Complaints can be submitted to CNE, which hears and refers them to the courts as appropriate. Timor-Leste has passed legislation on tax and customs, but enforcement remains weak in both areas. The ministry responsible for implementation is the Ministry of Finance, which makes all laws and tax information available on its websit e.

Budgets are submitted annually by the Government to the Council of Ministers for approval by a majority vote. Following review, the Council of Ministers submits the proposed budget to the National Parliament around October each year. The Parliament then reassembles and conducts Parliamentary debate, including proposed amendments. The Government and Parliament make the state budget available here.

Moreover, Government procurement documents are to be made publicly available, though these systems are not yet completely enforced and functioning. The Ministry of Justice provides links and posts relevant information here. As with other legal documents, court decisions are often published and translated on local NGO websites. When working on or researching law in Timor-Leste, one must note that simply having a law on the books does not necessarily guarantee its enforcement.

Because a variety of actors have influenced writing and passing of legislation in Timor-Leste, and because of the numerous pressures for new states to adopt such legislation, Timor-Leste has a relatively broad set of legislation. However, most remains generally under-enforced due to lack of capacity, resources and political will. The two official languages of the country are Tetum, a local language spoken by the vast majority of the population, and Portuguese.

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Indonesian and English are also working languages of the civil service per the Constitution. Where there is a conflict in translation between the Tetum and Portuguese, the Portuguese version is controlling.

Timor Companion

Official hard copies are generally available before the online versions. Documents are largely in the official language, Portuguese, with some in the second official language, Tetum. However, due to the UN presence, much has been translated and published in English.

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In addition, the UN has kept a database of all legislation in English and Portuguese available online for legislation passed during its tenure from to , and some from previous eras. Moreover, various non-governmental organizations with a specific interest in an issue area will post, and often translate, that legislation on their various websites. The best way to keep up-to-date on these issues and postings is through the East Timor Action Network ETAN e-newsletter, which also posts some information on its website.

The libraries include:.

Legal Research in Timor-Leste - GlobaLex

Their catalogue generally incorporates Portuguese and Indonesian materials as there are currently no specific law books on Timor-Leste other than the legal codes. The Library is available to the public on weekdays and is staffed by a librarian. Older legislation such as Portuguese and Indonesian laws can be found here as well as here. Though no longer in effect, these may be relevant for determining rights reaching distant times as well as previous cases.

In addition, one would be encouraged to check Indonesian and Portuguese GlobaLex for additional information. Draft legislation is made available depending on the individual Ministry or office. Most Ministries will post draft legislation on their website for public comment from Parliament or relevant interest groups. The Ministry of Justice posts much of its draft legislation here. While not recently updated, proposed legislation in Parliament should be available here. Court decisions can be requested in hard copy, for a little or no cost, at the Court of Appeals office in Dili. The UN also posted selected court decisions until its departure in They are available here.

In addition, various non-governmental organizations work to provide information on decisions, including some translations when possible. It posts its summaries here ; however, all are available only in Tetum. Organizations working in specific fields often post legislation, including translations, relevant to their work. Fundasaun Mahein, which works on oversight of the police and security forces, produces reports and provides information online , including expenditure reports and policies.

Doutor Jorge Miranda, vol. While one should not rely solely on the books, which are intended for law students to understand legal concepts generally and therefore may not fully reflect the law in Timor-Leste, they do provide a good basis of knowledge and helpful references to relevant law.

In preparation. Introduction to Criminal Law in Timor-Leste. It is sometimes argued that amnesties can further the cause of peace.

Torture, Truth and Justice

For instance, Sierra Leone's International Truth and Reconciliation Commission said in respect of the Lome Peace Agreement that it was 'unable to declare that it considers amnesty too high a price to pay for the delivery of peace to Sierra Leone, under the circumstances that prevailed in July It is true that the Lome Agreement did not immediately return the country to peacetime.

Yet it provided the framework for a process that pacified the combatants and, five years later, has returned Sierra Leoneans to a context in which they need not fear daily violence and atrocity' But it must be understood that this amnesty was a temporary measure. Charles Taylor the individual so amnestied did not enjoy this amnesty as a right in perpetuity.

Rather, the state granted him a temporary privilege, and a subsequent government could revoke this privilege. His amnesty was a step on the road to justice, not a barrier to justice. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission granted an amnesty to those who applied for it, provided they told the whole truth and provided the amnesty was in respect of a political crime.