Friday, April 21, 2006

Torture in Timor-Leste

Six years ago, New Zealand was part of a multinational peacekeeping force in Timor-Leste. Part of our role there was to provide police, and to train the East Timorese police force so they could eventually take over. But now, according to Human Rights Watch, those police are torturing people:

The 50-page report, “Tortured Beginnings: Police Violence and the Beginnings of Impunity in East Timor,” is based on dozens of interviews with witnesses and victims of police abuse in East Timor. It documents excessive force during arrests, torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the National Police of East Timor (PNTL). Several people interviewed had to be hospitalized because of the severity of their injuries.

(Link added)

This is just depressing. After what Timor suffered under the Indonesians, you'd expect them to be solidly against torture and police impunity - not to start practicing it themselves.

Human Rights Watch is calling on Timor-Leste's government to take a solid stand against torture before it becomes institutionalised. They're also calling on donors to raise the matter in the strongest terms with the Timorese government, and to increase funding for human rights monitoring and police oversight. The New Zealand government should heed this call. We went to Timor in the first place to help protect the human rights of the Timorese from Indonesian-backed militias, and to help them build a new society after three decades of Indonesian oppression. We should be doing our best to ensure that that society protects human rights, and that it has the necessary resources to fulfil its constitutional and international obligations in this area, rather than simply drifting down the path to abuse and impunity.