Dili, 4 January 2002

HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ADVISES ASSEMBLY

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, has written the Speaker of East Timorís Constituent Assembly to make a number of recommendations aimed at strengthening and clarifying human rights aspects of the draft Constitution now under debate.

In her letter Robinson welcomes the primacy given to the protection of human rights in the draft text, including the promotion of womenís status in the society, and notes with appreciation that fundamental rights in the Constitution are to be interpreted in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Robinson goes on to strongly recommend that this provision be extended to include other international human rights treaties and conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The High Commissioner also points out that there is no legitimate basis for differentiating between persons with original and acquired citizenship, and recommends that all persons within the Stateís jurisdiction must have their inherent human rights recognized and protected by the State.

The High Commissioner also recommends that the Constitution provide for an independent national institution to promote and protect human rights.

The assembly today continued its deliberations, passing a further six articles. Articles 80 through 84, all passed today with significant majorities, relate to the powers and responsibilities of the President.

These include the duty of the President to appoint and swear-in the Prime Minister respecting the results of elections after consultation with political parties represented in Parliament, and to declare a state of emergency following the authorization of Parliament.

The articles also include the Presidentís right to dissolve the Parliament in the case of serious Constitutional crisis preventing the formation of a government or the approval of the State Budget and lasting more than 60 days, again after consultation with the Parliament; and the right to dismiss the Government and remove the Prime Minister from office after Parliament has rejected his or her programme two consecutive times.

With the passage of a further article on the composition of the Council of State, the assembly has now passed 85 of the Constitutionís 151 articles.

AUSTRALIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER ARRIVES FOR OFFICIAL VISIT

Australian Minister for Transport Carl Scully arrived in Dili today for a three-day visit during which he will hand over five public transport buses and explore other ways to improve East Timorís transport infrastructure.

The minister is scheduled to present the buses, a gift from the state of New South Wales, to independence leader Xanana Gusm„o and his East Timor Veteranís Association on Sunday. The Association will determine how best to put the buses to use.

The Minister this afternoon met with his East Timorese counterpart, OvŪdio de Jesus Amaral, and is scheduled to pay a visit to the Australian Military Headquarters in Bobonaro district tomorrow.