Legislative and Justice Sector Reform is a key initiative for national development

Fri. 16 of September of 2016, 16:48h

The Legislative and Justice Sector Reform Commission’s (LRC) mission is to analyse existing laws in Timor-Leste and make them adequate to the needs of the country. The preparation of this important reform involves internal work, combining several institutions, and consulting entities from the justice sector of foreign countries, including Portugal and Australia, and civil society in general.

From September 12th to 19th, a team from the LRC visited Portugal to discuss, with prominent personalities that are very familiar with the legal system of that country, the solutions that were adopted on concrete issues of interest to Timor-Leste (to see the agenda of this initiative, click here). This is the second meeting of this kind with Portuguese specialists, and follows two similar initiatives with entities from the Northern Territory, in Australia.

The LRC was created by the current Government in August 2015, complying with the Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030 (SDP), which considers necessary" the coordination of all bodies within the justice sector, based on a common vision of what justice should be and how it should operate". The inauguration of its members took place in December 2015.

Since then, the Commission has been listening to all the institutions of the justice sector, Government, civil society and development partners, including: the Council for Justice Coordination, the Ministry of Justice, the courts, the Public Prosecutors Office, the Public Defender’s Office, the Scientific Police for Criminal Investigation, the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice, the Legal Training Centre, Timor-Leste bar associations and Non-Governmental Organizations. The great variety of themes and entities involved gives the LRC a fundamental guiding role, managing the competencies and autonomy of all of them in confrontation with various factors such as national cultures, Timor-Leste’s geographical integration in South-East Asia and the different concerns contained in the SDP, aiming to enhance national development. In practice, the Commission considers that the success of its work includes involving the greatest number of partner entities in authoring the legislative reform that is intended for Timor-Leste.

Updating the legal framework to reality and evolution is one of the key areas for the constitution of rule of law State and has been a national priority for Timor-Leste, ever since the Constitution was approved in 2002. It is highlighted in the SDP and implemented by the Sixth Constitutional Government, which proposed in its Program to "reform the justice sector and proceed with an in-depth study on the reform of laws, in its formal aspect, in the standardization and harmonization of legislation, as well as in the assessment of the need for intervention from Government or the National Parliament".

The strategic plan for legislative reform has been taking shape, as collaboration continues with various involved entities.

Thus, in conjunction with the Ministry of State Administration and with the General Directorate for Statistics, a data collection and analysis on traditional justice at the Suco level, is being carried out for its recognition and valuation, as stated in the Constitution of the Republic.

In collaboration with the Court of Appeal, the Prosecutors Office and the Ministry of Justice, there is an ongoing study on preparatory investigation and rules of criminal procedure. Under the management of the Minister of State, Coordinator of State Administration Affairs and Justice, an interministerial group was created to propose measures, policies and legislation to adapt the laws regulating commercial activities. Specific rules of criminal law (Penal Code and separate laws) in need of review are being identified, including the indication of the conduct that should be criminalised and the respective penal frameworks.

With only 14 years of existence as a sovereign and independent nation, Timor-Leste has been able to create its own laws, adopting basic law, which are essential for the functioning of a fair and effective justice system. "However, the legal framework in Timor-Leste is far from complete and needs to be further developed," states the SDP. The Plan also recognizes that the existing legislation needs to be harmonized and adjusted to the country’s current reality. The process of creating legislation, in Timor-Leste, maintains various influences from its recent troubled history, both from the Portuguese colonial administration and the Indonesian occupation. Added to these are also some rules created by UNTAET – United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, which had its administrative intervention between October 1999 and May 2002.

In addition to creating the conditions for the legislative reform, the Commission also wants to facilitate access to and understanding of the laws by the population. While waiting for the LRC Portal to be launched, its accounts within the social media are already functioning, namely: Facebook - Crlsj Timor-Leste; Linkedin - LRC Timor-Leste.