UN Police, international force arrest 50 in Timor-Leste for gang fighting, crimes

UN Police, international force arrest 50 in Timor-Leste for gang fighting, crimes

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Continuing efforts to improve security in Timor-Leste, more than 100 United Nations Police officers, backed by troops from the International Security Forces (ISF), have arrested around 50 gang members from two neighbourhoods in the capital Dili, and confiscated homemade firearms, machetes, Molotov cocktails and other weapons, the top UN police official in the country said today.

Speaking at the same press conference in Dili, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General Finn Reske-Nielsen stressed the importance of restoring stability throughout the country, particularly ahead of this year’s planned elections in the tiny South-East Asian nation that the UN shepherded to independence from Indonesia in 2002.

Wednesday’s arrests were the latest moves by UN Police (UNPOL) and the ISF to help the authorities restore order in Timor-Leste, which continues to see sporadic gang violence and where last year deadly conflict – attributed in part to differences between eastern and western regions – led to the deaths of at least 37 people and forced about 155,000 people, or 15 per cent of the population, to flee their homes.

Yesterday afternoon 120 UNMIT (UN Mission in Timor) police officers, including Formed Police Units (FPU) backed up by 100 personnel from ISF conducted a large operation at Bairro Pité and Hudi-Laran in Dili, UN Police Commissioner Rodolfo Tor told the reporters, adding that 47 suspects were arrested and weapons were confiscated.

“Found in their possession were a large number of illegal weapons, including some homemade firearms and Molotov cocktails. The suspects are presently under UNMIT custody at the detention centre in Dili for the police to collect more evidence before taking them to court for appropriate measures,” he said.

Mr. Reske-Nielsen told the reporters that yesterday’s operation was an indication that the police are “stepping up” their efforts to stop the violence in the capital, adding that in light of this year’s planned polls it was a “major focus” of both the UN and the Government to ensure an adequate police presence throughout the country.

“I would like first of all to emphasize the importance of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections that it be free and fair and that it be conducted without violence and without intimidation and that the results be accepted by the vast majority of the Timorese people as being a true reflection of the will of the people,” he said.

“The United Nations through UNMIT and through other members of the UN family is providing a significant amount of support to the electoral process but it is important to bear in mind that the responsibility for conducting the elections rests with the Government of Timor-Leste.”

Mr. Reske-Nielsen also highlighted the latest report of the UN’s Independent Electoral Certification Team (ECT), which is made up of three electoral experts charged with overseeing and certifying that all aspects of the election process comply with international standards.

He said the team concluded that the electoral process is not yet proceeding in a “satisfactory manner,” and Mr. Reske-Nielsen urged the Timorese authorities to consider the recommendations from this report as well as from two others, relating to a wide range of polling issues, including the legal framework, voter registration and political campaigning.

The ECT was appointed by the Secretary-General in October 2006 and is independent of UNMIT. It is mandated to observe each phase of the electoral process and to verify the satisfactory conduct of each of those phases on the basis of benchmarks developed by the Team in consultation with the UN and Timorese electoral authorities.