Realising Rights in Timor-Leste

Asian Studies Review, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 2, 266–283

U. of Adelaide Law Research Paper No. 2019-58

35 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019 Last revised: 5 Jun 2019

Date Written: May 29, 2019


Timor-Leste is a nascent democratic country with a rights-rich Constitution. After more than a decade it is unclear whether vulnerable sections of Timorese society can access the courts to ensure the realisation and protection of their constitutional rights. This paper examines the design and practice of Timor-Leste’s Constitution and its new legal system in light of the Epp-Wilson debate regarding the necessary conditions for access to justiciable constitutional rights. It draws on Timor-Leste’s experience to argue that while Wilson’s focus on institutional design is compelling, it does not dispel the need for a strong civil society along the lines argued by Epp. The realisation of constitutional rights requires the mobilisation of civil society and a receptive Timorese judiciary.

Keywords: Timor-Leste, human rights, constitution, access to justice, civil society, women’s rights, legal system, judicial review

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Grenfell, Laura, Realising Rights in Timor-Leste (May 29, 2019). Asian Studies Review, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 2, 266–283, U. of Adelaide Law Research Paper No. 2019-58, Available at SSRN:

Laura Grenfell (Contact Author)

University of Adelaide

No 233 North Terrace, School of Commerce
Adelaide, South Australia 5005

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