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TITLE: PAPUA NEW GUINEA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DATE: FEBRUARY 1995 PAPUA NEW GUINEA Papua New Guinea (PNG) comprises some 1,000 tribes and over 800 distinct languages in a population of about 4 million. It has a federal parliamentary system based on universal adult suffrage in periodic free and fair elections. The Government has constitutional authority over the armed forces (PNGDF), police, and intelligence organizations. However, government failure to control and discipline the PNGDF has led to human rights abuses involving civilian communities on the island of Bougainville. A similar failing has resulted in abuses by the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC), the country's only police force. The economy is characterized by a relatively small but modern free enterprise sector, heavily dependent on foreign investment, and a traditional subsistence sector that supports over 80 percent of the population. The modern sector produces most of the wealth and, normally, slightly less than 80 percent of government revenue, with the balance of the budget needs made up by assistance, including a cash grant from Australia. Resolving the secessionist movement, now over 5 years old, on the island of Bougainville continued to be a major priority of the Government. In October the Government of Prime Minister Chan sponsored an internationally monitored peace conference that was boycotted by senior Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) leaders. Extrajudicial killings by security forces and BRA insurgents on Bougainville were major human rights abuses. Other continuing problems were the physical abuse, sometimes resulting in death, of detainees and prisoners by security forces, and the Government's failure to bring the perpetrators to justice; extensive discrimination and violence against women; and a tradition of ethnically motivated violence. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing There continued to be credible reports from Bougainville that the PNGDF and progovernment resistance fighters executed alleged BRA members or their supporters. In May the Catholic Bishops' Conference asserted that earlier in the year, persons who were either soldiers or resistance fighters brutally beat and executed Thomas Patoe at the Sovele Catholic mission compound. Patoe was the younger brother of a BRA commander in the Nagovis area who had begun to work with resistance fighters. A BRA spokesman claimed that security forces tortured and executed Clement Duini of Amoing village in central Bougainville and two others from southwest Bougainville in July at government-run care centers. In February the BRA accused the PNGDF of killing a civilian by pushing him out of a flying helicopter. A circuit-riding National Court judge and the magistrate system have been reestablished in Buka. The Government nonetheless continued, as in previous years, to fail to investigate security force atrocities in the Bougainville conflict or to bring perpetrators to justice, thus perpetuating the climate of impunity that encourages the continuation of such abuses. In April the court did, however, sentence a former BRA commander to 17 years in prison for willful murder and arson during a November 1990 BRA attack in Buka. No progress has been publicly reported in an inquest ordered in 1991 by former Attorney General Narokobi into the deaths of 11 persons in North Solomons Province in 1989 and 1990. Government sources hold the BRA responsible for 12 deaths of PNGDF personnel and the deaths of at least 3 policemen in 1994. There are also credible reports that the BRA killed civilians. Between January and March, the BRA is alleged to have engaged in at least 11 separate attacks resulting in at least 40 deaths. Prior to and during the 7-day October peace talks, both sides violated the cease-fire in several reported ambushes, resulting in at least seven deaths. Outside of Bougainville, in February a court in Mount Hagen sentenced a policeman to 5 years' hard labor for manslaughter. According to the court, the policeman was angered by the just released detainee's verbal abuse and retaliated by killing him with a spear. In July in Port Moresby a youth died in police custody during or immediately after questioning. The incident was investigated by police, but at year's end no charges had been filed. b. Disappearance Although both the security forces and the BRA continued to allege that the other was responsible for civilian kidnapings or disappearances, no official charges were made publicly. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The Constitution forbids torture and other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment. Nonetheless, PNG security forces (PNG soldiers, police, and correctional personnel), as well as BRA insurgents on Bougainville, continue to engage in such practices. Credible reports indicate that the PNGDF mutilated or dismembered bodies of BRA killed in combat and left them as a warning to others. Other credible reports indicate that resistance forces supporting the PNGDF have done the same to wounded BRA. Security forces are reported to have burned homes in villages near Panguna during their August operation to retake the mine. A coroner's inquest into the role of PNGDF soldiers in the 1993 burning down of a Port Moresby club and the death of a soldier had reported no findings by the end of 1994. The BRA is believed responsible for a May attack in Mabes village that injured former Bougainville Member of Parliament (M.P.) Sir Paul Lapun and his family. Credible reports of torture, excessive force, and abuse by PNG police in all regions reflected continued government failure to discipline the RPNGC. Almost all of the more than 28 cases reportedly filed in 1994 with the national court, under special procedures designed to protect human rights, alleged abuse by correctional or police officers. Allegations ranged from rape while in detention to severe beatings that caused loss of sight or limb. In early 1994, villagers from several small communities near Fane, Central province, reported that police had entered their homes in late December 1993, beating the villagers and stealing and destroying property. The police apparently were searching for suspected criminals. Such attacks on villages are frequently a form of collective punishment. Although the courts address cases of police abuse that are pressed through the court system, many cases never reach the courts because of the lack of evidence, reliance on incomplete police investigations, or the failure of overburdened and underfunded prosecutors to follow through. Frequently witnesses can not be located or funds found to transport them long distances to court. In the first of five similar rulings in 1994, the national court in August ordered the State to pay more than $1 million to five clans in Chimbu province for damages inflicted by police in separate incidents in 1986 and 1990. According to the reports, which the Government never denied, police burned homes, destroyed crops, killed livestock, and assaulted villagers while searching for suspected criminals. In May a policeman in Lae was sentenced to 9 years' hard labor for the September 1993 rape of a woman in police custody. In Port Moresby, a senior police official is facing charges for raping a woman under detention. In October a National Court judge ordered the State and a police officer to pay damages to a prisoner for abuse suffered during detention. Prisons are severely overcrowded and understaffed, and prison escapes are common. Due to government-wide financial difficulties, water and food were in short supply during the last half of the year. The authorities released some prisoners to relieve pressures on the prison system. Family members are allowed to visit and supply food to supplement the prison diet, although prison visits and privileges are frequently curtailed following disturbances or breakouts. Redress through the courts is sometimes available to victims of official misconduct. Following several years of litigation, the case brought by an M.P. from Bougainville seeking compensation for injuries suffered at the hands of security force members in 1989 was settled out of court. The Supreme Court introduced a simple form in 1989 enabling citizens to file human rights complaints directly with the national court, without need for counsel. If the judge determines that the case has merit, he may direct an investigation. The compensation claim of five Chimbu clans cited previously in this section was initiated though this simplified process. It was, however, pursued by a private lawyer. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile The courts enforce constitutional protections against arbitrary arrest and detention. For example, using special procedures developed for human rights cases (see section 1.c.), in October the National Court fined the State for holding a civilian for 4 days without charge. The constitutional protections, however, have been weakened by the Internal Security Act and 1993 amendments to existing anticrime legislation which provide that judicially issued warrants are no longer required when the authorities suspect that a person has committed any offense against that Act or in the case of certain, largely white-collar, offenses. The Act further permits a person to be classified as a member of a proscribed organization solely on the basis of an affidavit filed by the police commissioner, without further proof. The Government has not yet sought a conviction under the Internal Security Act. Under amendments to the Bail Act and the Criminal Code passed in 1993, only national or Supreme Court judges may grant bail in certain criminal cases involving a firearm. In all other cases, bail may be granted unless a judge rules otherwise. Those under arrest have the right to legal counsel, to be informed of charges, and to have their arrest subject to judicial review. In April a man from Central province claimed that he had been held by the BRA for 6 years and released only following extensive negotiations with his family. He claimed that he and five others had been taken prisoner while trying to leave Kieta in 1988. He had no information on the whereabouts of the others. Given the relative shortage of police and judicial resources and an exceptionally high crime rate, periods between arrest and trial can be long, particularly in the rural areas where 6 months can pass between arrest and committal. Such periods of detention, however, are subject to strict judicial review, through continuing pretrial consultations, especially at the National Court level. Nevertheless, cases are frequently delayed for months awaiting the results of police investigations. Exile is not practiced. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The Constitution provides for due process, including a public trial, and an indpendent court system enforces this. Defendants have the right to an attorney. Legal counsel is provided either by the Public Solicitor's office or by the Law Society on recommendation of the Public Solicitor's office, for those accused of serious offenses and unable to afford counsel. "Serious offenses" are generally defined as felony charges or any case heard in either the national or district court (as opposed to village or magistrate courts). Defendants and their attorneys may confront witnesses, present evidence, plead cases, and appeal convictions. The courts are completely independent of executive, political, or military authorities, and the Government does not hold any prisoners on purely political grounds. Although the national court has resumed operation in Buka, North Solomons province, the lack of free and safe access to Bougainville island proper continues to hamper investigations of alleged human rights violations there. