UN investigator calls for human rights commission for PNG
A UN delegate has toured PNG and is calling for a new human rights commission.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial killings says Papua New Guinea must institute a national human rights body.
Christof Heyns departed PNG late last week after a 12-day tour of the country, and he says key problems are sorcery-related violence, education on the right to life, and police brutality.
He'll be reporting back to the UN soon, and spoke to Alex Perrottet earlier, saying sorcery-related violence in some areas could be on the rise.
CHRISTOF HEYNS: In this particular case, it seems to be especially in the Highlands, and I've heard various explanations. I've asked as widely as I could because it seems to be that there may even be an increase in this, and some people say it's because of contact with the outside world, that maybe it could be a reaction to it, sort of going back into traditional values. It could also be that traditionally the weapons used were bows and arrows and such, but now it's gun powder and guns coming into the picture. So it is difficult to say what the reasons would be for the increase, or the possible increase, not everyone says that it is actually on the increase, but it seems to be quite prevalent. And of course it affects entire societies so not only the people who make these accusations and act on it as a community, but also the police and in some cases even those involved in the magistrates and so forth, so I think it is a very difficult thing to get out of.
ALEX PERROTTET: You also visited Manus Island where Australian Detention Centre there is, with the asylum seekers, I mean, what's your read of the situation there?
CH: Yeah, I should emphasise I was there for half a day and I didn't meet with the people who are detained there. I only met with the immigration officials on the side of Australia and the side of Papua New Guinea, and I met with the police chief as well. But they didn't want me to meet with the detainees because they said that the situation was volatile and if word went around that the UN was there, that could provoke people into trying to catch the outside attention. But I think the overall issue is that there's great uncertainty about the peoples' future and for that reason I do regard it as a potentially dangerous situation.
AP: And you're calling for more education on the right to life in Papua New Guinea and you're saying that the country must create an efficient national human rights institution. What does PNG currently have in terms of a human rights body and what needs to be done?
CH: Yeah, they've been looking for a number of years it seems at creating a national human rights institution, like a national human rights commission. But that has not been implemented. There's in fact also not a general human rights NGO in the country, and in particular one that deals with the legal issue, which seems to be a glaring gap. Those things seem to be relatively easy to do, so I think there are a number of things that can be done. I think it will be a step in the wrong direction to reintroduce the death penalty and I think it's also with a police force currently 5,300 people that's being expanded to 8,000, that's an opportunity for a new culture in the police if the new people are given human rights training on a significant scale and in a way to break the culture of the use of force that may have developed over the years.
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