Timor-Leste: Stop Intimidation and Harassment of Human Rights Activists for Exercising their Rights
10 February 2016 6:30 pm
Dear Prime Minister H.E. Dr. Rui Maria de Araújo,
We, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), together with our 58 member organisations from 19 countries across Asia, condemn and express our grave concern over the intimidation and harassment of one of our members in Timor-Leste, HAK (Hukum, hak Asasi dan Keadilan) Association.
The HAK Association is a human rights organisation working for national policy formation, promoting and protecting human rights and people’s empowerment. As a key member of the Timor-Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal (ANTI), the HAK Association has repeatedly urged Timorese and Indonesian authorities to follow up on official recommendations regarding human rights abuses and enforced disappearance that occurred during the referendum prior to independence in 1999.
On 25 January 2016, members of the Timor-Leste’s Defence Force – FALINTIL Forcas Defesa Timor Leste (F-FDTL) – visited the office of the HAK Association in Dili. They asked questions regarding: a planned press conference of the ANTI in the office of the HAK Association; and a demonstration planned for the same date. The ANTI was planning to organise these events on the occasion of the Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s visit to Dili on 26 January.
On the morning of 26 January, the military and police, together with the intelligence agency, surrounded the venue of ANTI’s press conference. Around 13:45, two officers from F-FDTL visited the office of the HAK Association and asked Manuel Monteiro F. – Executive Director of the HAK Association – if they could use HAK’s office as a security base. Manuel Monteiro F. refused and they left the office. Then the F-FDTL set up a security post near the HAK Association’s office.
After a few hours, intelligence officers called a staff member of HAK Association – Adelio da Costa Fernandes – asking him to remove his t-shirt which had a printed message: ’Free West Papua’ on it. Immediately after this incident, the Special Police Brigade came to the HAK Association’s office and searched all people in the office without showing any legal permission or warrant. They also intimidated participants of the press conference and conducted searches on them.
We wish to express our deep concern about the actions taken by the authorities on the legitimate activities of human rights defenders (HRDs) and a peaceful protest in Timor-Leste. Exercising the right to freedom of speech as well as right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed under Sections 40 and 42 of the Constitution of Timor-Leste. These rights are also guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Timor-Leste is a State Party.
We remind the Government of Timor-Leste of their obligations to guarantee that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including intimidation and harassment, as stipulated in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. We further request the Government to take immediate actions to: prevent more harassment and intimidation of the HAK Association; provide protection to HRDs; and ensure their fundamental human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, are not violated any further.
Evelyn Balais Serrano
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Silverio Pinto Baptista
Estrada de Caicoli
The Office of the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice
F: +670 723 0177
FORUM-ASIA is a regional human rights group with 58 member organisations in 19 countries across Asia. FORUM-ASIA has offices in Bangkok, Jakarta, Geneva and Kathmandu. FORUM-ASIA addresses key areas of human rights violations in the region, including freedoms of expression, assembly and association, human rights defenders, and democratization.