Private lawyers graduate from Legal Training Centre
A decade ago, lawyer José Pedro Camoes says it was “almost impossible to find a Timorese lawyer, prosecutor or judge”.
Fast-forward to 2012, and Mr Camoes has himself made legal history by becoming one of the first accredited private lawyers to graduate from Timor-Leste’s Legal Training Centre (LTC).
Last month, Mr Camoes and six other private lawyers graduated from their 21-month course at the LTC.
Mr Camoes, a former President of the Lawyers Association of Timor-Leste (AATL), was “extremely happy and satisfied with this achievement and I felt very proud as a Timorese”.
“This is my life, my career and I love this profession,” he said.
“When I graduated from high school in 1995, Timor-Leste faced an unstable justice system… I really believed that by studying law, I would be able help my Timorese people,” he said.
Mr Camoes is currently handling cases in Timor-Leste’s four district courts of Dili, Suai, Baucau and Oecusse.
He said he hopes “that in the next five years, the Government will give maximum support to [private] lawyers”.
He was also concerned about the relatively small number of women working in the justice sector. Among his class of private lawyers at the LTC, there is only one female candidate, who will graduate in 2013.
With the high incidence of domestic violence, more female lawyers are needed, he said. “When women are talking to each other they are more open.”
Mr Camoes said that during his studies, mastering Portuguese was a challenge.
“Language was the most challenging subject. Portuguese was not part of my undergraduate studies, so I had to work harder on the language before doing my legal theory,” he explained
Mr Camoes said he wanted to encourage young Timorese, and particularly young women, to consider a career in the law because it is a field which “opens up many possibilities”.
“It is only with a career in the law that we can help people who are struggling and most importantly, help people to access justice,” he said.
For more than 10 years, the LTC has been training justice-sector professionals. Since 2007, more than 70 Timorese judges, prosecutors, public defenders and private lawyers have graduated from the LTC and gone on to work in the country’s justice sector institutions.
Through its Justice System Programme, UNDP helped establish the LTC, providing training and management support; recruiting lecturers and Portuguese language teachers; providing equipment, training materials and resources; funding refurbishments; and supporting IT and database systems.