Subject: AU: Escapee threat to E Timor elections

[The report quoted from below is the Secretary-General's report to Security Council. It is posted on the UN website at and was sent to this list in text form on Feb 5 (see ]

The Australian

Escapee threat to E Timor elections

Mark Dodd

February 08, 2007

THE failure to bring to justice East Timor rebel Major Alfredo Reinado and 55 fellow escapees posed a threat to presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled later this year.

Wanted for murder, Major Reinado, a central figure in last year's political violence, escaped from Dili's Becora prison last August with 56 other inmates and while he remained at large, he posed a risk to a free and fair election, a UN Security Council report warned this week.

The report, dated February 1, a copy of which was seen by The Australian, said several attempts involving the Government, led by Jose Ramos Horta, the UN and East Timor military had failed to convince Major Reinado to turn himself in.

The security situation in East Timor, notably the capital Dili, had improved since last August but remained fragile.

East Timor's judicial system attracted strong expressions of concern from the UN, in particular its limited capacity to deal with a growing number of serious cases.

"Increasingly, reports of intimidation of witnesses and the absence of mechanisms for witness protection are hampering prosecutions. These factors, coupled with a general lack of understanding among the population about judicial procedures have contributed to a growing perception that impunity is tolerated," the report said.

A criminal investigation against former prime minister Mari Alkatiri over allegations he was connected to the arming of a pro-government "hit squad" was dropped this week.

The deployment of an Australian-led peacekeeping force now backed by more than 1070 UN police has seen a fall in the number of violent incidents from a peak of 20-30 daily last August to about 10-15 between November and January.

A force of 800 Australian troops and 120 New Zealanders under national, not UN, command is providing security support to the UN mission and its police force.

Screening of East Timor's former police force has resulted in 200 officers being put back on the streets alongside their UN counterparts but the crime rate remains unenviably high.

Since the establishment of the UN Mission in East Timor last August, 295 criminal cases have been reported. They included 53 murders, 37 attempted murders, 26 serious assaults, 45 arson attempts, 10 rapes and two sexual assaults of minors.

In its latest travel advice for East Timor, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warns of a "volatile security situation" in which Australians may be specifically targeted.

"On the 19th of December (2006) we received a report indicating that Australians are at risk. You should exercise extreme caution," it said.

While daily incidents of violence appeared to be dropping off, the UN expressed "growing concern" at incidents in which firearms and hand grenades were used. "Rocks, machetes and iron darts continued to be the most commonly used weapons in such gang fights, in some cases causing deaths or serious injuries," the UN said.

Last November, the Dili Government informed the UN of its intention to "normalise" army operations.

The army currently numbers around 720 soldiers, mostly from the eastern part of the country. The Australian reported last week that a new law on conscription had been passed by parliament, paving the way for a fresh influx of recruits to boost the force to about 3000 men and women.

Back to February menu

December 2006 menu  
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu