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UN envoy in Timor-Leste welcomes ‘peaceful’ response to ex-Interior Minister’s trial

UN envoy in Timor-Leste welcomes ‘peaceful’ response to ex-Interior Minister’s trial

The United Nations envoy in Timor-Leste today welcomed the peaceful response by the population to the trial of former Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato and his co-defendants, who are being tried for allegedly arming civilians during the deadly violence that erupted last year, which led to the deaths of at least 37 people and forced 155,000 others from their homes.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Atul Khare, heads the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and he told reporters at a press conference in the capital Dili that UN Police (UNPOL) officers are providing security for the trial, which began on Tuesday, and also protection for both the witnesses and the accused.

“First and foremost, I would like to stress that I do not have any opinion on Mr. Lobato’s guilt or innocence. He has four charges against him and it will now be up to the judicial system – the Courts – of Timor-Leste to preside over the trial and to decide upon the outcome.”

“UNPOL… was requested to provide security for this trial around the courtroom and of course to provide protection for the witnesses, as well as the accused. We have of course provided the security support and also the protection for the witnesses and the accused,” Mr. Khare said.

“I am particularly delighted that the Timorese people have maintained calm and there has been no violence. I would like to take this occasion to underline that while of course every citizen has a right to an opinion… no citizen – here or in any other country – has the right to violence. The peaceful manner in which the trial is proceeding is a very encouraging sign.”

An Independent Special Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate the violence of April and May 2006, found among other things that both police and defence force weapons were distributed to civilians and that there was an absence of systematic control over weapons and ammunition within the security sector, particularly the police.

It found Mr. Lobato and General Commander Paulo Martins bypassed institutional procedures by transferring irregularly weapons within the institution. It also found that Mr. Lobato, Defence Minister Roque Rodrigues and Defence Force Chief Taur Matan Ruak acted without lawful authority, created a situation of significant potential danger and should be held accountable for illegal transfer of weapons.