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Judicial Reform Commission not making good progress

Dili Weekly - October 28, 2016

Venidora Oliveira – The Judicial Reform Commission has been criticized for working too slowly and failing to make any significant progress.

The commission was established last year by Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo to assess the justice sector and identify any problems and weaknesses in the system.

National MP Arao Noe said there were a number of local and international experts in Timor currently working in the commission.

However, according to his observations, the evaluation being done by the commission was going too slowly and its mandate was unclear. He said the commission should also draft guidelines for improving the judicial system in Timor while they are doing their evaluation.

However, Noe expressed doubt the commission would make any progress by the time its mandate ends next year. "I believe that they will not make [progress] because their term of office is only one year," he said.

Therefore, he said in a short time the National Parliament planned to make a legislation proposal to assess the justice sector without waiting for the commission to complete its evaluation.

Meanwhile, Director of the Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP) Luis Oliveira Sampaio said he was aware of the commission's existence, but had no knowledge about its progress.

"At the last meeting with the donors at the Government palace, we had the chance to hear about the commission's role, but now I have no idea about its continuation because we didn't have another meeting," said Sampaio.

He also recommended the Judicial Reform Commission create specific legislation on incest because offenders are currently charged under different laws depending on the circumstances of the crime.

For example, in trials involving children offenders are charged under article 177 of the penal code on sexual abuse of minors. However, if the crime involves adults then the accused is charged under article 172.

JSMP has identified a number of weaknesses in article 172, particularly in regards to limited protection because in cases involving children under 14 the court does not require specific evidence of guilt.

However, when the case involves adults, the court requires three facts to be presented, including evidence the victim resisted, shouted and felt threatened by the suspect. If this evidence is not presented then the court will consider it consensual.

"We need to establish a specific law for incest cases to break the barriers. The crime involves family relations: father and daughter, uncle and niece, if it happens then the case should go to trial and a sentence given," he said.

JSMP is also calling on the government to establish guidelines for interpreting the immunity granted to MPs and members of the government, including the implementation of witness protection law.

In response to the issue, the Minister of Justice Ivo Valente said the commission's work was still in progress. "They are making reforms in various areas: doing research and coordinating with state institutions, synchronizing the laws and many other things," he said.

However, to assess the commission's progress, he said it depended on when the commission published its findings.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/security-defencejustice/14132-judicial-reform-commission-not-making-good-progress