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence While the authorities generally respect privacy rights, police in the highlands and the PNGDF in Bougainville have burned homes to quell intertribal conflict and punish communities suspected of harboring suspected criminals. Also, police often force entry into homes during searches for criminals or stolen goods. g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts Armed conflict decreased significantly following the institution of a cease-fire September 9. There were two significant outbreaks of violence in the period preceding the cease-fire: the first, February-March, was attributed to the BRA and the second, August, was related to the PNGDF's action to retake Panguna copper mine. Each side claims the other committed abuses against civilians. In March the BRA accused the PNGDF of using civilians as human shields, citing specifically a March 23 clash at Tabago and Maisuru in south Bougainville. The PNGDF countered that the BRA was responsible for killing 17 civilians during an attack on a relief convoy. Throughout the year, but particularly immediately following the cease-fire, the Government reported an increased number of civilians leaving BRA-controlled areas in search of food, shelter, and health care. Before the September cease-fire, there were continuing reports of BRA attacks against civilians, both to hamper economic activity and to intimidate them into remaining in BRA-controlled areas. The BRA allegedly burned homes and villages throughout Bougainville in retaliation for villagers' cooperation with security forces and to deny opponents use of the villages. BRA attacks on security forces continued despite the cease-fire, with a soldier and a civilian killed in mid-November. At least one member of a BRA party attempting to attend the early October Bougainville peace conference reportedly was wounded when the party was fired on by the PNGDF. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides for free speech, including freedom of the media, and this freedom is generally respected in practice. The media provided independent coverage and analysis of major controversies in 1994--including the ongoing insurrection on Bougainville, the legal problems of senior government ministers, and the question of the legality of the snap election called by the former prime minister. One blatant attempt at censorship occurred nn April 6, when the Minister for Communication ordered the national radio broadcasting system, NBC, to stop broadcasting news from a summit meeting of the New Guinea islands' premiers on the grounds that the premiers might discuss secession. NBC, which receives its funding from the Government but maintains a generally independent line in its news stories and editorials, defied the ban and continued to broadcast, drawing from press accounts supplied by others present at the summit. Following widespread domestic and international criticism, the Minister rescinded his order, claiming that his concern for the personal security of NBC reporters, rather than the political content of their coverage, had inspired his censorship attempt. The two daily newspapers and one weekly newspaper compete aggressively. One of the two dailies is owned by a Malaysian firm, which has invested heavily in PNG's timber industry, and by senior members of the former government, but the newspaper has nonetheless been generally independent and unbiased in its first year of existence. The Government and the PNG defense force continued to control the media's access to Bougainville, restricting access of journalists to the island and to participants in the conflict, although a greater number were allowed to visit and interview combatants on both sides of the insurrection this year than in the past. There is no attempt to censor press reports filed from Bougainville. The courts occasionally try citizens and foreigners under the provisions of the Censorship Act which ban the import, broadcast or publication of materials deemed pornographic according to Papua New Guinea's rather strict, church-based standards. The usual sentence for violations of the Censorship Act is confiscation and destruction of the restricted goods, although the courts can legally impose a fine of $17.00 (20 Kina) or more or a prison sentence of up to 2 years. The Ombudsman Commission and the courts in Papua New Guinea have supported the right of free speech over government prerogative in most of the cases they have been asked to address. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association Private associations and public assemblies are legal. The Government does not require registration of associations. International affiliation of church and civic groups is also freely permitted. Public demonstrations require police approval; this is frequently denied on the grounds that such activities encourage bystanders to engage in vandalism and violence. In April in Buka, the Government told organizers of a demonstration planned to protest a change in administrative personnel and responsibilities that the demonstration would be illegal. The demonstration did not take place. In December human rights and women's activists were given permission to march in protest of human rights abuses in general and the increasing incidence of criminal and family violence. c. Freedom of Religion The Constitution contains provisions for freedom of religion, and the Government respects these fully. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation Following the October cease-fire, PNG security forces no longer required travelers to Buka to obtain permits. Government approval is still required for travel to Bougainville for those not from the island. By the end of the year, a border post had reopened permitting crossings between PNG and neighboring Solomon Islands. Otherwise, freedom of movement within and outside the country has not been restricted in practice. The Government has not applied sections of the Internal Security Act left standing by the Supreme Court which authorize the Government to exclude from any part of the country anyone convicted under the Act or likely to commit an offense under the Act. The Government has dropped plans it announced in 1993 to introduce legislation establishing a national system of registration and identification cards. The Government hosts around 9,000 Melanesian refugees from Irian Jaya, the neighboring province of Indonesia. Approximately 6,000, many of whom have land or kinship ties with Papua New Guineans, live along the border just inside Papua New Guinea. Neither the Government nor the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provides services to them. While Papua New Guinea recognizes Irian Jaya as an integral part of Indonesia, the Government nonetheless grants asylum to qualified refugees, and regulations allow foreign citizens who meet the 10-year residency requirements to become PNG citizens. The Government administers UNHCR assistance to about 3,600 refugees at the sole remaining camp at East Awin. There were no known forced repatriations of Irian Jayan insurgents to Indonesia during 1994. More than 120 were voluntarily repatriated. