The United Nations handed over formal control today of policing operations in the country's largest district of Viqueque to the police of Timor-Leste, part of an ongoing strategy to lessen the UN's direct control over the country's nascent security operations.
In his speech at the resumption ceremony, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste Atul Khare, alongside Timor Leste's Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres, highlighted the importance of police accountability to the Polícia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL).
“Achievement of final certification is an indicator but not a guarantee of proper behaviour in the future. The long-term accountability and integrity of the PNTL in the future will only be guaranteed through timely, effective and fair application of the penal code and PNTL disciplinary code,” Mr. Khare said.
He stressed the importance of the Government's recent commitment to take and support necessary instigative measures against PNTL officers accused of violations of the penal and police disciplinary codes, and to take appropriate punitive measures against those found in breach, no matter their rank and even if they have been certified.
“I am sure that this commitment will be welcomed by the vast majority of PNTL who everyday strive to live up to their oath of service – to strictly abide by the rule of law, to respect and protect human rights, to ensure the democratic order, and to serve in an impartial manner,” Mr. Khare added.
In 2006, the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) was sent to restore safety in Timor-Leste, when violence sparked by striking police officers led to the killings of dozens of people and drove 155,000, or 15 per cent of the total population, from their homes.
Viqueque is the fourth district in which the PNTL has resumed primary policing responsibility since the resumption process started in May 2009 in the district of Lautem. This process continued in the districts of Oecussi in June, Manatuto in July, and was followed by the transfer of responsibility for the administration and management of the Police Training Centre in September.
The decision for the PNTL in Viqueque to resume primary policing responsibility was based on the result of rigorous assessments on the preparedness of PNTL. The assessments were conducted by joint teams comprising representatives of the Government of Timor-Leste and UNMIT, including PNTL and the United Nations Police (UNPOL).
UNPOL will maintain their presence in the districts where the PNTL have resumed responsibility, in order to support, advise and to monitor the PNTL, in areas such as community policing and human rights protection.