UN human rights expert urges Timor-Leste to reconsider dismissal of international judges and prosecutors

Travel and Lifestyle Press Releases Thursday November 27, 2014 15:50
Bangkok--27 Nov--OHCHR

The UN Special Rapporteur on the independenceof judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, today warned that the audit of thejustice sector and the dismissal of all international judicial personnelannounced in Timor-Leste puts at risk the independence of the judiciary inthe country. Ms. Knaul indicated she had already raised the issue with theauthorities and urged them to reconsider their decision.

In two separate resolutions dated 24 October, the Timor-Leste Parliamentand Government called for an audit of the courts and the immediate contracttermination of all international judicial personnel and advisers working inthe justice sector. In another resolution dated 31 October, the Governmentsingled out eight international staff – five judges, two prosecutors andone adviser – and ordered them to leave the country within 48 hours.

“The resolutions represent a serious interference in the independence ofthe judiciary,” Ms. Knaul said. “I am troubled that the decision may havebeen taken in retaliation for court judgments which displeased members ofthe Government and the Parliament.”

The human rights expert stressed that the immediate dismissal ofinternational judicial personnel could undermine the proper administrationof justice in Timor-Leste, including access to justice and due processguarantees. “It may also have a chilling effect on national members of thejudiciary, affecting their independence,” she warned.

“The removal of international judges and prosecutors may in particulardisrupt the prosecution of serious and complex criminal cases as the roleof international personnel has so far been determinant in supporting theirnational colleagues in such cases,” the Special Rapporteur explained. “Thissituation may further result in the suspension of trials in cases ofcrimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed in 1999, as thelaw requires that the panels set up to consider these crimes comprise oftwo international judges,” she cautioned.

Ms. Knaul acknowledged that Timor-Leste has made great progress in buildingits judicial institutions over the past decade. She also highlighted theessential role played by international judicial personnel in this on-goingnational capacity-building process.

“The reduction of the number of international judges, prosecutors and otherlegal professionals is a legitimate path to follow; however, this should bea process implemented in full conformity with international human rightslaw and standards, as well as national laws and procedures,” the expert

underlined.

“I urge both Parliament and Government to reconsider their decisions andinitiate a dialogue with the relevant partners, including the UN, toaddress this serious situation and map an appropriate way forward incompliance with Timor-Leste’s international human rights obligations,” theSpecial Rapporteur concluded.

Check the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/IndependenceJudiciary.aspx
For more information and media requests please contact Amanda Flores (+41
22 917 91 86 / aflores@ohchr.org) or write to srindependencejl@ohchr.org

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