Dili, 19 March 2002


An independent investigation has been launched into complaints of poor conditions raised late last night by prisoners at the Becora Prison in East Timor’s capital, Dili.

The team will be chaired by a senior church official and will include the Vice-Minister for Justice Domingos Sarmento, an UNTAET Human Rights officer, two United Nations Police officers (one working with the East Timorese Police Service and other with the UN Police Commissioner), and a representative of an international NGO based in Dili.

The decision follows an incident late Monday night when most of the 250 Becora prisoners refused to return to their cells until their concerns about poor conditions had been heard. Some minor damage was caused to the prison facilities.

The prisoners returned to their cells after meeting with Minister of Justice Ana Pessoa and Domingos Sarmento late last night and with Independence leader and presidential candidate Xanana Gusmão this morning.


East Timor’s Ministry of Health and UNTAET’s Office of Communication and Public Information today conducted a workshop for journalists on the issue of HIV/AIDS.

The objective of the workshop was to assist local media in their coverage of the HIV/AIDS related subjects, as well as to provide journalists with a background briefing on the incidence of HIV/AIDS in East Timor.

A similar workshop – aimed at a variety of civil society groups that included student youth groups, NGO’s and health professionals – was held last October.

The Ministry of Health is planning to hold a National Seminar on the issue in mid-April at which the findings of a national HIV/AIDS Situation Assessment will be released. This in turn will help the government create a plan to tackle the disease.

There is as yet no accurate data on the number of East Timorese afflicted with HIV/AIDS, although health officials suspect the percentage is relatively low. This assumption is based on the very low HIV-prevalence detected in screened blood, and by comparing East Timor with other countries in the region.