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Citizens freely exercise the right to change their government through direct elections with a secret ballot and universal adult suffrage. The voters elect a unicameral Parliament made up of 109 members from all 19 provinces and the Port Moresby National Capital District. Any citizen can stand for election, and several foreign-born citizens sit in Parliament. With a multiplicity of small parties, coalition governments tend to be weak and shifting; none has yet survived its 5-year electoral mandate. Former Prime Minister Paias Wingti provoked a constitutional crisis in September 1993 when he attempted, through an unexpected resignation and immediate reelection, to ensure that his coalition remained in office . In August the Supreme Court ruled that Wingti's reelection was invalid. He did not stand for office when Parliament on August 30 elected Deputy Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan Prime Minister. By-elections for Parliament ordered by the National Court in 3 provinces, following disputed 1992 elections, were contested by 26 candidates in October and conducted peacefully but were marred in one district by preelection violence in June. Postelection violence caused by disgruntled supporters of losing candidates continued to occur, however, particularly in provincial and local elections. Although there are no legal barriers to their participation in political life, women are not found in significant numbers in senior positions in government or in politics (see Section 5). There are no women in the Cabinet or in Parliament. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights There are no official barriers to the formation of human rights groups. The PNG Association for Human Rights, formed in 1992, has been relatively inactive. The Individual and Community Rights Advocacy Forum (ICRAF), a nongovernmental organization (NGO) formed in 1993, became increasingly active; it focused on human rights and the environment. NGO's have exercised their right to comment on human rights issues in the media without any known government interference or retribution. The Government organized a U.N.-sponsored seminar in October to review its options for establishing a national human rights commission. The U.N. Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution in March urging the Government to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis in Bougainville, and it authorized the Secretary General to consider appointing a Special Representative after September 30 if the situation warranted. The Government facilitated a visit by a senior U.N. official in August, and in September the Secretary General advised that he would not appoint a special representative. The Government permitted an increased number of visits to Bougainville by reporters, including an Australian television crew in February, and sponsored visits by an Australian parliamentary delegation in April, Tonga's Crown Prince in June, and a representative of the U.N. Secretary General for the October peace conference. However, it has not extended invitations to nongovernmental human rights organizations that have expressed interest in investigating alleged human rights abuses there. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status Extreme ethnic and geographic diversity prevents domination by any one tribe or clan. The democratically elected government, based on loose coalitions, has taken care not to favor one group over another consistently. Women The Constitution and laws have provisions for extensive rights for women including family law, marriage, and property rights. Some women in the modern sector have achieved senior positions in the professions, business, and civil service. Nonetheless, traditional patterns of discrimination against women result in a significant denial of human rights. Despite constitutional and legal provisions, most women, even those in urban areas, still live in a system that relegates them to second-class status. Village courts tend to enforce traditional attitudes and values that oppress both women and youth. For example, village court justices tend to be overly severe on women by imposing jail terms on women found guilty of adultery, while penalizing men lightly or not at all. Circuit-riding national court justices, however, frequently annul village court sentences and free unjustly imprisoned women. Nevertheless, when sentence is imposed, there is a tendency to impose longer sentences on women than men, particularly in cases involving loss of life. Where polygynous marriages are still customary, particularly in the highlands, there has been an increase in the number of women charged with the murder of another of their husband's wives, reportedly due to the breakdown in custom and tradition. Violence against women, including domestic violence and gang rape, is prevalent. Some tribal and clan cultures emphasize antagonism between the sexes. While women are ostensibly protected by their families and clans, they are nonetheless often victims of violence and force. Traditional village deterrents, such as requirements for compensation, are breaking down. Attacks on women remain common in intertribal warfare as well. Fear of rape, especially gang rape, is justifiably common among women and constrains not only their movements and social activities but also their ability to exercise authority and discipline in business and professional activities. The number of reported cases of