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Letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Immigration of Papua New Guinea

Hon. Samuel Abal, MP
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Immigration
Somare Foundation Building (2nd Floor)
P. O. Box 422
Waigani, NCD
Papua New Guinea

Via facsimile: + 675.325.2803

Dear Minister Abal:

Human Rights Watch writes to commend Papua New Guinea on its recent accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Accession is an important step towards guaranteeing respect for fundamental human rights in Papua New Guinea, and we welcome your government’s actions in this regard.

With the accession to these covenants, Papua New Guinea enjoys the opportunity, as well as the obligation, to put into effect the protections enshrined in them. Human Rights Watch urges you as the Minister of Foreign Affairs to work towards the prompt enactment of implementing legislation necessary to give domestic effect to the covenants.

Among other things, the ICCPR obligates Papua New Guinea to do more to protect children and other vulnerable populations from the widespread use of violence by members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

Since 2004, Human Rights Watch has conducted extensive research throughout the country on this topic. We appreciated the opportunity to share our findings with you when we met in New York in 2007. Our findings are also detailed in two reports, “Making Their Own Rules: Police Beatings, Rape, and Torture in Papua New Guinea” (2005) (available online at https://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/png0905/) and “Still Making Their Own Rules: Ongoing Impunity for Police Beatings, Rape, and Torture in Papua New Guinea” (2006) (https://www.hrw.org/reports/2006/png1006/index.htm).

Our investigations revealed the following abuses:

• police regularly torture, rape, and use excessive force against children;

• police commonly commit acts of sexual violence, including against female sex workers, and men and boys suspected of homosexual conduct;

• police harass persons found carrying condoms, which undermines efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS;
• police routinely detain children with adults in police lock-ups; and

• police are rarely punished for these acts.

These practices violate Papua New Guinea’s own laws and regulations, as well as international standards, including the ICCPR. Article 7 of the ICCPR prohibits the use of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Article 10 of the ICCPR requires that all detainees be “treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” Article 10 further mandates that both children accused and convicted children be separated from adults and that child offenders be “accorded treatment appropriate to their age and legal status.” Under Article 2(1), the ICCPR establishes the right to protection from discrimination for girls, women, and men who have sex with men, and their right to equal protection before the law.

We ask you as the Minister of Foreign Affairs to raise with the Minister and the Commissioner of Police the urgent need for any police officer who uses torture, rape, or excessive force to be held accountable through administrative measures and criminal proceedings. Based on our research, we believe such accountability requires strengthening the internal affairs directorate of the police, penalizing officers who do not cooperate with it, and investigating alleged abuses and delays in implementing dismissal orders. We also urge your government to make greater and more creative efforts to improve the Ombudsman Commission’s capacity to address police violence by allocating additional resources for it to take on human rights cases. In the medium term, the government should consider the creation of a police ombudsman as recommended by the 2004 administrative review of police. A long-term measure is the establishment of a national human rights commission.

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 that has been pending since 2006. The Special Rapporteur on Torture can assist governments by identifying factors that contribute to torture, and can provide practical solutions to implement international standards. As we discussed last year, we urge you to issue an invitation to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture.

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
Deputy Director, Children’s Rights Division
Human Rights Watch

CC:
H.E. Mr. Robert Aisi, Permanent Representative of Papua New Guinea to the United Nations
Hon. Mr. Evan J. Paki, Ambassador of Papua New Guinea to the United States
Mr. Fred Sarufa, Director, International Organizations Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs

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