Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2017, 15:02 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2008 - Papua New Guinea

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2008
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2008 - Papua New Guinea, 28 May 2008, available at: [accessed 21 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis 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 Paulias Matane
Head of government: Michael Somare
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 6.1 million
Life expectancy: 56.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 82/93 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 57.3 per cent

High levels of violent crime plagued the country. Public faith in the law-enforcement system did not improve. Violence against women and children remained endemic. Civil society responses to these problems became increasingly prominent.


Parliamentary elections were marred by attacks against electoral officials and police, as well as fatal clashes between supporters of rival candidates. The National Alliance Party (NAP) returned the highest number of candidates and formed a coalition government with 12 other political parties and independent MPs.

Long-running tribal conflicts worsened in many parts of the country, with Enga and Western Highlands among the worst affected.

While a year-long state of emergency in the Southern Highlands was lifted in August, security concerns remained high in Bougainville with weapons disposal a pressing issue for the Autonomous Government.

Proliferation of illegal small arms

High levels of violent crime, fuelled by the unchecked proliferation of illegal firearms, showed no signs of abating, deepening the sense of fear and insecurity in the population.

A broad-based civil society advocacy initiative known as the Coalition to Stop Guns Violence was formed in response to government inaction over implementing the 2005 National Gun Committee's recommendations to combat the proliferation and use of illegal firearms.

Police and security forces

The police appeared to have neither the ability nor the will to guarantee security. Investigations into crimes were not routine; arrests of perpetrators of violations were rare. Many victims of crime were denied justice as cases collapsed under a lack of police evidence or incompetent prosecution.

In an attempt to raise public confidence in the police, an agreement was signed in June between the police force and the Ombudsman Commission to form a Police Complaints Ombudsman. The Defence Force and the Correctional Services were in line to set up similar accountability mechanisms.

Violence against women

Gender-based violence, including sexual violence, was endemic in the home and in the community. In the context of the elections, women were traded for guns while gang rapes were reported among warring tribes.

Despite almost daily condemnations of abuses against women in the press, including a string of vehement statements by key government leaders and law enforcement officials, few incidents were investigated. Alleged perpetrators, including policemen and others in powerful positions, escaped justice and little concrete action to fight impunity materialised.

In August, the Supreme Court turned down an appeal by a re-elected MP against a 12-year sentence for rape. The Electoral Commission had earlier been criticized for effectively condoning rape by accepting the convicted MP's nomination.

Women human rights defenders were increasingly active and organized in their advocacy. In a high-profile silent protest action on 9 October, more than 100 black-clad women activists with white ribbons, together with the Minister for Community Development and the only female MP, Dame Carol Kidu, petitioned the parliament to address violence against women.

Violence against women was seen as a key reason behind the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which, in turn, is fuelling more abuses against women, as HIV/AIDS deaths were sometimes believed to be the result of sorcery. Alleged witches were tortured and killed by mobs who believed they were responsible for deaths.

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