Constitutional Provisions

Section 29 of the 2002 Constitution of Timor-Leste guarantees the right to life:

1. Human life is inviolable.

2. The State shall recognise and guarantee the right to life.

Section 30(4) stipulates that: "No one shall be subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

Section 42 governs the right of peaceful assembly:

1. Everyone is guaranteed the freedom to assemble peacefully and unarmed, without a need for prior authorisation.

2. Everyone is recognised the right to demonstrate in accordance with the law.

Section 147 governs the police and security forces:

1. The police shall defend the democratic legality and guarantee the internal security of the citizens, and shall be strictly non-partisan. 

2. Prevention of crime shall be undertaken with due respect for human rights.

3. The law shall determine the rules and regulations for the police and other security forces. 

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 Not party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints No
CAT Optional Protocol 1 Signatory
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

There is not yet a regional human rights treaty to which South-East Asian nations can adhere, although a non-binding human rights declaration was issued by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2013. 

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

The National Police of East Timor is the primary law enforcement agency in Timor-Leste, although the armed forces have also been involved in law enforcement operations. 

Police use of force is governed by Article 5 of the 2004 Law on the the Organic Structure of the Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL):

1. In the case of disturbance of public order and peace, the use of force is authorized, and where this is insufficient, other means can be used to overcome illegitimate resistance against members of the PNTL, in the performance of their duties.

2. The coercive means will only be able to be used in the following cases:

(a) to repel an immediate and unlawful aggression in self defence or in defence of other people; 

(b) after the use of all means to overcome resistance to the performance of their functions and after having given an explicit warning.

3. The PNTL cannot impose restrictions or use coercive means other than those that are strictly necessary.

4. The PNTL can use weapons of any model and calibre.

5. The use of firearms shall be regulated by specific order.

There is not believed to be specific legislation governing use of firearms as international law requires. 

Police Oversight

There is no civilian independent police oversight body in Timor-Leste. The Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice can hear complaints about unlawful police use of force.



Views and Concluding Observations by United Nations Treaty Bodies

In its 2017 Concluding Observations on Timor-Leste, the Committee against Torture reiterated its concern

that widely publicized cases of alleged torture or ill-treatment by police officers in Atauro, Oecusse and Maliana have not resulted in any prosecutions and, more broadly, that the Committee has received information concerning many allegations of torture and ill-treatment, including excessive use of force, involving the police, as well as reports that the security forces reportedly commit such abuses with impunity.

In the context of the 2016 Universal Periodic Review of Timor-Leste, the UN country team stated that security operations conducted over several months in 2014 and 2015 against groups outlawed by Parliament had led to numerous allegations of human rights violations by the police and the military, including torture, excessive use of force, ill-treatment, destruction of property, and arbitrary arrest.


There is no regional human rights court with jurisdiction over the acts of law enforcement officials in Timor-Leste.


2002 Constitution of Timor-Leste (as amended) (English translation)

2006 Law on Freedom of Assembly and Demonstration

2004 Law on the the Organic Structure of the Timor-Leste National Police

Committee against Torture Concluding Observations on Timor-Leste (2017)