News & Resources Tetra Tech DPK Supports Community Dispute Resolution Practices in Timor-Leste

Tetra Tech DPK Supports Community Dispute Resolution Practices in Timor-Leste

July 2017

The Justice Sector Monitoring Programme launches its Report on Contact Points between Community Dispute Resolution and the Formal Justice System

On 14 July 2017, the Justice Sector Monitoring Programme (JSMP), with technical support from USAID under the Mai Munisípiu project (formerly Ba Distrito), launched its thematic research report on how the courts (formal justice) consider community dispute resolutions (non-formal justice). The report, titled “Court and Alternative Dispute Resolution”, was completed as part of JSMP’s partnership with Mai Munisípiu project implemented by Counterpart International and Tetra Tech DPK and funded by USAID.

July_News_Article_ADR_Report.docxThe report was produced based on research and monitoring JSMP conducted in Baucau, Covalima, Dili, and Oecusse District Courts during a five month period (January to May 2017).  Throughout the period, JSMP observed and analyzed a total of 108 cases from which 26 were resolved within families/communities before being brought to the court, while 82 cases were conciliated before and by the courts. The report provides a better understanding of how the courts, which administer the formal justice system, consider resolutions of disputes which occurred at the community level in their decision-making process. In giving his observation of the report, the Executive Director of JSMP Mr. Luis Oliveira Sampaio said “the research also found that conciliation that occurred before the court was an important instrument to reduce court caseload.”


The report concludes that although community resolutions have positive aspects that are beneficial to the formal justice system – i.e. minimizing the court workload by solving some of the minor crimes (semipublic crimes), the courts’ consideration of the resolutions should follow the existing laws. “Basically the Office of Prosecution Services also has the competence to withdraw cases constituting semipublic crimes during the questioning which can lead to terminate the process, but this does not happen so far,” Mr. Sampaio continued.


The President of the Court of Appeal Hon. Judge Deolindo dos Santos who gave his remarks at the launch event, said, “[t]he Timorese Constitution recognizes customary norms and practices which have existed long before the courts. This practice, which varies from one place to another, is quite widespread throughout Timor-Leste [and] attempts to provide solutions to problems or disputes in the communities”


Also present at the launch event was President of Legislative Reform and Justice Sector Commission (CRL), Dr. Jorge Graca. The Commission was established to undertake research studies and make recommendations to the Government of Timor-Leste (GoTL) about legislative reform necessary to strengthen the justice system. In his remarks, Graca stated that “community dispute resolutions have their own social legitimacy and spiritual power which originated from historical convictions, and this is what our communities practice. Value of community dispute resolutions are underpinned by a collective will of those involved in the commission of offences to create peace and social harmony, and it’s allowed by our Constitution.”