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Executive interference in Timor-Leste's Judicial System

12 December 2014.  Updated 29 January 2015.

At the end of October 2014, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão persuaded Timor-Leste's Parliament and Council of Ministers that foreign personnel in Timor-Leste's judicial system were damaging the country's interest, and the two bodies passed resolutions immediately terminating eight of their contracts and directing them to leave the country. The ensuing events and reactions to this decision have created much controversy; many believe that they undermine Timor-Leste's Constitution.

La'o Hamutuk has not yet fully analyzed this issue or made a public statement. However, in order to help others understand it, we have collected a number of relevant documents and analyses below, with translations when available. We welcome additional commentary and information.

Document or articleDatePort.Eng.Tetum

Official documents

Letter from Prime Minister asking Parliament not to lift immunity of Government officials

22 OctXG  

Parliament Resolution 11/2014 calling for an audit of the justice sector

24 OctPNNP 

Government Resolution 29/2014 to audit the justice sector and terminate contracts of foreign judicial personnel

24 OctGovGov 

Letter from Chief Judge Guilhermino da Silva directing all judges to continue working

28 OctTR  

Government Resolution 32/2014 revoking work visas of named foreign judicial personnel

31 OctGovGov 
   Communiqué from Portuguese Superior Magistrates Council directing all 7 Portuguese judges working in Timor-Leste to return to Portugal4 Nov.CSM  

Commentary and Analysis

The Asia Foundation (TAF): Briefing Note on Parl. Res. 11/2014 and Gov. Res. 29/2014


Jose Luis Oliveira: Opiniaun Legal-Politika Kona-ba Rez. PN 11/2014

29 Oct  JLO

Susan Marx (TAF): Firing of Foreign Judges in Timor-Leste Threatens Justice System

29 Oct SMSM

Veterans' declaration: Judges in Dili District Court betray the people and endanger Timor-Leste's national interest

29 Oct  Vets

Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP): Parliament and Government must respect the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers


Michael Leach (E.Asia Forum): Concerns over judicial independence in Timor-Leste

31 Oct ML 

Gordon Peake (Lowy Inst): Foreign legal advisers and the state of Timor-Leste

3 Nov GP 

The Asia Foundation: Briefing Note on Gov. Res. 32/2014

4 Nov TAF 

JSMP: Government Resolution to deport judicial officers threatens judicial independence


ET Law and Justice Bulletin: Government continues the destruction of Constitutional Democracy

6 Nov ETLJB 

International Association of Judges resolution condemning the violation of separation of powers and judicial independence in Timor-Leste


JSMP: Letter from the Prime Minister represents political pressure on the National Parliament


JSMP: Visit of the Prime Minister to the Dili District Court could raise a range of questions


Report by Alistair Wyvill, Northern Territory Bar Association (with attached documents)

20 Nov AW 

Amnesty International: Victims’ rights and independence of judiciary threatened by arbitrary removal of judicial officers


UN Special Rapporteur urges Timor-Leste to reconsider dismissal of international judges and prosecutors

25 Nov SR 

Northern Territory Bar Assn: "expresses its concern"

26 Nov NTBA 
   Expert legal opinion on the legality of Parliament and Government ResolutionsDec. EXP 

JSMP: Parliamentary and Government Resolution continues to affect productivity and normal functioning at the Baucau District Court


Law Council of Australia: "deeply concerned"

4 Dec LCA 

JSMP: Dili District Court delays trial on infanticide case because the judge was removed by the Parliamentary and Government Resolution


ETAN: Statement on Rule of Law in Timor-Leste


JSMP analysis: Dismissal of international officials and advisors in the Timor-Leste judicial sector


American Bar Association: Judicial Independence in Timor-Leste

17 Dec ABA 

Government responses and explanations

Prime Minister Gusmão's televised explanation of why the judges were fired, on YouTube video. He discussed errors by the Public Prosecutor and by the Courts

4 Nov  



Pierre Prosper, Washington Times: Timor stands up, international elites say sit down

28 Nov PP 

Media articles (not including many in the Timorese and Portuguese media)

Reuters: East Timor kicks out judges over ConocoPhillips tax fight

5 Nov Reut 

Upstream: East Timor evicts judges over tax ruling

5 Nov Upstr 
   IRIN (UN OCHA): Timor-Leste's judicial lurch could worsen domestic violence trauma15 Dec IRIN 

Background documents

Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste


Independent Comprehensive Needs Assessment of Timor-Leste Justice System

Oct 2009 ICAN 

La'o Hamutuk web pages on
   Petroleum tax cases


   Bobby Boye fraud


   Maternus Bere case (2009)



The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La’o Hamutuk)
Institutu Timor-Leste ba Analiza no Monitor ba Dezenvolvimentu
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