Timor-Leste issues UN-backed human rights guide for armed forces

12 December 2008

A booklet that aims to build human rights awareness among the members of the armed forces of the young nation of Timor-Leste was released today and immediately welcomed by the United Nations mission in the country, known as UNMIT.

“This initiative by the Government is a sign of its commitment to human rights as expressed by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão,” the Chief of the Human Rights and Transitional Justice Section of UNMIT, Louis Gentile, said, pointing out that the Prime Minister has repeatedly stressed the importance of human rights as a key element to strengthen the professionalism of the armed forces.

Described by UNMIT as a user-friendly, portable guide for the forces’ 700 soldiers, the booklet was developed by the Ministry of Defense with the assistance of UNMIT and is available in Tetun, Portuguese and English.

It provides an introduction to basic human rights concepts and addresses such issues as the role of armed forces in a democratic state and accountability of individuals for their actions, UNMIT said.

The publication was formally presented to President José Ramos-Horta, in his capacity as Supreme Commander of the Defence Force, at the opening of the Security Sector Reform and Development Seminar held at the Presidents Palace, Lahane, Dili, today.

An UNMIT report in August said that Timor-Leste was making progress in key human rights areas, including adherence to the rule of law, strengthening the judicial system and addressing past violations.

However, the Mission expressed concern over an increase in the number of cases of ill-treatment by members of the security forces reported during the state of exception that followed the February assassination attempts against President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Gusmão.

 

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