Fundasaun Mahein (FM) was recently made aware of two separate incidences of police brutality in Dili. On June 4th 2012, a young man was beaten up by a group of three PNTL officers opposite Palacio Governo during the live transmission of a euro cup game. Their motives were unclear and the young man was arrested and claimed to be beaten again at the police station. He claims their attack was unwarranted.
The second incident took place on June 16th 2012 in Comoro when a man, suffering from mental illness, was attacked by a group of several PNTL officers. Both incidences involved officers from the PNTL Public Order Battalion (BOP).
These two recent cases add to at least two other recent confirmed instances of police brutality. In late 2011, FM reported on the brutal arrest of a man completely naked in Kuluhun once again suffering from mental illness. Additionally, in the summer of 2010, Diario Newspaper, reported that PNTL officers attacked one of their journalists and destroyed his camera outside Palacio Governo, during the broadcast of a world cup game.
FM is in no doubt that countless other similar occurrences of police brutality go unreported, but these latest two reports show us that despite continual funding and training directed towards the PNTL, police brutality remains a continual problem.
The PNTL at times act like ‘town bandits’, with excessive use of force and abuse of power becoming a far too regular occurrence. Should an individual be breaking the law, the role of a PNTL officer, is to arrest that person, and bring them to justice. The Organic Law of the PNTL with regards to the permitted use of force states the following:
1. In cases of disturbances of public order and tranquillity and where other means reveal themselves to be insufficient to oppose illegitimate resistance against PNTL members, the latter shall be authorised to use force in the exercise of their functions, pursuant to the law.
2. Force may only be used in self-defence or in defence of third parties, to repel an actual and unlawful aggression against the physical integrity of PNTL members or other citizens.
The law goes on to state that the force to be used shall always be the minimum deemed necessary for re-establishing legitimate order and has to be proportional to the threat. Furthermore, the PNTL shall not impose restrictions or use coercive means beyond those that are strictly necessary.
FM calls on all the relevant bodies, notably the Provedor for Human Rights & Justice (PDHJ), the PNTL Justice Department, Criminal Investigation Unit and Disciplinary Department as well as Parliamentary Committee B, to double their efforts in enforcing the laws relating to police use of force and to ensure that PNTL crimes are duly processed in a transparent and accountable manner.
Lastly FM would like to make one recommendation to the above-mentioned actors, to set-up a free hotline, which people can contact should they wish to report or enquire about cases of police brutality. This body would have to be independent from the PNTL, so people can feel safe and comfortable to report police crimes, and it would have the competency to follow up these reports and inform the public about them.