Subject: Poor UN training blamed for East Timor police abuses

Also: The World Today - East Timor police accused of human rights abuse

Financial Times (UK)

Poor UN training blamed for East Timor police abuses

By Shawn Donnan in Jakarta

Published: April 20 2006 03:00 | Last updated: April 20 2006 03:00

Years of inadequate training by the United Nations have contributed to a pattern of abuses including torture and rape by East Timor's police that has become one of the nascent nation's "mostworrying human rightsproblems", according to a report.

The account, by New York-based Human Rights Watch, due to be released today, accuses the police of arbitrary detentions, beatings, torture and rape. It warns that without the intervention of international donors and the East Timorese government the police risk slipping into "an endemic culture of abuse and impunity". The allegations are the latest in a growing list of shortcomings attributed to the UN's nation-building exercise in East Timor, often held up by senior UN officials as a success story.

The World Bank warned last year that corruption was on the rise in the country and experts say its judiciary remains fragile. In recent weeks the government has also faced a crisis related to the dismissal of a third of its armed forces after they mutinied.

The new report is likely to raise additional questions about the UN's capacity to help even the smallest nations to emerge from conflicts - oil and gas-rich East Timor has a population of about 1m - and build the institutions they need.

A UN administration governed East Timor for almost three years following Indonesia's bloody September 1999 withdrawal from the territory, which left about 1,500 dead and much of the former Portuguese colony's infrastructure destroyed. It has maintained a significant presence since the country's official May 2002 independence.

East Timor's police force was formally established in 2001 with officers recruited and trained by the UN. International UN police advisers have continued to conduct training since then.

But Human Rights Watch says that training has been ineffective, largely as a result of UN shortcomings. A UN spokeswoman inDili, the East Timorese capital, could not be reachedfor comment yesterday.

The police sent to East Timor received little training and served in the country for six-month rotations. The mission, known as UNPOL, drew from a "wide range of countries, each with varying adherence to international standards on policing", said the report.

"I don't think UNPOL knew what they had to do when they were in charge," one UN staffer told its authors. "What we have now is the result of a lack of training."


ABC Online

The World Today - East Timor police accused of human rights abuse

[This is the print version of story]

The World Today - Thursday, 20 April , 2006 12:38:00

Reporter: Geoff Thompson

ELEANOR HALL: As the United Nations prepares for its final pull-out from East Timor next month, a human rights report has levelled allegations of torture and abuse against the local police.

Released just a few hours ago, the report by Human Rights Watch documents dozens of cases of abuse by prisoners in custody.

And the organisation's Asia Director, Brad Adams, has been telling our Indonesia Correspondent, Geoff Thompson, that East Timor is in danger of developing a culture of impunity for officials who commit abuses.

BRAD ADAMS: One of the saddest things weíve heard from a lot of East Timorese was that theyíre now comparing their police to the police under the Indonesians and they're comparing a colonial police force which was very brutal ≠ the atrocities are well documented ≠ with what theyíre facing now.

That may be because a lot of the people that used to work for the Indonesian police and have stayed on and learned very, you know, brutal methods of policing from the Indonesians, but I think that we expected that there would be greater political leadership, greater moral leadership and the effect of the international involvement would mean that there wouldnít be such wanton violence.

GEOFF THOMPSON: What sort of abuses are we seeing in East Timor at the hands of East Timorese police?

BRAD ADAMS: Well, one of the curious things is we didnít see a lot of torture to beat confessions out of people. We saw a lot of torture just to beat people. It seemed like it was punitive, that they were trying to punish people for crimes or in some cases they were just using their power to settle local scores.

Essentially, the abuse was not very high tech. It was physical, it was groups of police officers beating up individuals, kicking them, hitting them with sticks, punching them, you know, just meting out lots of brutality and then sort of leaving them, not providing medical care afterwards.

And itís not clear why this is happening. This seems to be violence for its own sake.

GEOFF THOMPSON: Is it perhaps true that any force which has the ability to inflict force on other people tend to abuse it, unless there are some checks and balances on the use of that force?

BRAD ADAMS: Absolutely. Thereís no major urban police force in the world that doesnít have problems with police brutality. The reason that itís less in some places is a good culture of policing, professionalism, but also the kind of restraints that you are alluding to ≠ internal oversight process, professional ethics process, an independent police review commission, the court system and an independent judiciary. I mean, all those things are very important and all those things are largely lacking in East Timor.

There have been some efforts to build up a professional ethics office in the police - thereís an ombudsperson, thereís a human rights officer in the Prime Ministerís office for example, but none of these institutions are strong and none of them really have the authority to take direct disciplinary action.

It really comes down right now to the Ministry of Interior, the national police chief, taking this very seriously while those institutions are being built up.

GEOFF THOMPSON: The United Nations is in the process of pulling out of East Timor for good. This is not a strong indication that it is a robust and fair-handed democracy going forward, is it?

BRAD ADAMS: Well, thereís a lot of worrying signs; the military is in crisis; thousands of soldiers have been on strike off and on and a lot of institutions are still very weak.

And I think the United Nations and donors need to stay engaged as long as possible, not to treat East Timor as a protector of a colony, but to really help it get on its feet.

It was a long period of degradation under the Indonesians and it takes a long time to build a society back up. You can knock it down much more quickly that you can build it.

And so we really hope that the Australians for example, stick it out, and other regional powers help them out.

It is not just a matter of having for instance, a little classroom course on police ethics and then ticking that box, itís the question of providing technical assistance, monitoring, pressure, political engagement ≠ all those things you have say for these problems to be improved.

ELEANOR HALL: And thatís the Asia Director of Human Rights Watch Brad Adams speaking to the ABCís Indonesia Correspondent Geoff Thompson.

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