Mark Dodd | July 24, 2007
A District Court judge in Dili has overturned a presidential decree offering amnesty to East Timor army rebel Major Alfredo Reinado.
The decision is a big embarassment to the UN mission in Dili whose mandate includes reforming the country’s notoriously weak justice sector.
Last month, acting under pressure from politicians, East Timor’s top law officer ordered the Australian military commander in Dili and his UN police counterpart to stop the hunt for Reinado.
The 39-year-old Australian-trained former military police commander is wanted for subversion and involvement in last year’s deadly political violence.
Prosecutor-General Longhuinos Monteiro’s June 27 letter raised concerns of double standards because former interior minister Rogerio Lobato, an Alkatiri loyalist, is currently in jail after being found guilty of illegally arming civilians during last year’s bloody mayhem.
Now a UN judge says Mr Monteiro’s decision was unconstitutional and criminal charges could result.
“Not only is the letter for safe passage by Reinado and his group invalid – it is clearly a crime to interfere with or otherwise seek to hinder the due execution of an outstanding warrant of arrest.
“Graver is the fact that the Prosecutor-General issued a letter to police and military authorities when he has no legal authority to do so,” said Judge Ivo Rosa.
Judge Rosa warned there was compelling evidence to launch a criminal investigation into the issuing of the amnesty decree first announced by President Jose Ramos Horta.
The lastest brouha over Reinado follows the failure of East Timor’s political leaders to agree on a new coalition government to lead the country.
Rival parties have until July 30 to decide who should lead a new coalition government although talks headed by President Horta last Thursday broke down.
Leaders of the Fretilin party, which won most votes in last month’s elections but not enought to rule in their own right met with an alliance headed by the new party of independence hero Xanana Gusmao, the National Coalition for the Reconstruction of East Timor.
Power sharing between the two parties was not an option with both groups split over who should become the next prime minister.