Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Human rights in Australia, Portugal and Timor

The taxi driver who took me from Landmark supermarket to my colleague’s home in Aitarak-laran, upon asking him how he was, told me that Timor was no good, but the Republican National Guard (Portugal's rapid response unit, currently deployed in Timor) were worse! This is not the first complaint I have heard from the Timorese about the heavy handed GNR.

Only two weeks ago I was flicking through Amnesty International’s (AI) state of the world’s human rights report for 2006. I decided to focus on those countries which were of interest to me including my own, Timor and Portugal.

As to be expected, AI’s criticism of Australia focused on our appalling treatment of asylum seekers and refugees; the continuing third world conditions that our indigenous people live in and their high homicide and incarceration rates; and counter-terrorism laws which potentially have negative impacts on human rights. I fully support AI’s criticism of my country of birth. It is shameful!

Timor was criticised for its weak justice system including allegations of police abuses such as arbitrary detention and ill-treatment, as well as a lack of judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers; also the ongoing lack of justice for victims of the 1999 independence referendum.

Portugal was criticised for its ill-treatment of suspects by police officers, the lack of law enforcement training in the use of force and firearms and the concerns this raises about the country’s failure to comply with international law and standards. At least three people were killed as a result of lethal force (two by the GNR), again raising long-standing concerns about the possible unnecessary or disproportionate use of force.

It seems a little crazy to me for the Timorese government to ask for men from a force in another country with human rights violations on its record to take over from a similarly criticised force within its own country! I certainly wouldn’t want Timor to ask Australia for immigration advisors (anyone that is from the current government or bureaucracy at DIMIA).

So is it any wonder that the Timorese have more faith in Australia’s security forces than its own or its former colonial masters?

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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