Ms. Judy Tara
Acting Jail Commander
Buimo Jail, Lae

VIA FACSIMILE: +675 323 2707

Dear Commander Tara:

Human Rights Watch writes to express deep concern over reports that prison officers assaulted and sexually abused five juvenile prisoners on January 15, 2006. According to news reports, prison officers assaulted the boys and then forced them to commit sodomy and other sexual acts on one another in the reception room of Buimo Prison. We welcome your public statement that an investigation was ordered into this serious matter; however, we note that the outcome of this investigation has not yet been made public.

We urge you to make public the outcome of the investigation and to ensure that the boys receive appropriate medical treatment and counseling, and are protected from further abuse, including from retaliation by the officers involved in the incident. We believe that you are well-positioned to oversee these recommendations because of your position as acting jail commander and because, we understand, you have recently been trained in juvenile justice standards.

Our research has revealed that physical and sexual abuse of children in custody is a serious problem in Papua New Guinea. If true, the events at Buimo Prison would constitute torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment—crimes under the laws of Papua New Guinea and violations of the country’s international commitments, including the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Pending the result of the investigation, any officer suspected of involvement in an alleged human rights violation should be suspended from active duty; officers found guilty should be dismissed from their positions and criminally prosecuted in a court of law.

At your earliest convenience, we would appreciate information about the findings of the investigation, action taken against any officers found responsible for human rights abuses, steps taken to provide protection and services to the alleged victims, and plans to prevent such abuses from occurring in the future.

Human Rights Watch will continue to monitor the treatment of children in custody, and we appreciate your attention to these important matters.

Yours sincerely,

Zama Coursen-Neff
Senior Researcher, Children’s Rights Division
Human Rights Watch

cc.: Commissioner, Correctional Services of Papua New Guinea