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Timor-Leste: UN increases police patrols as former minister sentenced to jail

Timor-Leste: UN increases police patrols as former minister sentenced to jail

United Nations police officers in Timor-Leste and local colleagues increased their numbers on the streets of Dili, the capital, today in connection with the conviction of former interior minister Rogerio Lobato for arming civilians in the deadly violence that rocked the small South-East Asian country last year.

He was sentenced to seven and a half years imprisonment on four counts of manslaughter and use of firearms.

The area around the Court of Appeal and across Dili remained stable, but there were two attacks on warehouses in this morning, both brought under control by the Malaysian and Portuguese formed police units, the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) reported. There were no injuries and minimal looting.

In minor scattered incidents yesterday, rocks were thrown at the Bebor and Bebonuk warehouses in Dili, but UNPOL responded quickly to bring the situation under control and seven people in total were arrested. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Atul Khare has called on the people of Timor-Leste to maintain peace and calm and cooperate fully with the security authorities.

The Security Council created UNMIT in August to help restore order after deadly violence, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, broke out in April and May in the country that the UN shepherded to independence from Indonesia nearly five years ago. At least 37 people were killed and 155,000 others, 15 per cent of the population, forced to flee their homes.

An Independent Special Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate the violence, found 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 that 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.