By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
DILI, East Timor – UN peacekeepers turned the other cheek as East Timorese police they were supposed to be mentoring allegedly beat up on a young man late last year.
The East Timorese police allegedly hit, kicked and repeatedly stomped on the young man near an official ceremony.
There is growing concern about the supervision and training that the UN Integrated Mission in East Timor is providing to local police. The UN mission is also supported by Australian Federal Police and Australian soldiers.
Officers of the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL) allegedly kicked the man in the head and hit him with a rifle butt.
A film of this incident was posted on the internet and handed over East Timorese authorities this month.
The sequence of events depicted in the film shows a young man, who was standing on a beach on Atauro Island and holding a sign relating to a local fishing group, being dragged away by PNTL officers, while UN police watch in the background.
No one has suggested that East Timor President, Jose Ramos Horta, who was holding a fishing competition on the Island, observed the incident.
After being dragged away, PNTL officers attempted to handcuff the youngman while two plainclothes officers stood on him, stomping on his back.
The video then shows the officers kicking the man in the head. Another plainclothes officer slammed the rifle-butt into his stomach.
While the beating was taken place, the video also shows uniformed UN officers looking on, just beyond the circle of PNTL officers.
According to Gyorgy Kakuk, a UN East Timor spokesperson, a joint investigation, and a separate criminal investigation, has been commenced by both the UN and the PNTL.
The spokesman also indicated that once it is established what happened and why, that there may be a separate investigation into the responsibility of police officers, other than PNTL.
“The investigation has to determine what has happened, why did it happen there and, as a result of that investigation, perhaps there will be an investigation established into responsibility of other police officers other than PNTL.”
Australian peacekeepers were not involved in the incident.
However, in a separate controversial incident, Australian soldiers allegedly ran over an East Timorese woman in early December. The soldiers, who were apparently unaware that the woman died as a result of head injuries from the incident, made no attempts to contact the victim’s family to express their regret or to offer compensation.
Since arriving in 2006, Australian troops, contrary to the UN’s system of accountability, are not under the command of the UN. The Timorese also believe that Australian soldiers should be placed under UN control.
The UN peacekeeping mission in East Timor became involved in rebuilding the police forces in East Timor, so that they would be capable of policing the country by 2010.
Meanwhile, the Special Representative for the Secretary-General of the UN, Ameerah Haq, has visited several East Timorese districts that are in the transition process.
She noted, “I am impressed by the level of organization and professionalism displayed by PNTL officers . . . as well as the continuing working relationship with UN police officers who now focus on monitoring and mentoring their PNTL colleagues.”
For more information please see:
The Australian – UN peacekeepers stood by East Timorese bash a young man – 29 January 2010
UN News Centre – New UN envoy assesses progress made by Timorese police force – 29 January 2010
Sydney Morning Herald – Left in lurch, says Timor family – 28 January 2010