Reconstruction and development efforts continued following five years of armed conflict that ended in 2003. Potentially divisive ethnic and regional differences remained to be addressed. In prosecutions for serious conflict-related crimes, at least 10 people were convicted, including the former leader of the Guadalcanal Liberation Front. Other former militants continued to await trial on remand, some after nearly two and a half years in pre-trial detention.

Post-conflict developments

Progress was reported on the reconstruction of infrastructure and key institutions affected by the conflict. However, significant development challenges remained, as more than 80 per cent of the population was still dependent on subsistence agriculture and fishing, with limited access to health and education services. The marked disparity in development between the capital, Honiara, and the provinces stirred tensions, as did reported corruption among political leaders.

With the continued presence of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) the security situation reportedly remained stable. However, in May a report by the Pacific Islands Forum found that entrenched provincialism and strong animosities between ethnic groups persisted. The report recommended establishing both a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a commission of inquiry to investigate land issues and the underlying causes of ethnic conflict. Neither institution had been established by the end of 2005, although there were other community reconciliation initiatives. Concerns remained that proposed constitutional reforms designed to introduce a federal system of government could lead to further fragmentation.

Trials relating to the conflict

Although arrests relating to the conflict were still being made in December, most outstanding cases had proceeded to trial or were awaiting trial. In such cases, there were concerns about the length of time some detainees had been in custody. The courts decided that more than two years in pre-trial detention was reasonable in the circumstances.

During the year, the High Court convicted at least 10 people for their role in the violence and acquitted four. Among those convicted was Harold Keke, former leader of the Guadalcanal Liberation Front, who, with two others, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2002 murder of Augustine Geve, a former priest and government minister.

In two other murder trials, the court held that, despite possible evidence of threats and intimidation, the defence of duress was not available to former militia members who had voluntarily joined militant groups.

Militia members convicted in at least one trial lodged appeals on the grounds that they had been induced to make admissions as part of the peace process, without understanding that their statements would be used as evidence against them in criminal proceedings.

In October police used tear gas to quell a prison riot that reportedly started when suspects awaiting trial for conflict-related offences believed their appeal for amnesty had not been delivered.

Violence against women

In March the Christian Care Centre, the country's first purpose-built shelter for victims of family violence, opened near Honiara. In September, Centre staff and police officers received training on gender-based violence from the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre. However, a national policy on violence against women, including a coordinated, properly resourced inter-agency approach, was still outstanding. Women who experienced violence, particularly outside major town centres, were left without effective protection, health services or redress.

As the courts worked through their case backlog, a few historical cases of sexual assault came to trial. In May, former Deputy Police Commissioner Wilfred Akao was convicted and sentenced to two years' imprisonment for abducting and assaulting a woman in Honiara in 1996. Another man was sentenced to four and a half years on three counts of raping the same woman.

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