Presenting what is known in United Nations as the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to the 18th session of the Human Rights Council on July 11, 2011, Papua New Guinea declared that, like other countries, it was faced with human rights issues and challenges.
Its presentation, through ambassador Robert Aisi, considered that “most of those challenges could be attributed to the country’s current stage of development; cultural diversity, which although not an excuse, was a very distinct feature of the country; lack of basic health-care, education and other services; and inaccessibility to government services”.
PNG acknowledged that the government would take ownership in addressing human rights issues but also called for support from the wider international community such as the UN, the donor community, the private sector and civil society.
At the session, the country’s ambassador affirmed that the National Constitution “accorded all persons living in the country the basic rights and freedoms espoused by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and noted that PNG had “ratified most United Nations’ human rights conventions” but explained that “the delay in ratification of certain instruments should be attributed to the country’s lack of resources and capacity constraints”.
It was added that the country had put in place the necessary laws and institutional mechanisms to address human rights issues, but that it was experiencing an increase in human rights challenges, such as sorcery-related killings and the use of affordable mobile telephones services and access to internet to commit human rights violations.
And so there you have it. While all the laws, the systems and processes are in place, this country through its government and its various legal institutions continue to provide convenient excuses for some of the gross violations of human rights and downright simple, cold-blooded murder, many of which are preventable.
The murder of a mother of an eight-month-old baby who was “cooked” in front of a gathering public including school-aged children last week in Mt Hagen cannot be put down to “lack of resources or capacity constraints”.
Neither can it be put down to “the country’s current stage of development; cultural diversity, lack of basic health-care, education and other services; or inaccessibility to government services”.
It is plain and simple cold-blooded, premeditated murder in the first degree.
There is no other way to describe it. There is no excuse for it.
The laws of this country allow for trial in a court of law, that everybody is presumed innocent until convicted by the weight of evidence before court.
There is no law which prescribes what happened in broad daylight in Mt Hagen and many other areas right around the country.
Today, we carry another report that five men were put to death in the same kangaroo court situation in the Madang area.
So long as the government tolerates by its lack of decisive action, this kind of unmentionable torture killings, they will continue.
At that July 2011 meeting at the UN general assembly, Germany had asked how the PNG government would address a special rapporteur’s report on the question of torture, which also indicated that police beatings often reached the level of torture as defined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), and reports of brutal torture and killings of women and girls, especially elderly women, accused of witchcraft.
We repeat the same question.
It is not enough to express outrage. We must go further to introduce laws and further to ensure they are enforced.
Policemen arrived too late to prevent the killing of the poor mother last week in Mt Hagen but there were scores of Papua New Guineans observing the scene unfolding as if it were a drama enacted for their entertainment.
And so long as that persists, the violence will also continue.
Almost as a testimony to the relaxed manner in which authorities approach this subject, the prime suspect in what we would describe as first degree murder, escaped from police custody.
And the police commander on the ground was uncertain enough to announce he was going to treat the matter as a murder case.