Ambassador Judith Fergin
December 22, 2010
are writing regarding the dismissal of Mario Baretto and the subsequent
refusal of the US Embassy in Timor-Leste to meet with his union.
We understand that the embassy
will not meet with Mr Baretto's trade union, the General Workers Union
of Timor-Leste (SJTL), about the dismissal arguing that "as part of the
terms of his employment, Mr Baretto was/is not allowed to be a member of any
organized union and therefore we will not meet with any representative
acting on his behalf."
This position is contrary to international human rights law, and we urge you
to quickly meet with his union representatives as called for in the
Timor-Leste's Labor Code. If needed, we urge the Embassy to accept mediation
sbefore Timor-Leste's labor board to resolve the dispute about Mr. Baretto's
The right to form and to join trade unions is a fundamental human right,
included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The International
Labor Organization Convention on the Freedom of Association and Protection
of the Right to Organize, which Timor-Leste ratified on June 16 2009, also
protects the right to unionize.
The U.S. Department of State each year
publishes a report on human rights in countries around the world. The report
notes a number of the practical obstacles to the effective exercise of labor
rights, to which we would now add the U.S. government.
As you know, the U.S. Department of State each year publishes an annual
report on human rights in countries around the world.
The chapter on Timor-Leste in this year's report observes that "The
country has a labor code based on the International Labor Organization's
standards. The law permits workers to form and join worker organizations
without prior authorization." The report notes a number of the practical
obstacles to the effective exercise of labor rights, to which we would now
add the U.S. government.
The U.S. speaks regularly about the need to strengthen the rule of law in
Timor-Leste. It has funded a number of programs over the last decade aimed
at that goal. However, its words would carry more weight and its actions
more credibility, if the embassy were in compliance with Timor-Leste's labor
We urge the United States government and your embassy to honor its
obligations under national and international law by meeting with Mr.
Baretto's representatives and accepting mediation before Timor-Leste's labor
We look forward to your response.
John M. Miller
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
cc: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights,