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.