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VI. Detailed Recommendations

Meaningful contribution to the long-term capacity of the PNTL will depend on related actions by the Timorese leadership, including…[a] clear commitment to respect for the professional and non-political nature of policing; encouragement to PNTL officers to adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct, based on internationally accepted values; and demonstrated readiness to take swift and decisive disciplinary action when required.
—U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
I think it is very correct to say that lack of speed and proper responses to PNTL violations or other activities remains the problem. I think it is important for us to provide tangible assistance for the institutions to be able to deal with these human rights violations.
—Special Representative to the Secretary-General Sukehiro Hasegawa134

Recommendations to the Government of East Timor

  • The minister of interior and the police commissioner must publicly reinforce that all use of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is illegal and will not be tolerated. They should publicly denounce use of torture, arbitrary detention, and excessive force.
  • The PNTL commissioner, with the support of the government, should issue clear guidelines for the use of force consistent with international legal standards, including the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and the U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
  • Police training must include best practice in police investigation, emphasizing how use of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, including during interrogation, is not only illegal but renders evidence inadmissible and is counterproductive. The training component must be designed to emphasize the prohibition on use of torture and other illegal activities. Training should also highlight the important role of independent monitoring—including by civil society—of police conduct.
  • The PNTL should take prompt and decisive action against police officers who torture, arbitrarily detain, or use excessive force against individuals. This should range from administrative measures, including dismissal, up to and including criminal prosecution where appropriate. Commanding officers who know or should know of such acts, and who fail to take action to prevent and punish them, should face similar sanctions.
  • The police commissioner should issue a directive to each district commander advising that he or she will be held personally responsible for ensuring that officers under his or her command comply with the existing disciplinary regulation and the Rules of Organization Procedures (ROPs). 
  • The minister of interior and the police commissioner should strengthen the police force’s Professional Ethics and Deontology Unit (PEDU) by providing strong support for the unit’s authority to enforce its decisions, including by penalizing officers who do not comply with its directives, by developing coordinated disciplinary and criminal investigation processes, and by providing adequate resources, including personnel.
  • The minister of interior and the police commissioner should support the PEDU to build the necessary capacity to manage effectively its caseload. Clear criteria for ranking the gravity of the offenses should be established, with the most serious human rights violations receiving priority.
  • The PEDU should ensure that disciplinary and criminal investigations are conducted in a fair and transparent manner, so that confidence in the process is engendered in the victims of police abuse, and police officers are assured that they will receive due process in the investigation of any allegations.
  • The ministry of the interior should take steps to enhance coordination between the internal and external oversight bodies, including ensuring that effective protocols for the bodies’ working together are drafted.
  • The power to dismiss a police officer should not be a political function of the minister of interior, but should be able to be exercised only after a police officer has been found responsible for a dismissable offense through an appropriate disciplinary process. Regulations should provide for an open and transparent disciplinary process.
  • Where a credible allegation has been made against a police officer, that officer  should be reassigned to appropriate non-operational or non-public duties or, in more serious cases, suspended during the course of investigation of the allegation and any disciplinary process arising.
  • The sanctions imposed on officers who are found guilty of offenses that do not lead to dismissal from the force should include mandatory retraining.
  • The PEDU and the Provedor should develop a system whereby the progress of an investigation is regularly reported to complainants, both in writing and in meetings. All final outcomes of investigations into complaints must be communicated to the original complainant.  
  • The government should undertake a public information campaign on the role and responsibilities of the various police oversight mechanisms including the PEDU and the Provedor’s Office. This should include distribution of written information and public information announcements.
  • The government should allow independent monitoring of detention facilities. Detainees should be permitted to meet privately with representatives of independent organizations conducting monitoring.

Recommendations to Donors and Others Providing Assistance to the Police

Given the critical role of the United Nations and of international donors, particularly the U.K. and Australia, in funding the police sector in East Timor, a serious effort to eradicate police violence will require a continued and active role on the part of the international community. To supplement existing efforts international donors should:

  • Raise with the government of East Timor in all official meetings, and at the highest level, concerns over police violence, including torture. Call on the East Timor government to ensure that police treatment of civilians conforms to international human rights standards.
  • Substantially increase support for effective human rights monitoring in East Timor through existing mechanisms, such as civil society. As an integral part of this strategy, provide assistance for the development of local human rights groups with the capacity for independent monitoring of police violence, and prison monitoring, and to agencies that can provide services for victims.
  • Continue and expand support for the police force’s Professional Ethics and Deontology Unit and the Provedor’s Office.
  • Evaluate the appropriateness and the effectiveness of past police training, use this information to inform future training, and monitor whether this training changes performance.
  • Initiate and support joint meetings between the East Timor government, NGOs, and the PNTL to coordinate, fund and plan for long-term strategies on capacity building, training, and other support to the PNTL.

[134] Human Rights Watch interview with UNMISET SRSG Sukehiro Hasegawa, Dili, May 27, 2005.

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