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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                            

Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Police officers and soldiers are regularly accused of excessive force and abuse of power, though the courts have had some success in prosecuting them.

Public perception of the police has improved in recent years, as have general feelings of security.

[Freedom House Country Report, 2018]

Description: Description: EastTimor

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Timor-Leste (East Timor).  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

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2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Timor Leste

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 18 July 2021]


The prison in Dili (Becora), the country’s largest, was grossly overcrowded. It had an estimated capacity of 290 inmates, but in October it held 540 adult and juvenile male and female convicts and pretrial detainees.

Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 12 May 2020]


Police officers and soldiers are regularly accused of excessive force and abuse of power, though the courts have had some success in prosecuting them. Public perception of the police has improved in recent years, as have general feelings of security.

Committee againt Torture considers report of Timor-Leste

Committee against Torture, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights OHCHR, 23 November 2017

[accessed 25 November 2017]

QUESTIONS BY COUNTRY CO-RAPPORTEURS - Turning to recent allegations of torture and ill-treatment, Ms. Gaer drew attention to dozens of reports of individuals in the Lalulai village in Bacau district suspected of supporting the rebel KRM group who had been arbitrarily arrested and tortured by the police to compel them to divulge information about the whereabouts of members of the group in 2014 and 2015. Ms. Gaer pointed out to the September 2017 case in Oecussi Special Administrative Region in which the police had publicly beaten, kicked and whipped a group of young men for suspected involvement in an illegal Martial Arts Group, which had been captured on video. Non-governmental organizations alleged that they had received many additional complaints of that kind involving the police. It seemed that very few, if any, of those alleged assaults had led to penalties being imposed. It appeared that the State party’s position was that the police and military were capable of addressing allegations of torture and ill-treatment on their own and that the involvement of prosecutorial authorities was not really necessary. That position was not consistent with Timor-Leste’s obligations under the Convention. What was the number of complaints of maltreatment received since 2014, and the number of investigations into alleged torture and ill-treatment that had been carried out since 2014? Had the State party carried out measures to ensure that impartial investigations were carried out into allegations of torture and ill-treatment? Had the Police Forensic and Criminal Investigations Unit carried out any investigations into torture and ill-treatment? What was the size of the unit and how powerful was it? Did it have the power to carry out investigations on its own initiative?

Torture and Mistreatment by Police

Human Rights Watch, Dili, April 21, 2006

[accessed 24 January 2013]

The 50-page report, “Tortured Beginnings: Police Violence and the Beginnings of Impunity in East Timor,” is based on dozens of interviews with witnesses and victims of police abuse in East Timor. It documents excessive force during arrests, torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the National Police of East Timor (PNTL). Several people interviewed had to be hospitalized because of the severity of their injuries.

“We were shocked to find so many credible accounts of torture and severe ill-treatment by police officers,” said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “East Timor won independence in part because of Indonesia’s horrific record here. Now some people are saying that the new police force is no better than the old one, and this should worry the government.”

One young man told Human Rights Watch what happened to him when he was arrested in his village, near the town of Maliana:

“I was arrested by the PNTL, and put in a cell for two days and two nights. I was continuously tortured, sprayed with pepper spray, beaten and drenched with water. They constantly threatened me, saying ‘if you oppose the police then you will know the consequence.’ Three police officers came into the cell, locked the door, took off their jackets, then hit me. They were all Maliana PNTL. They were the night guards, and were wearing PNTL uniforms. On the first night they beat me at around 1:00 a.m., on the second night they beat me around 3:00 a.m. Both nights were different people, but both times they were beating me.”

Police and other state institutions in East Timor also regularly fail to respond appropriately to incidents of police abuse. The main internal police oversight body, the Professional Ethics and Deontology Unit (PEDU), often fails to take cases of police abuse seriously, to follow up with complaints, or properly discipline the officers involved. Independent bodies that could take up cases of police abuse are ineffective and lack sufficient material or political support to succeed.

