16 May 2017

Transparency PNG says prison system needs rethink

11:03 am on 16 May 2017

Transparency International Papua New Guinea says authorities need to rethink the way correctional services in the country are run.

Reception area at Buimo Jail in Lae, PNG.

Reception area at Buimo Jail Photo: Human Rights Watch

This comes after 17 prisoners were shot dead on Friday during a mass escape from the Buimo Prison in Lae.

Police said, so far, only three of the escapees have been caught while 57 remain at large.

Chairman of Transparency PNG Lawrence said there had been an increase in mass jail breaks in PNG in recent years.

He said it was clear the system is not working.

"It looks as though there is a challenge either in the budgeting of the corrective institutions or a lack of adequate training or their could be disciplinary issues. But whatever it is when you here that 17 lives have been lost you then have to start questioning the way in which we are responding as well."

Meanwhile, Amnesty International called for the officers involved in the killings to be suspended and an independent inquiry held.

Amnesty's Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Champa Patel, said PNG security forces' use of lethal force in response to a prison breakout was alarming.

She said the PNG authorities must hold suspected perpetrators to account without recourse to the death penalty.

"It is alarming that the security forces' first response was to use lethal force against unarmed people without any concern for their right to life," said Ms Patel..

"Prison reforms and accountability mechanisms are crucial to stop these incidents from happening again.

"Whatever the crime committed by inmates, they have the right to be treated humanely."

In February last year 12 Buimo prisoners were shot dead in a breakout by 90 prisoners who had overpowered guards at the main gate.