The Bar's Fair Trial Seminar in East Timor

(HONG KONG - 25 June 2001) Seven members of the Bar Association went to Dili in East Timor and participated in a seminar on fair trials held between 8 and 10 June 2001. The seminar was organised by the Hong Kong Bar Association, the Hotung Institute for International Relations, the Asian Human Rights Commission and the National Jurists Association of East Timor.

The seven members who took part in the seminar were: Philip Dykes, S.C., John Haynes, James Collins, Kevin Wong, Hectar Pun, Chris Cheng and Victor Dawes. A retired judge of the Hong Kong High Court, Mr Justice Rhind, also accompanied the group.

The aim of the seminar was to explain the nature of a fair trial including the responsibilities of prosecution and defence counsel, the role of the police in the prosecution process and criminal legal aid. About 40 Jurists from East Timor including judges, prosecutors and public defenders, representing two-third of the total number of legal practitioners in the country, attended the seminar.

The three-day trip featured a series of lectures and discussion sessions led by the members of the Bar. Mr Justice Rhind spoke on a judge’s responsibilities, while representatives from the Asian Human Rights Commission led a discussion on problems concerning fair trials in Asian countries. On the third day of the trip, theory was put into practice when a mock murder trial was held with jurors selected from the Jurists.

The rule of law in East Timor had been in limbo for a brief dark period at the end of 1999 when Indonesia suddenly and violently ended its 24-year rule of the country. In view of the stringent condition in East Timor, the Bar Council took the initiative to provide assistance to the newly established country. It was noted that the East Timorese Jurists had never practiced law before the country became independent in 1999. Nevertheless, the framework of their legal system will take shape in the constitution which is to be drafted in August 2001. The Jurists in East Timor therefore urgently need outside help during this period while the constitution is being drafted.

The Bar Council is pleased to see that members have volunteered to do such worthwhile work with enthusiasm. Our members' efforts demonstrate once again the Bar's commitment to the rule of law.

The Bar Council would also like to particularly thank the Hotung Institute for International Relations for its support in providing funding for the seminar.

 

Dated 25 June 2001

Hong Kong Bar Association