Subject: E Timor police back on the beat

Wednesday, September 27, 2006. 6:59pm (AEST)

E Timor police back on the beat

East Timor's police force has begun returning to work in the capital Dili.

It is the first time this has happened since the city descended into violence earlier this year.

Twenty-five officers resumed duties this week under the command of United Nations (UN) police.

Up to 900 officers are expected to return to work after completing a six-week training and mentoring program run by the UN.

"The return to duty of these police in the capital is a crucial step in restoring Timorese public authority and ensuring law and order on the streets of Dili and the whole country," acting UN police commissioner Antero Lopes said in a statement.

East Timorese police were taken off-duty after the violence in April and May, which involved fighting between rival police and military factions.

The officers are participants in an ongoing screening process that began in early September and has seen some 900 Dili-based police register as a prerequisite for returning to work, the UN says.

The program is to be implemented outside the capital later.

Officers found to have had complaints lodged against them may be subject to investigation by the UN police and the prosecutor's office.

Cleared officers are eligible to begin a six-week training and mentoring program, comprised of a five-day intensive refresher course at the police academy followed by five weeks of on-the-job mentoring, the UN says.

Officers are not permitted to carry firearms during mentoring.

The East Timorese capital descended into chaos in May, when rival factions from the military and police waged bloody battles on the streets alongside youth gangs, leaving at least 21 people dead.

Some 3,200 international peacekeepers were deployed to the tiny half-island nation to restore calm, while the United Nations has extended its mission.


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