etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer

ETAN Urges Respect for Right to Protest in Timor-Leste

Contact: John M. Miller, National Coordinator, +1/718-596-7668

July 10 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) is deeply disturbed by heavy-handed police actions -- including the use of tear gas and large numbers of arrests -- against nonviolent student demonstrators in Dili this week. We urge Timor-Leste authorities to fully respect the right of peaceful protest and to immediately release everyone arrested for peacefully expressing their views. Police procedures and training should be reviewed so that similar over-reactions do not take place in the future.

The right to assemble and peacefully-protest government policy is enshrined in Timor-Leste's constitution and in the human rights treaties that Timor-Leste ratified upon becoming independent. The struggle to achieve these rights, and their exercise by people around the world, were fundamental to Timor's independence struggle.

The police action appears to be based on the flawed law on demonstrations and assembly, which bars demonstrations in public places within 100 meters of official buildings and other listed locations. The main building of the National University of Timor-Leste is directly across the street from the National Parliament, less than 100m away.

When the demonstration and assembly law was drafted in 2005, many argued that the distance limit (originally set at 500 m) was an arbitrary, excessive limitation on the Constitutional right to free speech. The 100-meter limit in the law must be removed. In the meantime, the right of students to peacefully assemble on their campus must be respected.

The actions of the police raise questions about whether the international training instituted after the 2006 crisis has increased the PNTL's understanding of its role in protecting human rights or how to respect them?

The government of Timor-Leste has a constitutional and international legal obligation to protect freedom of expression, not limit it. The government and the PNTL must carry out this obligation whether or not they agree with what is being expressed.

ETAN is concerned that the focus of the student demonstrations -- a 122% increase in government expenditures as a mid-year “budget adjustment” -- has serious implications which have not been debated widely in Timor-Leste. We support the students in bringing this issue to public attention, and encourage all East Timorese and others concerned about the country to be vigilant in helping Timor-Leste avoid falling into the “resource curse” that engulfs nearly all low-income, petroleum-dependent countries.

ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste (East Timor) and Indonesia. For more information, see


see also


ETAN Cause on Facebook
ETAN Group on Facebook

Twitter ETAN on Twitter
ETAN Blog ETAN's Blog

ETAN listservs

Subscribe to
ETAN's e-mail Listservs




make a pledge via credit card here

Bookmark and Share

Background | Take Action | News | Links | What You Can Do | Resources  | Contact

ETAN Store | Estafeta | ImagesHome | Timor Postings | Search | Site Index |