Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 08:28 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2008 - Timor-Leste

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2008
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2008 - Timor-Leste, 28 May 2008, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Head of State: José Manuel Ramos-Horta (replaced Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão)
Head of government: Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão (replaced Estanislau da Silva in August who replaced José Manuel Ramos-Horta in May)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 1.1 million
Life expectancy: 59.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 118/110 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 50.1 per cent

Although Presidential and Parliamentary elections were relatively fair and peaceful, sporadic violent protests and incidents erupted throughout the year. The police and judiciary remained weak institutions. The numbers of internally displaced people continued at high levels. Investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for the human rights violations in 2006 progressed, although impunity continued for violations committed under Indonesian occupation.


Timor's first Presidential elections since independence were held in April. They were described as relatively free and fair by observers. Parliamentary elections which followed in June left an unclear majority. The newly elected President, José Ramos-Horta, announced in August that former President Xanana Gusmão would be appointed Prime Minister.

In February, the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), whose mandate included the fostering of stability and supporting national elections, had its mission extended until early 2008.

Following the violent unrest of April/May 2006, which killed an estimated 38 people and displaced some 150,000 others, low level violence continued throughout 2007. In August, following the appointment of the new government, violent incidents erupted throughout the country leading to deaths and destruction of property.

Police and security forces

The programme to rebuild the national police force, including rigorous screening of all existing personnel, continued. By August, 1,200 police officers out of 3,000 had been given provisional certification.

Reports continued of human rights violations committed by police and military personnel, including cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force and fatal shootings.

Allegations of excessive use of force and cruel and degrading treatment by UNMIT police officers and international security forces were also reported.

Internally displaced people

Around 100,000 people remained internally displaced throughout the country as a result of the 2006 or 2007 events. They were in urgent need of adequate food and shelter as well as water and sanitation facilities.

Justice system – 2006 unrest

Investigations into criminal acts perpetrated by both military and police officers during the 2006 events made some progress and prosecutions were initiated. The law on truth and clemency measures adopted in June by Parliament was declared unconstitutional by the court of appeal in August. If promulgated, there were concerns that it could have undermined investigations and prosecutions of the 2006 events.

Former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri was cleared of suspected involvement in illegal activities in relation to the arming of civilian militia during the 2006 events.


UNMIT re-established the Serious Crimes Investigation Team to complete investigations into outstanding cases from the events surrounding the independence referendum of 1999 when serious human rights violations were committed. However the prosecution branch was not reinstated. Both the Timorese and Indonesian governments resisted further initiatives to bring to justice all perpetrators of the 1999 crimes.

The Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), established jointly by Indonesia and Timor-Leste to document crimes committed in Timor-Leste in 1999 and to promote reconciliation, began its investigations via public and closed hearing. In July, the UN Secretary-General instructed UN officials not to testify because the CTF could recommend amnesty for serious crimes. National and international observers expressed concerns about the CTF's treatment of victims during hearings, and possible biased weighting of the testimonies of military officials, militia members and bureaucrats over victims' testimonies.

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