rape is rising steadily. Though rape is punishable by prison sentences, and sentences are handed out when assailants are found guilty, few assailants are apprehended. Most areas without access to law enforcement services rely on "payback," a traditional form of revenge directed at the offender's tribe or clan, to deter or punish rape. Domestic violence such as wife beating is also common but is usually viewed by police and citizenry alike as a private, family matter. One study sponsored by the police department itself found that wife abuse is prevalent in police families. Both the Government and public organizations are working to upgrade the status of women but so far with limited results. In June Parliament ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). According to the U.N. Development Program, the literacy rate of PNG's adult female population has actually declined by 5 percent over the past 14 years. The Government provides a grant to the National Council of Women and has instituted an Office of Women's Affairs in the Department of Home Affairs and Youth. Children The Government's ability to protect the rights and welfare of children is limited by financial constraints. Approximately 44 percent of PNG's population is under the age of 16. In PNG's traditional clan system, children are generally cared for within the extended family, in accordance with financial resources and the tribe's access to services. Because of the geographic isolation and remoteness of many villages, malnourishment and infant and maternal mortality rates are very high. Although statistics are not available, welfare officers believe that child abuse is increasing as village life and the extended family give way to urban development. Most programs to protect and develop youth are operated by NGO's, including the recently formed child protection services, and religious organizations. Many government programs are severely underfunded. People with Disabilities Through the National Board for the Disabled, the Government provides limited funding for the disabled to approximately 14 NGO's which provide services. The Government does not provide programs or services directly. Services and health care for the disabled, except for that provided by the traditional family and clan system, do not exist in several of the country's provinces. No legislation mandates accessibility for the disabled. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The right to form and join labor unions is protected by law, subject to registration by the Department of Labor. While the Government does not use registration as a form of control over unions, an unregistered union has no legal standing with the Department of Labor or before the courts and, accordingly, cannot operate effectively. Unionized workers account for about one-half of the 250,000 wage earners in the formal economy and are organized into some 50 trade unions, most of which are associated with the Trade Unions Congress. Unions are independent of the Government and of political parties. They may freely affiliate with international organizations. Both public- and private-sector unions exercised their legal right to strike in 1994. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The Constitution provides for the right to engage in collective bargaining and to join industrial organizations. These rights are exercised freely. In 1994 the International Labor Organization (ILO) again admonished the Government to amend the law that gives it discretionary power to cancel arbitration awards or declare wage agreements void when they are contrary to government policy. The Government has stated the amendment has not been made due to a lack of resources. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers against union members and organizers. The Department of Labor and Employment, as well as the courts, is involved in dispute settlement. Wages over and above the minimum wage are set through negotiations between employers and employees or their respective industrial organizations. There are no export processing zones. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The Constitution forbids slavery and all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and there were no reports of such practices. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The minimum working age, as established in the Employment Act, is 18 years. However, children between the ages of 11 and 18 may be employed in family related work provided they have parental permission, a medical clearance, and a work permit from a labor office. Such employment is rare, except in subsistence agriculture. The Department of Labor and Employment and the courts take steps to enforce the minimum age law, but they are so hampered by a lack of resources that enforcement is not effective. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work Minimum wages for the private sector are set by the Minimum Wage Board, a quasi-governmental body with worker and employer representation. The most recent determination, which became effective in October 1992, reduced the minimum wage for newly hired urban workers by about 75 percent to $19.50 (Kina 22.96) per week. The new minimum wage would not support a decent standard of living for a worker and family who exist solely on the cash economy. A 12 percent devaluation of the Kina in September, and the further depreciation of the Kina following the decision to allow the currency to float in October, has reduced the real wage received by workers. Minimum wage levels, allowances, rest periods, holidays, leave, and overtime are regulated by law. The workweek is limited by law to 42 hours (44 in rural areas). The law provides for at least one rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours in every week. Enforcement of the Industrial Health and Safety Law and related regulations is the responsibility of the Department of Labor and Employment. The law requires that inspections take place on a regular basis, but, due to a shortage of inspectors, they occur only when requested by workers or unions. (###)
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