Minister Alphonse Willie
Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary
Papua New Guinea

Dear Minister Willie:

Human Rights Watch writes to congratulate on your recent appointment as Minister of Police, and looks forward to communicating with you on issues relating to human rights and policing during your tenure in Papua New Guinea. We would also use this opportunity to express our deep concern regarding the widespread use of violence against children by members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. We urge you, as Minister of Police, to use your new position to prevent these practices and to punish police officers and their commanders found responsible for them.

Human Rights Watch is an independent, non-governmental organization that monitors human rights developments in some seventy countries around the world. Regarding police treatment of children, we have reported on practices in countries such as Brazil, Bulgaria, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Russia, and the United States. Human Rights Watch is not affiliated with any government and does not accept any government money.

Our investigations in Papua New Guinea are based on first-hand information from children, medical professionals, police officials, and others throughout the country, as well as corroborating documentary evidence. Based on our research, we conclude the following:

  • that police regularly torture, rape, and use excessive force against children;
  • that police commonly commit acts of sexual violence against female sex workers and men who have sex with men;
  • that police continue to harass persons found carrying condoms, which undermines efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS;
  • that police routinely detain children with adults in police lock-up; and
  • that police are rarely punished for these acts.

These practices violate Papua New Guinea’s own laws and regulations, as well as international standards agreed to by Papua New Guinea, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Moreover, widespread police violence itself undermines law and order by creating fear and mistrust among the public whom the police are intended to protect, thus making many people reluctant to cooperate with investigations and fearful of encountering police even to report crime.

We recognize that members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary often work under extremely difficult conditions without much-needed resources. However, this does not excuse or justify human rights abuses. Indeed, police violence has cost the government millions of kina in civil penalties.

As Minister of Police, we urge you to prioritize addressing these problems. In particular, we recommend that you undertake the following:

  • Publicly repudiate police torture, rape, and use of excessive force against children.
  • Ensure that the police force takes swift and meaningful action against police officers who commit abuses against children. This should include administrative measures, including dismissal, and criminal prosecution. Commanding officers who know or should know of such acts and who fail to take action to prevent and punish them should face similar sanctions.
  • Work with the police commissioner to adopt and implement the Department of Justice and Attorney General’s “Minimum Standards for Juvenile Institutions.”
  • Implement the recommendations of the September 2004 administrative review of the police to the Minister for Internal Security (Police) regarding enforcement of existing disciplinary codes; reform of mobile squads, task forces, reserve and auxiliary police; and improving police response to domestic violence and sex abuse cases.

We note that the RPNGC has taken several positive initiatives, including establishing a central processing area for children in Boroko police station and a juvenile protocol monitoring unit in Port Moresby, and adopting guidelines for how police treat children. These are important first steps and should be fully implemented and expanded to all parts of the country.

Details of Human Rights Watch’s findings and recommendations can be found in our 2005 report, "Making Their Own Rules”: Police Beatings, Rape, and Torture of Children in Papua New Guinea, available online at https://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/png0905/

In conclusion, Human Rights Watch encourages you to use your position as Minister of Police to address police violence against children in Papua New Guinea. Thank you for your attention to our concerns, and we look forward to receiving a response from you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

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

cc.: Commissioner, Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary