Covering events from January - December 2003

Ethnic violence left more than 500 people dead. Agreement was reached to deploy Australian police in Papua New Guinea in 2004 to improve the security situation. The government took steps towards the resumption of executions. Proposed legislation on refugee status determination was drafted.


Local power struggles and reprisal killings fuelled provincial violence. A report prepared for a Law and Order Summit in Enga Province in October found that 501 people had been killed during armed clashes between ethnic groups in the province during the 12 months to August 2003.

In March the Australian Centre for Independent Studies published a study that found that law and order had broken down, and that the country showed "every sign of following its Melanesian neighbour, the Solomon Islands, down the path to economic paralysis, government collapse and social despair". Prime Minister Michael Somare summoned Mike Manning, co-author of the study, to a parliamentary committee for questioning, saying the committee had powers to jail him without the right of appeal. The committee questioned Mike Manning and proposed new legislation to "deter critics who persistently and knowingly publish damaging articles".

In December, the government signed an agreement with Australia on the deployment of up to 230 Australian police and 100 civilian advisers from June 2004 to help restore law and order.


In March, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination repeated its request for information on the situation on Bougainville island and for renewed dialogue with Papua New Guinea.

In June, the international Peace Monitoring Group left Bougainville. A new Bougainville Transition Team took over some of its functions.

In August, the UN delegate's report on implementation of the UN Security Council's mandate on Bougainville cleared the way for elections for a Bougainville autonomous government expected in 2004. In December, three districts destroyed weapons collected under a UN program.

Death penalty

Violent crime fuelled public debate on the death penalty. Government ministers called for a resumption of executions; the last execution was carried out in 1954. In November the government announced that it would research execution methods in Southeast Asia in preparation for a possible resumption of executions.

  • In January and September, two men were sentenced to death for murder, taking to seven the number of people sentenced to death by hanging since capital punishment was reintroduced in 1991.

Police brutality

Allegations of police brutality increased. Little information was given as to whether investigations led to anyone being held accountable. The government announced a major review of police operations and discipline to be completed by mid-2004.

  • In January, Gabby Kutali, a 17-year-old schoolboy, was shot dead in Mount Hagen as he watched police mobile squad officers firing at suspects escaping police custody. The Social Welfare Minister urged parliament in March to establish a national human rights commission to investigate "summary executions and brutality" by police mobile squad units.
  • In November, Ekar Keapu, a newspaper photographer covering a violent confrontation between police and vendors in Port Moresby, was punched in the face by police and had his camera destroyed.

Crisis in prisons

Conditions in detention facilities deteriorated. In February, police in West New Britain Province complained that they lacked the resources to provide adequate food and healthcare for more than 60 prisoners held in overcrowded police cells following the closure of the province's only prison a year earlier. In March, a health inspector condemned the failure to close Bomana Prison, which had sewage problems, because Correctional Services reportedly lacked funds to transfer the 650 prisoners elsewhere. In September, a court ordered Buimo Prison in Morobe Province to be closed for refurbishment after seven prisoners died and 63 were admitted to hospital during 2002 due to infections linked to overcrowding and unhygienic conditions.


In March, the government announced it would grant 100 families from Indonesia's Papua Province, who had sought refuge near Vanimo, the opportunity to apply for protection under a new refugee status determination system developed with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

From August, only one asylum-seeker remained arbitrarily detained at a facility funded by Australia on Manus Island after the others held there had been resettled in Australia and elsewhere.

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.