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Law and Justice in Timor-Leste: A Survey of Citizen Awareness and Attitudes Regarding Law and Justice 2008

Preface

Rule of law in Timor-Leste remains in a state of transition. Since Timor-Leste’s official declaration of independence and promulgation of the Constitution in 2002, there have been a range of notable achievements in the formal justice sector: the penal and civil codes were drafted and adopted; court actors were trained and appointed to positions as judges, prosecutors, and public defenders; and a court of appeals and four district courts were established and operationalized. These developments have served as critical building blocks in the nation’s efforts to establish the rule of law.
 
The impact of rule of law development initiatives in Timor-Leste remains unclear. For five years, the absence of qualified national court actors required international substitutes. Between 2003 and 2006, except in Dili, the courts functioned sporadically amidst ongoing social, economic, and political instability. In April 2006, major social unrest and armed violence between security forces disrupted daily life and brought development activities to a standstill, including those in the justice sector. The crisis added hundreds of criminal cases to the mounting backlog. By late 2007, with only minor outbreaks of violence during the presidential and parliamentary elections, the general security situation showed signs of improvement and the justice sector appeared to resume normal operations.
 
Then, on February 11, 2008, President José Ramos-Horta was shot and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão’s motorcade came under fire, again bringing the country to the brink of another devastating crisis. However, following this incident and the subsequent consolidation of the security forces, Timor-Leste has returned to a period of relative quiet. By December 2008 the district courts functioned regularly and almost all national court actors had taken up their posts. Against this backdrop, local justice mechanisms continued to function in parallel to, though separate from, the new formal legal system in a de-facto hybrid system.
 
To take stock of the citizenry’s perceptions of their justice system in light of developments over the last four years, The Asia Foundation conducted the second nationwide survey of Law and Justice in Timor-Leste: a Survey of Citizen Awareness and Attitudes Regarding Law and Justice in December 2008. This survey was made possible by the generous support of the Australian Agency for International Development/Justice Facility and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). As a follow-up to the earlier 2004 survey, the aim of the 2008 survey was to gather first-hand opinion from a large sample of Timorese citizens on a variety of access to justice-related issues. The survey results serve to further deepen understanding of how people seek to resolve disputes, to capture citizens’ views of the informal and formal justice sectors, and to determine how perceptions of access to justice have changed over the last five years.
 
The current survey is the second of its kind that The Asia Foundation has conducted in Timor-Leste. In early 2004, the Foundation completed the landmark survey, Law and Justice in East Timor: A Survey of Citizen Awareness and Attitudes Regarding Law and Justice in East Timor. The 2004 survey, funded by USAID, assessed citizens’ knowledge and attitudes regarding access to justice in both the formal and informal sectors. The 2004 survey covered 1,114 respondents from 13 districts of the country with oversamples in Baucau, Dili, and Oecusse. The initial data collection took place in December 2002. An extensive period of analysis and consultation then took place during 2003 and in January 2004 the survey report was finalized. Therefore a more exact period of time between the two surveys was six years: December 2002 to December 2008. The two Asia Foundation surveys are the only records of their kind available for longitudinal comparison of the establishment of rule of law in Timor-Leste.
 
The 2008 survey uses standard questions for comparability with the 2004 survey, along with contemporary questions relevant to current conditions that should be of interest to policy makers, social science researchers, and donor organizations. Many of the questions came from well-known surveys such as the East and South Asia Barometers and other Asia Foundation surveys on law and justice in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. For 2008, the survey questionnaires were developed in collaboration with the Australian Justice Facility. They were first revised in-house and then sent to selected experts, stakeholders, and donors for review and suggestions. Acknowledging the intense focus on justice and security sector reform, relevant questions on issues such as impunity were added to the questionnaire. Some standard questions were rephrased to elicit clearer and more useful responses. The survey is not an institutional analysis of the courts and their regulating bodies, nor was the survey designed to gauge citizens’ perceptions of international actors’ contributions to the justice sector. Every effort was made to ensure that the questions asked and the information collected is actionable and relevant over time.
 
For the 2008 survey, a total of 1,120 interviewees were randomly selected across Timor- Leste. Design changes were made to the sampling to increase the spread of the interviews to a larger area and counter any cases of homogeneity in responses due to closely clustered samples. Additional quality control measures were built in to improve the accuracy of data collection: interview back-check personnel were deployed to review 10 percent of questionnaires conducted by the field-team. Emphasis was placed on getting a high quality national sample in order to find out more about how specific legal cases are handled. No oversamples were taken.
 
As in previous years, the Foundation continued its emphasis on using the survey program to help improve Timorese capacity in conducting research of this kind. Over the past two years, the Foundation’s fieldwork partner, INSIGHT Consulting, has been able to build a team with the capacity to undertake large, diverse, and sensitive surveys across the country. In 2008, a total of 25 interviewers were used for data collection. For a full presentation of the sampling methodology used please see Appendix I – Sampling Methodology.
 
The Foundation’s Country Representative Silas Everett managed the overall survey project, provided initial analysis, and drafted the 2008 survey report. Survey questionnaires were revised in coordination with the Australian Justice Facility’s Consultant Jen Laakso. The Asia Foundation’s Senior Law Advisor Erik Jensen, Law Program Director Debra Ladner and Consultant Michael Lieberman also contributed to the formulation of questions and post- survey analysis. The Foundation’s Elizabeth Wharton designed and coordinated the implementation of the data collection methodology. External Consultant Meerim Kylychbekova designed the tables and drafted the analysis of the data tables. The Foundation’s Liam Chinn, Program Manager, contributed to data analysis and writing of the table text.
 
Following the release of this survey report, the Foundation will conduct a further series of stakeholder workshops to expand and deepen analysis relevant to law and justice reform in Timor-Leste. These efforts are intended to add to the expert commentary on the findings, including discussion of comparative trends with other countries in the region and from other data sources. The Foundation intends to make the conclusions of these consultations available to the public with the aim of providing policy-relevant recommendations for Timorese policy makers and government leaders to consider in their further efforts to strengthen rule of law in Timor-Leste.
 
全文下载:asiafoundation.org/resources/pdfs/2008LawJusticeSurvey.pdf

 

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