Call to Re-Assess the Performance of the Special Police Unit (UEP) in Accordance with the PNTL’s Nature and Mission

Call to Re-Assess the Performance of the Special Police Unit (UEP) in Accordance with the PNTL’s Nature and Mission post thumbnail image

Call to Re-Assess the Performance of the Special Police Unit (UEP) in Accordance with the PNTL’s Nature and Mission

Press Release

The focus of this press release is to address recent actions by members of the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL), which have been the cause of public concern. The actions in question pertain to a PNTL member who shot and seriously wounded a member of FALINTIL – Defense Force of Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) on August 26th, 2016 in Ainaro, in addition to another serious incident that took place in Cova Lima recently, where a PNTL member shot dead a man who had a mental disease on August 3rd, 2016.

This report will focus on actions by members of the Batallion of Public Order (BOP) and the Special Police Unit (UEP), including the use of force and physical agression against common people, students, taxi drivers, medics, and journalists. Special attention will be given to confrontations between PNTL and F-FDTL members, in addition to sexual abuse involving members of BOP and UEP within the PNTL.

Why are members of these two units (BOP-UEP) always involved in such incidents and where do they take place? During the formation of some units inside the PNTL such as UEP, sub-units within the UEP began forming paramilitary groups with weapon capacities comparable to the F-FDTL. Because Timor-Leste’s constitution is written exclusively in Portuguese, and a majority of the members of the PNTL do not know Portuguese, the PNTL face significant barriers to legal access and comprehension. The PTNL would do well to ensure comprehensive observation and respect for their internally-developed police doctrine entitled VIP (Visibility, Involvement, and Professionalism).

As a specially designated police force within the PNTL, members of the BOP-UEP seem to fashion themselves as an elite party entitled to increased privilege. As a result, members of the special police forces believe that it is acceptable to achieve their enforcement objectives through fear and intimidation . Further, they have demonstrated a lack of respect for their privileges. We see clear examples of this in public, when members of the BOP-UEP drive through the streets at high rates of speed, with emergency sirens activated in non-emergency situations.

Internal accountability even for minor PNTL offenses remains limited. The structure and implementation of a disciplinary system lack the strength and rigour needed to ensure outcomes consistent with the law. Criminal offenses within the PNTL, though given a higher profile, are subjected to the same justice system and therefore reduce accountability. This lack of accountability permits a culture within the PNTL in which misconduct may not be perceived as serious, and its impacts on the public not considered. When cases do reach trail, the public is often unaware of their proceedings due to a lack of public access to current trail information.

This challenge has been passed on to the new leadership of the PNTL, who have been working in their positions for the last one and a half years. While the PNTL’s mission is to enforce the rule of law, it was not meant to do so by threat, assault, physical force, shooting or killing.

The PNTL leadership should take seriously the investigation and judicial processes necessary for an orderly and disciplined policing force. The imposition of officer suspensions must yield two tangible outcomes: First, any PNTL member who violates the law should be subjected to a judicial proceeding, accessible to all relevant victims. Second, there must be consistent application of the law and no special tolerance du to loyalties or favoritism. In the presence of a rigorous and consistent legal system of accountability, members of the PNTL will assume their service with responsibility, competence, honesty, loyalty, and professionalism.

FM believes that the implementation of such accountability will successfully enforce professionalism inside the police and military institutions. In turn, the public may place their trust in the security forces, which will serve as the foundation for justice and order across the nation.


1. The interim ministry and the PNTL general command need to re-assess the dislocation of the BOP of PNTL.
2. The commander must pursue rigorous and consistent enforcement of a mechanism of accountability for member misconduct.
3. Make revision for the training types by GNR, so that the training can reflect responsibilities of the BOP that have been set up on the (organic law PNTL/2009 article 26) with the formation of policing philosophy and the policing values of the PNTL (community policing).

For more details on this issue, please consult the following:


Nélson Belo
Executive Director of FM
Phone: +670 78316075 or 7756 1184

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