Several people were briefly detained without charge on suspicion of having links with armed secessionists. Torture and ill-treatment by members of the security forces continued to be reported and resulted in the death of at least one person. "Disappearances" continued to be reported and dozens of people were believed to have been extrajudicially executed on the island of Bougainville. In other parts of the country several people were killed by police in suspicious circumstances. A prisoner sentenced to death for murder in 1995 was acquitted by the Supreme Court. An armed secessionist group committed human rights abuses, including hostage-taking and deliberate and arbitrary killings. In March, fighting resumed in the eight-year conflict between the secessionist Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) – an armed opposition group – and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) and government-backed paramilitary Resistance Forces. Government forces launched a major military offensive in June. In November, Gerard Sinato was elected as the new Premier of the Bougainville Transitional Government, following the assassination of his predecessor, Theodore Miriung. An amnesty, which could offer impunity to those responsible for human rights violations, remained in force for crimes committed by members of the security forces and the BRA between 1 October 1988 and 1 July 1995. Legislation establishing a National Human Rights Commission was expected to be introduced to parliament in 1997. In February, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who visited Papua New Guinea in October 1995, reported that human rights violations by the security forces continued on Bougainville, that violations of human rights by all parties to the conflict were not adequately investigated and hardly any alleged perpetrators had been brought to justice. There continued to be restrictions on access to Bougainville for domestic and international human rights monitors. Several people were detained without charge or trial by members of the security forces on Bougainville and the neighbouring island of Buka, most on suspicion of having links with pro-independence individuals or the BRA. In May, Sam Tulo was arrested on Buka by members of the Resistance Forces and taken to a plantation, where he was questioned by a senior PNGDF officer about complaints he was alleged to have made about the PNGDF. James Togel was detained overnight on Buka in May for allegedly attempting to contact a pro-independence church leader. Both men were released without charge. In June, a couple and their child were arrested without warrants by the security forces, after the woman's brother – a BRA leader – was alleged to have taken captive a soldier and a Catholic priest. The PNGDF reportedly offered to release the woman and her family if the BRA released the soldier. The couple and their child were released without charge after several days in military custody. There were further reports of torture and ill-treatment in police and military custody on Bougainville and in other parts of the country. In June, two youths were beaten and kicked by members of the PNGDF after being arrested for breaking a curfew in North Buka. One was beaten unconscious and both were reported to have suffered swollen jaws. Throughout the country, dozens of people were subjected to ill-treatment and torture, including beatings, in police custody, in some cases resulting in serious injury or death. In June, William Tanka, Michael Peterson and Steve Pokua were beaten by police after they were detained in connection with an alleged driving offence in the capital, Port Moresby. William Tanka was reportedly hit in the face and head with a set of handcuffs. As a result of the beating, he had multiple bruising and swelling on his face and bleeding in one ear. In May, Paul Opa Were died, allegedly after being severely beaten by police and falling from an open police truck in Minj, Western Highlands. An eye-witness claimed that Paul Opa Were, who had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in building an illegal roadblock, fell from the truck while being kicked, punched and hit with rifle butts. At least three people "disappeared" on Bougainville. In April, Peter Ugua "disappeared" after being arrested by members of the PNGDF and the Resistance Forces at a house on Sohano Island, near Buka. He had been arrested on suspicion of having links with the BRA because he had been admitted to hospital with gunshot wounds. Two weeks before his "disappearance", Peter Ugua had been arrested and held incommunicado for six days in military custody in Buka before being released without charge. Dozens of extrajudicial executions were reportedly carried out on Bougainville by the PNGDF and the Resistance Forces. In February, James Lakana was believed to have been shot by the Resistance Forces in Monoitu, South Bougainville. In June, eight former members of the BRA were believed to have been killed by the PNGDF and the Resistance Forces in Sipai, West Bougainville. The eight, including Hubert Oparive, had left the BRA two years earlier and joined the Resistance Forces. They were reported to have been shot by the security forces on suspicion of having attempted to contact the BRA. The military announced an internal inquiry into the incident, but the outcome was not known by the end of the year. In October, Theodore Miriung, then Premier of the Bougainville Transitional Government, was killed in southwestern Bougainville. The government initiated an independent coroner's inquiry into his death in November, which found that he had been killed by members of the Resistance Forces and the PNGDF. By the end of the year, no member of the security forces was known to have been questioned, suspended or charged in relation to Theodore Miriung's death. No members of the PNGDF or the Resistance Forces were known to have been brought to justice for their role in other human rights violations on Bougainville, despite an admission by Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan in August that members of the PNGDF had committed human rights violations. There was no information about an inquiry, announced by the PNGDF in February 1995, into the December 1994 deaths of Shane Seeto, Damien Ona, Apiato Bobonung and Robert (see Amnesty International Report 1996). Several people were shot by police in suspicious circumstances in other parts of the country; at least one person died. In July, Mathew Fugo was shot dead by police in Port Moresby during a search for a man allegedly threatening people with a pistol. The police confronted Mathew Fugo by a roadside and asked him to approach them; as he did so they reportedly opened fire. He did not appear to have been threatening the police with a weapon at the time he was shot. An inquiry was announced into the shooting. The outcome was not known at the end of the year. While investigations appeared to have been initiated into some cases of human rights violations by members of the police, many remained unresolved. In April, two policemen were jailed for four years for abducting and raping a teenage girl in Port Moresby in December 1994. There was no information about the progress of the inquiry into the death of Simi Kugame, who had been shot dead by police as he was running from a demonstration in Kundiawa, Chimbu Province, in July 1995. There was also no information about an inquiry into the death of Robin Robuna, who had been shot by police after he was arrested on suspicion of car theft in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, in May 1995. Robin Robuna was beaten and kicked by police and then shot in the thigh at close range as he was ordered to get into a police vehicle. He died from loss of blood. In April, the Supreme Court acquitted Charles Ombusu of wilful murder, for which he had been sentenced to death in 1995 (see Amnesty International Report 1996). No one was sentenced to death and there were no executions during the year. On Bougainville, the BRA carried out human rights abuses, including hostage-taking and deliberate and arbitrary killings. In September, five members of the security forces were taken hostage by the BRA after a clash with the PNGDF. The BRA leader, General Sam Kauona, threatened to kill the five men if his organization's demands for a withdrawal of the PNGDF from Bougainville and steps towards independence for the island were not met. By the end of the year, the five were still alive in BRA custody. Another three soldiers were taken hostage in northern Bougainville in October and were believed to have been killed shortly after by the BRA. In May, at least two civilians living in the Asitoki government-run Care Centre in Tohei were killed by the BRA as they went to collect food from their gardens. In June, Amnesty International delegates visited Port Moresby, Buka, Chimbu Province and the Western Highlands Province. The delegation was prevented by the government and the PNGDF from travelling from Buka to Bougainville to monitor human rights. The delegation met representatives of the government and the PNGDF. In February, Amnesty International issued a report, Papua New Guinea: The death penalty – not the solution. In October, the organization called on the authorities to ensure that there was a full and impartial inquiry into the killing of Theodore Miriung. In September, Amnesty International called on the BRA to remove the threat of execution from five soldiers being held hostage on Bougainville.

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