Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Papua New Guinea: Epidemic of Police Brutality Against Children

Papua New Guinea: Epidemic of Police Brutality Against Children
Torture, Gang Rapes Common in Law Enforcement

(Port Moresby, September 1, 2005)?The Papua New Guinea
government must act to stop the police from engaging in brutal
beatings, rape and torture of arrestees, many of who are children,
Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

The 124-page report, "Making Their Own Rules': Police Beatings,
Rape, and Torture of Children in Papua New Guinea," documents
boys and girls being shot, knifed, kicked and beaten by gun butts,
iron bars, wooden batons, fists, rubber hoses and chairs. Some are
forced to chew and swallow condoms. Eyewitnesses describe gang
rapes in police stations, vehicles, barracks and other locations.
Children are also routinely detained with adults in sordid police
lockups and denied medical care.

"Extreme physical violence is business as usual for the Papua New
Guinea police," said Zama Coursen-Neff, senior researcher for
Human Rights Watch's Children's Rights Division. "Instead of
protecting the public and children from violence, it is the police
who are committing some of the most heinous acts of violence
imaginable."

Australia is Papua New Guinea's largest foreign donor, and Papua
New Guinea is its largest per capita recipient of Australian
development aid. Much of this aid is directed to the police force,
yet Australia does not make promotion of human rights an explicit
purpose or condition of its aid. Australian officials admit that aid to
the police has failed to reduce violence and other human rights
violations by officers.

"Australia's expanded engagement with the Papua New Guinea
police is an opportunity to better address accountability for police
who beat, rape and torture children," said Coursen-Neff. "Australia
should not let other issues overshadow concern for the human
rights of children in Papua New Guinea."

Children make up nearly half of Papua New Guinea's some 5.6
million people. Fewer than half of all school-age children are
enrolled in school, and those who leave school are unlikely to find
paid employment. Although all children may be subjected to police
violence, children perceived as gang members ("raskols"), street
vendors, child sex workers and boys engaged in homosexual
conduct are especially targeted.

Human Rights Watch said that police abuses, such as police rape,
targeting of sex workers and men and boys engaged in homosexual
conduct, and harassment of people carrying condoms, may also
fuel Papua New Guinea's burgeoning AIDS epidemic. These acts
may spread the disease, deter people from carrying condoms, and
drive marginalized populations underground and away from
potentially lifesaving information on HIV prevention and health
services. Experts believe that at least 80,000 people are living with
HIV in Papua New Guinea?including 3 to 4 percent of adults in
the capital?the highest rates in the region.

"Human rights abuses by the police are undermining desperately-
needed HIV/AIDS prevention measures by the government, civil
society and international donors," said Coursen-Neff.

In addition to being abusive, Human Rights Watch said that police
violence is ineffective in the face of the country's serious crime
problem. Violent police tactics make people fearful of approaching
police even to report crime and reluctant to cooperate with
investigations. Even government studies have found police
increasingly unable to fight crime.

One positive development has been the recent establishment by the
Papua New Guinea government of juvenile courts and guidelines
for police, magistrates and others designed to divert children from
detention.

"The new juvenile courts and juvenile justice guidelines are critical
steps in the right direction, but they have to be taken from paper to
practice," said Coursen-Neff. "Yet rampant police violence against
children threatens to undermine these commendable
developments."

The police have been unwilling or unable to discipline their own
members. With little or no penalty for violators and few incentives
for good practices, police training has had little effect on abusive
police tactics. "There is no more important government
responsibility than protecting children and other vulnerable people
from violence," said Coursen-Neff. "If the government is serious
about the protection of children, it must start holding accountable
police who beat, rape and torture children."

Human Rights Watch called on the Papua New Guinea
government to:

? publicly repudiate police violence,
? to dismiss and prosecute perpetrators, and
? to designate an independent body to monitor police violence
against children.

Human Rights Watch also called on Australia and other
international donors to place more emphasis on accountability for
officers and their commanders who commit crimes, to encourage
independent monitoring of police by a body outside the force with
the resources and mandate to do the job, and to assist the
development of local human rights groups with the capacity to
demand accountability from the government and monitor police
violence.

To view this document on the Human Rights Watch web site,
please visit: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/08/31/png11659.htm

-----------
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to protect our objectivity, Human Rights Watch does not accept funding from
any government. We depend entirely on the generosity of people like you.
To make a contribution, please visit http://hrw.org/donations/

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