Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL)

Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL)


As Timor moved to independence in 2002, a national police force was created by the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET), to replace the Indonesian force that had operated during the occupation of Timor between 1975-1999.

In contrast with the Timorese army F-FDTL, whose senior officers had been FALINTIL resistance guerrillas, the only experienced police officers in Timor-Leste during and after UNTAET were those who had been part of the Indonesian police during the occupation.

Today, the police in Timor-Leste are known as the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL), and a major component of Australian and United Nations mission in Timor is training and strengthening the local police and military forces – with mixed success.

The PNTL faced a major crisis in May 2006, with conflict between armed gangs in Dili leading to complex clashes between the F-FDTL military and PNTL police services, and the death of nine PNTL members after an attack on their Dili headquarters. The PNTL came under criticism from local and international human rights groups following the 2006 clashes in Dili, with reports documenting excessive force during arrests, torture and ill-treatment of detainees.

Government sources

United Nations

The national police assume greater policing authority in Timor-Leste, UNMIT, 4 February 2008

The United Nations Police (UNPol) will begin today to progressively transfer authority to the National Police of Timor-Leste by giving the PNTL command of three police posts in Dili. They are Bairro Pite, Bidau and Mercado Lama…The decision to transfer these three posts to the PNTL has been based on number of criteria including that the posts are managed by fully certified PNTL officers and that adequate logistical support is provided to the PNTL for them to perform their duties.

“Over the longer term, the assumption of full PNTL authority will also depend upon the development of a cooperative relationship based on mutual respect and trust between the PNTL and the F-FDTL and demonstrated public confidence in the PNTL… “


Annual Report 2007-08, Australian Federal Police, p56

“The Timor-Leste Police Development Program (TLPDP) is a bi-lateral program that commenced in July 2004 to contribute to stability and develop the capacity of the PNTL. As at 30 June 2008, 13 advisors, one program support officer and eight locally engaged staff provide strategic guidance and technical advice to support the law enforcement capability of PNTL, the Office of the Secretary of State for Security, the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Office of the Commandant-General of the PNTL and the corporate, criminal investigation and training functions of the PNTL.

“In January 2008, the AFP deployed a Commander as an advisor to the Secretary of State for Security (Ministry of Defence and Security) on security sector reform. Negotiations have been completed with the Timor- Leste Government and United Nations to deliver an enhanced program of assistance over the next two years that will include the phased deployment of up to 80 Advisors to the TLPDP.

“Three criminal intelligence analysts also deployed in March 2008 to provide technical support to the criminal investigation under the lead of the Prosecutor-General for Timor-Leste. As of 30 June 2008, two criminal intelligence analysts remain with existing TLPDP Investigations Advisors working with the Prosecutor-General to support the conduct of this investigation.”

Commentary and analysis

Groups, gangs and armed violence in Timor-Leste, James Scambery, Small Arms Survey Issues Brief No.2, April 2009

Analysis of armed militias, gangs and alternative policing responses to armed violence in Timor.

Screening the PNTL back into Service, Lao Hamutuk Bulletin, vol. 8 no.2 June 2007.

As part of restoring public confidence in Timor-Leste’s public institutions after the 2006 crisis, a screening process is underway to evaluate every member of the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL). This process will decide whether each former PNTL member can return to police duty.”

UNMISET and Internal Security in East Timor, La’o Hamutuk Bulletin, vol. 4 no. 2 May 2003.

Background information in PNTL training under UNPOL including the shared Police Organizational Structure, analysis of issues faced under UNPOL and background on training

The Prime System: Measuring the Success of Post-Conflict Police Reform, Bajraktar, Y., Boutellis, A., Gunja, F., Harris, D., Kapsis, J., Kaye, E & Rhee, J, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, 3 January 2005, p.100 – 123, 143 – 147

Analysis of previous UNPOL missions role in training the PNTL

Tortured Beginnings – Police Violence and the Beginnings of Impunity in East Timor, Human Rights Watch, April 2006, vol. 18, no.2

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