The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.

Challenges: Timor-Leste is a post-conflict society struggling to establish and maintain the rule of law and a functioning, effective criminal justice system. Independent only since 2002, the country saw regular flares of violence until 2008. Since 2008, the country has been stable, and the United Nations peacekeeping mission departed at the end of 2012 following peaceful national elections. While security forces have improved their professionalism in many areas, concerns remain about the capacity of the country’s criminal justice system given weak civilian oversight, lack of clarity on the respective roles of the military and the police, and low resource and capacity levels. The formal justice system is severely under resourced- although it has significantly reduced its case backlog in recent years to approximately 2,500 cases- and lacks trained prosecutors, lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals. Timor-Leste has a population of between 1.1 and 1.2 million with more than 20 indigenous languages. While both Tetum and Portuguese are the official languages- and Indonesian and English are working languages-linguistic barriers prevent those who might otherwise qualify from entering the legal profession given required legal training in Portuguese.

Goals: INL has two primary lines of effort in Timor-Leste. Working with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training (OPDAT), INL is: addressing justice sector deficiencies through provision of training and skills development, particularly in the areas of complex financial crimes, public corruption, and gender-based violence; promoting legislative reforms to improve the operation of the criminal justice system; and providing institutional support to the Office of the Prosecutor General. Working with a variety of partners, INL is also improving the capacity of the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) to secure land and sea borders, investigate crimes, and implement essential logistical procedures.

Accomplishments: With INL support, Timor-Leste passed an anti-money laundering law in 2011 and has drafted a new drug law to replace the existing one from 1997. INL support has also encouraged closer cooperation between police and prosecutors. In 2013 alone, OPDAT trained the entire judiciary of Timor-Leste; over half of the national prosecutors attended a week-long trial advocacy seminar, and prosecutors, PNTL investigators, border patrol, and customs officers attended a counter-narcotics seminar. OPDAT also organized a three-day Counter-Narcotics Seminar for prosecutors, PNTL investigators, border patrol officers and customs officers. The Maritime Police Unit of the PNTL has developed specialized capacity that enables it to respond more effectively to maritime law enforcement needs and secure the sea borders, including a new pier under construction by the U.S. Navy Seabees. INL is training the border police; a police logistics advisor is working closely with the PNTL to develop policies and procedures; and, in cooperation with our Australian allies, nearly 200 police and prosecutors have received training in criminal investigation; and law enforcement capacity and interagency cooperation to combat trafficking in persons is improving.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future