Minister Bire Kimisopa
Department of Justice and Attorney General
Papua New Guinea
Dear Minister Kimisopa:
Human Rights Watch writes to congratulate you on your recent appointment as Minister of Justice and to welcome your public statements against the death penalty in Papua New Guinea.
We note that in your previous position as Minster of Police you commissioned an administrative review of the police force identifying areas for much-needed reform, spoke publicly about violence by police officers, and ordered an investigation into the shootings of schoolchildren in Enga province. As you are aware from your own administrative review as well as Human Rights Watch's research, police routinely use excessive force, torture suspects, and commit rape, but are rarely punished. Human Rights Watch believes that your new position as Minister of Justice will provide substantial opportunity to address serious human rights problems in Papua New Guinea's justice system, especially for children. We respectfully draw your attention to the following areas of concern.
Accountability for police violence:
As Minister of Justice, we ask you to express public support for the designation of an independent body, outside the police force, to monitor police violence against children. We also urge you to take steps to ensure that the Offices of the Public Prosecutor and the Public Solicitor, within their legal powers, play a more active role in protecting children from police violence. In particular, we recommend:
- that the Public Prosecutor's Office prosecute the police officers and their commanders found responsible for beating and raping girls and women during the March 2004 raid on the Three-Mile Guest House in Port Moresby;
- that the Public Prosecutor's Office pursue the charges against police officers charged in the shootings of schoolchildren in Enga province in 2005; and
- that the Office of the Public Solicitor continue to pursue cases of police misconduct and that the unit responsible for constitutional claims (human rights cases) be strengthened.
As the Minister of Justice you are also in the position to promote the following legal reforms:
- to ensure that a new juvenile justice act contains provisions for independent accountability for police and other officials who fail to follow its provisions;
- to amend the HIV/AIDS Management and Prevention Act, part 1, section 3(3) to state that condoms may never be used as evidence of living on the earnings of prostitution (Summary Offenses Act, section 55);
- to amend the personal service requirement in the Claims By and Against the State Act so that service by mail is appropriate, in order to provide better access to justice for persons with legitimate claims who live outside Port Moresby; and
- to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Human Rights Watch would also like to draw your attention to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture's request to visit Papua New Guinea made earlier this year. We understand that Papua New Guinea has still not responded to the Special Rapporteur's request. The Special Rapporteur on Torture makes several country visits a year. During his visit he can assist governments by identifying factors that contribute to torture, and provide practical solutions to implement international standards. Torture by police not only violates Papua New Guinea's international legal obligations, it also deeply harms the work of the Department of Justice and Attorney General. Accordingly, we urge you to work with the government, including the Foreign Ministry, to issue an invitation to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture.
In conclusion, Human Rights Watch encourages you to use your position as Minister of Justice to address widespread police torture and rape, including of 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.
Senior Researcher, Children's Rights Division
Human Rights Watch