Amnesty International Report 2002 - Solomon Islands
|Publication Date||28 May 2002|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2002 - Solomon Islands , 28 May 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3cf4bc0f2c.html [accessed 7 March 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by John Ini Lapli
Head of government: Allan Kemakeza (replaced Manasseh Sogavare in December)
Population: 0.5 million
Official languages: Solomon Islands Pidgin, English
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Police officers and former members of armed groups continued to enjoy impunity for human rights abuses. There was a widespread lack of confidence in the criminal justice system, which failed to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for ethnic violence, including killings, or torture in previous years. Former members of armed groups were recruited into the police and prison services. Many refused to give up their illegal guns and were accused of using them to commit human rights abuses. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights initiated a human rights program.
In February, representatives of rebel groups and of national and provincial governments signed the Marau Peace Agreement which covers an area excluded from a previous peace accord. Formal talks to review the 2000 Townsville Peace Accord failed in September after what appeared to be a political killing. Implementation of these two peace agreements was hampered by the refusal of many former militants and police officers to surrender guns, a pre-condition for immunity from prosecution.
The government appeared to be powerless to stop shootings, beatings, extortion and intimidation by suspected former members of armed ethnic groups, particularly in the period before elections in December. Villagers in Guadalcanal, Malaita and Western provinces complained of frequent threats of violence by so-called former "militants" with access to illegal guns.
Elections were held in December after civil society groups protested against attempts by the Manasseh Sogavare government to delay elections. Allan Kemakeza was elected Prime Minister. Alex Bartlett, a former leader of one of the armed ethnic groups, the Malaita Eagle Force, was appointed as Foreign Minister.
Prime Minister Kemakeza promised to implement a rehabilitation program for former militants to induce them to give up more than 500 high-powered guns found to be missing from the police armoury by the Peace Monitoring Council.
No reliable information was available on the number of people killed or injured in the context of the continuing political or ethnic conflict. The police admitted that investigations into conflict-related crimes were often ineffective because witnesses were reluctant to come forward and investigating officers were sometimes themselves harassed.
More than 200 former members of armed ethnic groups received training as special constables. Many refused to surrender their guns. An International Peace Monitoring Team (IPMT) continued to pursue its mission to foster disarmament.
- In March, police officers and former militants engaged in fighting near villages on the south coast of Guadalcanal. Villagers reported that police opened fire indiscriminately on their homes. Some 45 houses were reportedly burned down and hundreds of villagers fled to the hills.
- In June, Ezekiel Alebua, Premier of Guadalcanal, was shot and injured by a group of masked men wearing military clothing. A week later, two IPMT members escaped uninjured when their boat was shot at near the coast of west Guadalcanal, allegedly because they were mistaken for police officers. Joseph Sangu, leader of the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) claimed responsibility for both incidents, but police declined to arrest anyone. Joseph Sangu formally apologized to the IPMT.
- In September, a police officer released without authorization a man arrested on suspicion of involvement in the death of IFM leader Selwyn Saki. Selwyn Saki was kidnapped from his village on Guadalcanal, tortured and killed in September; his mutilated body was later reportedly found in his car outside Honiara.
- In November, amid growing pre-election tension, armed men surrounded a rally in Honiara protesting at government policies. They fired shots to disperse the crowd and severely beat one of the speakers.
In June, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights began implementing a program which included human rights training for police officers and special constables. In December a temporary Human Rights Office was established in Honiara.