UN officer stands by as Timorese police beat up unarmed fisherman
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Footage of an amateur fisherman receiving a violent beating from police on a beach in East Timor has emerged on the Web. The reason for the assault? The man was holding up a sign which they said was not allowed. It read "Maunroni Sub-District Fishing Group". A United Nations police officer, supposed to be in charge of the Timorese police, was present at the scene. But he didn’t say anything. Read more and watch the footage...
Footage of an amateur fisherman receiving a violent beating from police on a beach in East Timor has emerged on the Web. The reason for the assault? The man was holding up a sign which they said was not allowed. It read "Maunroni Sub-District Fishing Group". A United Nations police officer, supposed to be in charge of the Timorese police, was present at the scene. But he didn't say anything.
The incident took place on Nov. 27, on the opening day of an international fishing competition which was initiated in the hope of bringing foreign interest to the Timorese island of Atauro where it was taking place. Ironically, the event was held in conjunction with the "Dili, City of Peace" initiative.
The fishing enthusiast in question, local student Lhew Comacoshe, was detained after the incident but later released. He has since been evicted from his home on the island however, and has attended parliament as part of debates into police brutality after he filed a complaint about the incident.
The sign we see at 00'10 reads: "Fishing Group of Maunroni Sub-District of Atauro, Dili District". Video posted on YouTube by Alex Tilman Jan. 23, 2010.
"The UN police, out of being diplomatic, are not very forthright"
Jose Teixeira is an MP for opposition party the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN). He has been taking part in the debate over police brutality in parliament during which footage of the beating was shown.
On that day President Jose Ramos-Horta was on the island for the inauguration of a fishing competition. Lhew Comacoshe, who's part of a local fishing cooperative, wanted to put a sign on his boat which read the name and district of his fishing group. But the village chief said he couldn't. I expect that's because Mr Comacoshe lodged a complaint with the government last June about certain local officials. In any case, he then took his sign and held it up on the beach, in saying that the officials had no right to stop him from doing so.
The officers who detain the man are all Timorese. At 1'15 we see a man use the butt of what I believe is a 12 gage shotgun to hit him. The man in camouflage and blue beret standing by is a UN police officer. Now in that area the UN is supposed to have command of the Timorese police, but he didn't say anything. That doesn't surprise me; there's a parallel existence between the national police and the UN police [UNPOL], and the UN, out of being diplomatic, are not very forthright. I also think that the Timorese police were perhaps inexperienced and badly trained. It's been a very tense situation here since the attempted assassination of the president two years ago and this was a pretty hot day - the president was there and international press and visitors too. So the police wanted to be authoritative. But they broke the law.
We Timorese come from a dictatorial regime. In 2001, when the Indonesian regime was on its way out but still in place, the UN went through the process of recruiting a new police force, giving preference to those candidates with police or military background. Now obviously the people with those requirements were officers from the Indonesian regime. So, the majority of the police force is former Indonesian militants - the same people who the locals resisted in the old regime! These officers don't like individuals standing up for their rights; they're used to unfettered authority. This man decided to stand up for his rights. And so they decided to stand up to him.
What happened after the incident, was that on Jan. 13 the victim was evicted from his home on the island. We believe it's because of police pressure. The victim has been attending parliament for the past two days, where this video was shown. In response to the evidence, the governor said that the police actions were unacceptable but that we can't blame the officers, nor the authorities, leaving nobody responsible.
Everyone complains about police brutality. On Dec. 28, a young unarmed man was shot dead by the police at a party on the south coast after a fight broke out. And another complaint came from a group of youths who were detained and abused by a rapid response unit. This time, and for the first time, the assault was caught on camera."