Sunday, September 6, 2009

Who wants justice in Timor-Leste

Please note Timorese held a demonstration on Sunday at the Indonesian Embassy in Dili to object to the release of notorious militia leader Maternus Bere. Background and photos here.

via east-timor listserv

Date: Fri, 4 Sep 2009 17:56:46 +0900

Subject: Timorese people's views on justice

In his speech to the nation last Sunday, President of the Republic Jose Ramos-Horta said

"As the Nation knows, my position is clear and firm on this issue: as an East Timorese and Head of State, as someone who lost brothers and a sister, as someone who almost lost his life, as someone who have crisscrossed this beautiful island of ours in the past 10 years, and know what the vast majority of the people feel and demand today, I am saying let’s put the past behind. There will be no International Tribunal."

Although I am not Timorese, I have lived here for most of the last ten years, and listened to many Timorese people. During the last three days, I attended the National Congress of Victims Families, and heard people from every district crying out for justice and expressing their sadness and anger that their leaders have conceded the rule of law in the interests of diplomacy. My perception of Timorese views is different than that of the President, but of course most Timorese people don't enjoy the malae confidence and privilege that enables me to publicly disagree with the President.

Fortunately, there is empirical data which shows what Timorese people think about justice and impunity for serious crimes.

In 2008, The Asia Foundation conducted 1,120 interviews across Timor-Leste. Their recently published report, "Law and Justice in Timor-Leste: A Survey of Citizen Awareness and Attitudes Regarding Law and Justice 2008" is available from in both English and Tetum. Here's an excerpt, from pages 41-42, about justice and impunity (emphasis added):

Both the 2004 and 2008 surveys sought to better understand Timorese views on punishment and impunity for serious crimes, specifically cases in which an individual has committed murder. While the questions querying such were somewhat different between the two surveys, the overall results are largely the same: Timorese overwhelmingly believe that individuals who have committed murder should be punished without exception. In 2008, 90 percent of Timorese say that there are no instances in which an individual who has committed murder should be able to avoid punishment or paying compensation to the victims, while in 2004 91 percent said they believe a person who has committed murder should go to jail rather than providing compensation or doing both.
Question: "Suppose some person commits murder. Do you think that there are times when this person should be able to 'avoid punishment' or be free from 'compensating' the victim?"

Answer: No 90%, Yes, 'avoid punishment' 6%, Don't know/no response, 4%.

Charles Scheiner
La'o Hamutuk (The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis)
P.O. Box 340, Dili, Timor-Leste (East Timor)
Telephone: +670-3325013 or +670-734-0965 mobile
email: website: