BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home    July news

"In granting the appeal, the court is sending out a message that appears to condone domestic violence, which is known to be fairly widespread in East Timor. Such practices should be firmly condemned, not tolerated. ... TAPOL believes that this case also raises questions about the independence and impartiality of the presiding judges and in particular the question as to whether their decision was influenced by Dr Lobo’s prominent position in East Timorese society." TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign
See also:

BD: East Timorese Women's Issues - A collection of recent information, petitions, articles and news  [section on Domestic Violence]
BD: Calls for International War Crimes Tribunal - A collection of recent reports, articles and news  [section on East Timor's Judicial System]

TAPOL Press release

DILI COURT FLOUTS WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN RELEASING PROMINENT SURGEON FROM PRISON

29 July 2001 - TAPOL today expressed dismay at a controversial decision on Wednesday by the Dili District Court to release Dr Sergio Lobo - a surgeon at the Dili Hospital and candidate in the forthcoming constituent assembly elections on 30 August - from detention in Becora prison and to place him under house detention until his forthcoming trial, while allowing him to go to the hospital each day to practise as usual.

Dr Lobo is facing charges relating to serious assaults on his wife and a local nun, but one of the reasons for his release was that the ‘cultural situation of East Timor allows a man to control the actions of his wife’.  The Court was apparently concerned that Dr Lobo’s wife had taken a job in a hotel without his consent and it was this which led to the assault on her.

TAPOL fully respects Dr Lobo’s right to the presumption of innocence, his right to a fair trial, and his right not to be subject to arbitrary detention.  TAPOL does not take a view on whether the facts of the case are as alleged, but is extremely concerned that the Dili court failed to observe international human rights standards in deciding that the cultural domination of men over women in East Timor was a proper ground in law for releasing Dr Lobo.

Dr Lobo was indicted in February 2001 in relation to allegations of serious assaults on his wife and a nun at a convent where his wife was seeking refuge.  He was not detained at the time, but on 8 July 2001 again allegedly attacked his wife and was ordered to be detained by the investigating judge.  Dr Lobo allegedly has a long history of assaulting his wife during their 15 years of marriage.  On several occasions she has required medical treatment and has said she has feared for her life.

The investigating judge gave as his reasons for detaining Dr Lobo the need to protect the victim and the risk that the accused might leave the country.  That decision was made in accordance with provisions of East Timor’s criminal procedure code and would appear to have been entirely reasonable in the circumstances.

In allowing the accused’s appeal against his pre-trial detention, the Panel of the Dili District Court decided to release him from prison and ordered substitute restrictive measures of house detention and weekly reporting to the court.  They gave as their reasons Dr Lobo’s work at the Dili Hospital, his children’s right to be with their father and the cultural situation of East Timor where, according to the Court, a man has the right to control the actions of his wife.

In view of the serious nature of the charges against Dr Lobo and the apparent danger which his restricted liberty poses to his wife, the first two reasons given for his release do not appear to be reasonable grounds for the District Court’s decision.  The third reason should not have been considered at all.  TAPOL is dismayed that the Court relied on East Timor’s male-dominated culture as a reason for its decision.  This is a flagrant violation of the right of the accused’s wife to equality before the law and to the equal protection of the law without discrimination.

In granting the appeal, the court is sending out a message that appears to condone domestic violence, which is known to be fairly widespread in East Timor.  Such practices should be firmly condemned, not tolerated.

The decision could also involve infringements of the right of Dr Lobo’s wife to security of the person and of international standards which require the judicial process to ensure the safety of victims of crime.

Furthermore, it means that East Timor’s judicial system is failing to eliminate discrimination against women in accordance with the requirements of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  The Convention specifically provides that States shall take all appropriate measures ‘to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women’.  The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women says that States should not invoke any custom or tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligation with respect to the elimination of violence against women.

UNTAET Regulation 1/1999 stipulates that all East Timorese public officials in performing their duties must observe internationally recognised human rights standards such as those mentioned above.

TAPOL believes that this case also raises questions about the independence and impartiality of the presiding judges and in particular the question as to whether their decision was influenced by Dr Lobo’s prominent position in East Timorese society.

ENDS

For more information contact: Paul Barber on + 44 1420 80153 or Carmel Budiardjo on + 44 20 8771 2904.


Paul Barber
TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign
25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ
Tel/Fax: 01420 80153
Email: tapol@gn.apc.org
Internet: http://www.gn.apc.org/tapol
Defending victims of oppression in Indonesia and East Timor, 1973-2001


TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign  Up-dated May 1
Defending victims of oppression in Indonesia and East Timor, 1973-2001
TAPOL - which means political prisoner in Indonesian - is a leading English language authority campaigning on the human rights situation in Indonesia and East Timor. Estab in 1973, TAPOL has depended on networking with organisations in Indonesia, with NGOs in the UK and with solidarity groups around the world.
TAPOL produces the bi-monthly TAPOL Bulletin; occasional reports and briefing papers and other publications. Australian subscribers to TAPOL Bulletin may pay in A$ to: TAPOL (Australia) PO Box 121, Clifton Hill, Vic 3068 Rates for Individuals A$45, Unwaged A$22, Institutions A$80
Email: tapol@gn.apc.org  Homepage: http://www.gn.apc.org/tapol  ET Webpage: http://www.gn.apc.org/tapol/easttimorlatest.htm


See also:

BD: East Timorese Women's Issues - A collection of recent information, petitions, articles and news  [section on Domestic Violence]

BD: Calls for International War Crimes Tribunal - A collection of recent reports, articles and news [section on East Timor's Judicial System]


BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home    July news
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