CIGI report urges UN to press issue of political interference in judicial system with Timor-Leste

News Release

January 13, 2011

Waterloo, Canada — January 13 — Political interference in the judicial system is a serious threat to the stability of Timor-Leste, warns a new report from The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

On the eve of a United Nations Security Council discussion on extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), the report calls on the UN and international community to dissuade Timor-Leste’s political leaders from intervening in the judicial system, such as pardoning criminals for political reasons.

“The pardon of 26 soldiers and police, some of the worst perpetrators of violence related to the 2006 crisis, sets a very dangerous precedent by eliminating in effect the threat of accountability for security sector actors in the future,” says Mark Harris, author of the final two installments of CIGI’s four-part series, Security Sector Reform Monitor: Timor-Leste. “The expectation of political intervention exacerbates the potential for the future politicization of security sector actors and wider conflict, particularly at a time of political upheaval such as elections.”   

Recounting the decision of President Ramos-Horta to pardon the crimes committed by security sector personnel for their involvement in a 2006 internal crisis, report No. 4 notes that such cases of political intervention significantly delegitimize the judiciary’s role and decisions, limit the development of genuine political accountability, and hinder institutional order.

Meanwhile, report No. 3 states public distrust for the judicial system is further reinforced by unequal access to the justice system and inefficient mechanisms, though initial developments are being made in this regard.

Over the years, transitional justice has been practised through several methods – from truth commissions to punitive justice – each of which has been explored and met with varying degrees of success by nation-states. Timor-Leste, with its own unique history, is consistent among this trend and remains significant to the international community.

The UN Security Council will discuss UNMIT towards the end of February 2011.

To access these reports and for more information, visit: or contact Geoff Burt at [email protected].

Kevin Dias, Communications Specialist, CIGI
Tel: 519.885.2444, ext. 238, Email: [email protected]

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, nonpartisan think tank on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM (Research In Motion), and collaborates with and gratefully acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. For more information, please visit

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