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Civil society perspective on clemency in Timor Leste

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jsmp.jpgOn 23 April 2008, Timor Leste President of the Republic Jose Ramos Hortaannounced before members of parliament that he would pardon more than 80 convicted prisoners as part of the 20 May restoration of independence celebrations.

This statement caused much debate and divided opinion. Both positive and negative responses issued from a number of circles, including members of parliament, civil society, religious leaders, politicians, academics and the general public.

Civil society perspective on clemency in Timor Leste

Fierce debate arises over the appropriateness of  Timor Leste's President’s prerogative in issuing pardons and commutation of sentences, especially controversial ones like the proposed pardon of Rogerio Tiago Lobato, found guilty by court as the main authors of the 2006 Dili crisis.

The Ministry of Justice has refused to pardon Lobato, and offered another plan of pardon and remition to other prisoners. However, the President rejected the proposal and opted for a radical plan which is likely to benefit only Lobato and those sentenced for serious human rights abuses under the Special Panel for Serious Crimes.

Judicial System Monitoring Programme(JSMP), a human rights NGO based in Dili, and a member of FORUM-ASIA, argues that the need to promote the rule of law in this young democracy is more fundamental than the President’s view that this nation will benefit from setting aside the injustices of the past.

“Care must be taken to ensure this does not jeopardize efforts to ensure fair and consistent application of laws, wholesale adjustment of sentences involving a high proportion of the country’s prison population, by implication throws into doubt the validity of judicial arbitration,” said JSMP’s Director Timotio de Deus, in a statement issued on 10 June.

Further information regarding this issue please contact JSMP at [email protected]