United Nations missions in Timor-Leste (East Timor)
Since 1999, Australian Defence Force, Australian Federal Police and civilian personnel have been deployed to Timor-Leste (East Timor) in support of a series of UN missions to the territory.
While under Indonesian occupation from 1975 – 1999, Timor was listed as a non-self-governing territory with the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation. Australia was one of the few countries in the world, under successive Coalition and Labor governments, to give de jure recognition to the Indonesian takeover of the territory. Following the violence of 1999 and the INTERFET intervention, there has been a succession of UN missions in post-independence Timor – regular attempts to wind back UN involvement have been upset by an upsurge in conflict and ongoing problems in development and poverty alleviation.
The current UN operation in Timor, since August 2006, is the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). A key component of the mission is the deployment of a large UN Police (UNPOL) contingent.
The UN established the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to organise and conduct the popular consultation in order to ascertain whether the people of East Timor accepted or rejected a constitutional framework proposed by Indonesia. The ballot was originally scheduled for 8 August 1999 but eventually took place three weeks later on 30 August. Violence by pro-Indonesia militias and Indonesian military forces and the massacre of civilians in the lead up to and following the referendum led to the deployment of the multinational International Force for East Timor (INTERFET).
On 26 October 1999 the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) was established pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1272. INTERFET formally transferred its responsibilities under Resolution 1264 to UNTAET on 23 February 2000. UNTAET was given authority to “exercise all legislative and executive authority including the administration of justice”, and operated until the Government of Timor-Leste formally acceded to sovereignty in May 2002.
UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET)
“East Timor became an independent country on 20 May 2002, marking the end of a three-year process towards independence under the guidance of the United Nations. On that day, the Security Council established UNMISET to provide assistance to East Timor over a period of two years until all operational responsibilities were fully devolved to the East Timor authorities. Subsequently, the Council extended mission’s mandate for another year to permit the new nation, which had changed its name to Timor-Leste, to attain self-sufficiency. UNMISET successfully completed its mandate on 20 May 2005.”
UN Office in Timor Leste (UNOTIL)
After UNMISET, UN Security Council resolution 1599 endorsed ongoing peace-building and police training activities through the United Nations Office in Timor Leste (UNOTIL). UNOTIL was established on 20 May 2005 and was mandated for one year until 19 May 2006. Following the April / May 2006 crisis in Dili, UN Security Council resolution 1677 extended UNOTIL’s mandate for another month while a range of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal, deployed forces to re-establish order in the country.