“East Timor’s leaders are ignoring police abuse when they should be taking urgent steps to end it,” said Adams.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015

Impunity persisted for crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations committed during the Indonesian occupation (1975-1999). Security forces were accused of human rights violations, including ill-treatment and excessive use of force.

POLICE AND SECURITY FORCES - Security forces faced allegations of ill-treatment and excessive use of force, sometimes leading to death. Accountability mechanisms for the police and military were weak. The UN Police presence ended in December.

IMPUNITY - Little progress was made in addressing crimes against humanity and other human rights violations committed by Indonesian security forces and their auxiliaries from 1975-1999. The mandate of the Serious Crimes Investigation Team ended in December, having failed to complete around 60 investigations into outstanding cases of serious human rights violations committed in 1999.

In December, the Dili District Court imprisoned three former Besi Merah Putih militia members for crimes against humanity committed in the context of the 1999 independence referendum. Miguel Soares and Salvador de Jesus were sentenced to nine and 16 years respectively for murder, while Faustino de Carvalho was sentenced to six years for forcible transfer of a population and the illegal detention of women and children.

The Timorese authorities failed to implement recommendations of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation and of the bilateral Indonesia-Timor-Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship. The recommendations included providing reparation to victims and their families, and taking effective measures to identify victims of enforced disappearance and children separated from their families.


For current articles:: Search Amnesty International Website

[accessed 31 December 2018]

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Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 24 January 2013]

[accessed 3 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices, and the government generally respected the prohibition against torture; however, there were incidents of cruel or degrading treatment by police officers. On January 7, members of the Border Patrol Unit (BPU) arrested an Indonesian citizen in the enclave of Oecusse for illegally crossing the border. BPU officers beat and kicked the man, and did not intervene when members of the community beat him and burned him with cigarettes. The case was investigated by the PNTL district commander and the results sent directly to the national police commissioner. No further action had been taken at year's end. In early March two men and one woman were arrested without warrant in Cailaco for allegedly providing food to former anti-independence militia members. PNTL officers reportedly punched and kicked the men and forced a pistol into one's mouth. No investigation has been opened for this case. In early June a man accused of assaulting the wife of a PNTL officer by pulling her hair was arrested without warrant and beaten and kicked until unconscious. He was then brought to the police station and beaten again. Following treatment at the hospital, one of the PNTL officers threatened that they would beat him to death if he took legal action against the officer who instigated the arrest. The PNTL investigation unit in Dili opened an investigation but suspended it, reportedly because members of parliament had begun an investigation. At year's end there were no known further developments in this case.

On July 26, the PNTL raided the Baucau offices of the Comite Popular de Defesa-Republica Democratica de Timor-Leste (CPD-RDTL), an organization that sometimes claimed to be the legitimate government and some of whose members were accused of criminal activity, and, according to credible reports, indiscriminately beat and detained members (see section 1.d.). The acting PNTL district commander said that only those persons who actively resisted the operation were briefly detained.

In November following a traffic incident involving a truck, the minister of interior and three of his bodyguards, who were members of the PNTL's Rapid Intervention Unit, pursued the truck and forced it to a stop. The truck driver escaped on foot, but the minister and two of the bodyguards kicked and beat two passengers in the truck. According to an eyewitness account, the minister hit one of the passengers in the back of the head with a rifle butt, reportedly fracturing his skull.

There was one reported case of illegal law enforcement activity by a member of the military. In mid-July a captain in the national defense force, Falintil-Forca Defesa Timor Leste (F-FDTL), and military police under him beat and detained for several days a man who had been involved in an alleged assault on the captain. The man filed a complaint with the police but by year's end no investigation was carried out.

The district court in Oecussi convicted a village chief of arbitrary arrest in the 2003 case in which a police officer reportedly participated in beating and burning with cigarettes a 16-year-old deaf and mute boy who had been accused of petty theft. There were no further developments regarding police involvement in the abuse.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Timor-Leste (East Timor)",, [accessed <date>]