Legal mandate: Timor-Leste

Legal mandate: Timor-Leste


Australian operations in Timor-Leste are based on UN Security Council resolutions that have mandated peacekeeping operations, but also a number of seperate agreements with the government of Timor-Leste and the UN mission in Dili (UNMIT).

The Government of Australia has also negotiated Status of Forces agreements and rules of engagement with the Government of Timor-Leste.

Inter-governmental agreements

Memorandum of Understanding between the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, the United Nations, and Australia on the provision of assistance to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, 26 January 2007

(1)      The Participants mutually determine to establish a Trilateral Coordination Forum which will serve as the mechanism for the Government of Timor-Leste, UNMIT and the ISF to discuss security issues relevant to the management and stabilization of the security environment in Timor-Leste, including security operations, and ensure full coordination between the Participants, through close consultation and information sharing.

United Nations

Request of Government of Timor-Leste to United Nations for police and military assistance, 24 May 2006

“In view of the deterioration of the internal security conditions in Timor-Leste and in order to establish measures of security and confidence among the populations so as to restore tranquillity throughout the national territory and promote a climate of dialogue among the various sectors of the society, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste has requested assistance from the governments of Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia in sending defence as well as security forces from their countries to Timor-Leste as a matter of urgency.”

UNMIT-RDTL Arrangement on Policing: 1 December 2006

Arrangement on the restoration and maintenance of public security in Timor-Leste and on assistance to the reform, restructuring and rebuilding of the Timorese National Police (PNTL) and the Ministry of Interior Supplemental to the Agreement between the United Nations and the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste on the Status of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

UN Security Council resolutions

The situation in Timor-Leste, Security Council resolution 1867 (2009), 26 February 2009.

The situation in Timor-Leste, Security Council resolution 1802 (2008), 25 February 2008.

The situation in Timor-Leste, Security Council Resolution 1745 (2007), 22 February 2007.

The situation in Timor Leste, Security Council resolution 1704 (2006), 25 August 2006.

Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (for the period from 9 August 2006 to 26 January 2007), United Nations S/2007/50, 1 February 2007

“41…I am pleased that, following extensive negotiations, the United Nations and Australia signed the military technical arrangement on 25 January in New York. Under this arrangement, Australia will provide two dedicated armed companies, with necessary support elements, to ensure adequate protection for United Nations premises and proterties as well as a rapid response capacity for the UNMIT police.”

Government sources

United Nations Security Council Resolution effect on Operation Astute, About Operation Astute, Department of Defence, Australia.

“Australia welcomes the extension of UNSCR 1704 passed in New York on the 22nd of February 2007. The resolution officially confirms the ongoing United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) support to the stabilisation process of Timor-Leste. The UN Security Council has agreed to an Australian-led international coalition to provide the military component for UNMIT.”

Update On Operation Astute, Media Briefing, ACM Angus Houston, Chief Defence Force, 26 May 2006.

“The three Timor-Leste leaders signed a document agreeing to the conditions of deployment, requested by the Australian Government. The mission of the Australian Defence Force at this time: is to assist the Government of Timor-Leste to facilitate evacuation of Australian and other approved foreign nationals as necessary; stabilise the security situation and facilitate the concentration of the various conflicting groups, back into safe and secure locations; and create a secure environment for the conduct of a successful dialogue to resolve the current crisis.”

Commentary and analysis

Timor Leste: Security Sector Reform, Asia Report No. 143, International Crisis Group, 17 January 2006, p.10

“The legal basis for international security sector intervention and assistance in Timor-Leste is a patchwork of bilateral agreements and UN resolutions. Security Council Resolution 1704 (25 August 2006) established UNMIT and gave it responsibility for peace and security and for assisting the Timorese government on security sector reform. The Supplemental agreement of 1 December 2006 between the UN and Dili defined the UN role on reforming, restructuring and rebuilding the police force. The Australian-led ISF gives additional help to the UN’s police and FPU units when required. Its status is defined by three documents: a 25 May 2006 exchange of letters between Timor-Leste and Australia, a Status of Forces Agreement concluded by the two governments the next day and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Timor-Leste, the UN and Australia, 26 January 2007.

“The MoU set up a trilateral mechanism to cover cooperation and information sharing at an operational level and discuss normalisation of the armed forces. It was to meet weekly, or when convened by the prime minister or requested by members. The reality is confusion between the roles of the UN police and FPUs and the ISF, demonstrated by debate over who has the legal authority to arrest rebel officer Alfredo Reinado.”

La’o Hamutuk Submission, Australian Senate Inquiry into Human Rights Mechanisms and the Asia-Pacific, Parliament of Australia, November 2008.

“Like the UN, ISF members are exempt from local laws and judicial systems. The ISF coordinates with the UN and Timor-Leste forces but does not come under UN command, nor under the UN systems of accountability which ensure that national forces operating in foreign countries must answer to an outside body. ISF personnel effectively have diplomatic immunity, both on and off duty….People cannot trust the ISF if it is responsible only to itself. It provides a bad example for Timorese soldiers that they do not need to follow the law or any justice system, that they can be secretive and unaccountable.”

The UNMIT mission in Timor-Leste: Military coordination with Australia, RDTL and others, August 2006 –, La’o Hamutuk.

Detailed account of the evolution of legal arrangements of military aspects of UNMIT and the International Security Force, with links to many documents.

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