Timor-Leste: first batch of police return to work under UN mentoring scheme

27 September 2006

The first group of Timor Leste police has resumed work under a United Nations mentoring scheme after being relieved of duty earlier this year in violence that shook the small South East Asian nation, which the world body shepherded to independence from Indonesia just four years ago.

The first group of Timor Leste police has resumed work under a United Nations mentoring scheme after being relieved of duty earlier this year in violence that shook the small South East Asian nation, which the world body shepherded to independence from Indonesia just four years ago.

“The return to duty of these police in the capital is a crucial step in restoring Timorese public authority and ensuring law and order to the streets of Dili and the whole country,” Antero Lopes, Acting Police Commissioner for the new UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) said today.

The UN Security Council created the expanded Mission last month, citing ongoing threats to stability. The crisis, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, erupted in late April with the firing of 600 striking soldiers, a third of the armed forces. Ensuing violence claimed at least 37 lives and drove 155,000 people, 15 per cent of the total population, from their homes.

Eighteen of this first batch of 25 police officers are on general patrol duties, five have been assigned to the Dili detention centre, and the remaining two are working in the UN Police (UNPol) communications room, all in co-location with UNPol.

They are participating in an ongoing screening process that began in early September with a call to registration by the Ministry of Interior. Some 900 Dili-based police registered for screening, a prerequisite to returning to work. The programme is to be implemented in outlying districts later.

The screening is carried out by UNPol together with the Government, based on records from various offices including those of the Prosecutor and UNMIT’s human rights section. Any officer found to have had a complaint lodged against him is subject to UNPol investigation and/or criminal investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office.

If there are no complaints or the complaints are found to be invalid, the officer can begin the six-week training and mentoring programme that includes a five-day intensive refresher course at the Police Academy and five weeks of on-the-job mentoring. The officers are evaluated on a daily basis. No PNTL officer may carry firearms during mentoring.

UNMIT initially is to consist of a civilian component, including up to 1,608 police personnel and some 34 military liaison and staff officers.

 

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