Thursday, November 03, 2005

Papua New Guinea: Investigate Police Shootings of Schoolchildren

(New York, November 1, 2005) ? The government of Papua New
Guinea should immediately investigate police killings of three
schoolchildren and the injuring of roughly two dozen others in Enga
province on October 31, Human Rights Watch said today.

Deputy Police Commissioner Gari Baki told journalists Monday that
police were met by rock-throwing students when they went to arrest
the headmaster of Porgera top-up primary school. The deputy
commissioner said that the officers believed their lives were threatened
and opened fire to disperse the crowd. Three children were shot dead,
and 20 to 35 people, some as young as nine or 10 years old, were

"It's hard to imagine that police confronted by unarmed students
couldn't address the situation without shooting children dead," said
Zama Coursen-Neff, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch's
Children's Rights Division and author of the organization's recent
report on police violence against children in Papua New Guinea. "The
officers involved should be investigated and properly punished, and
steps should be taken to ensure such horrific incidents won't be

Extreme and disproportionate violence against children, including rape
and torture, is business as usual for many Papua New Guinea police. In
September, Human Rights Watch released a report, "?Making Their
Own Rules': Police Beatings, Rape, and Torture of Children in Papua
New Guinea," documenting boys and girls being shot, knifed, kicked
and beaten with gun butts, iron bars, wooden batons, fists, rubber
hoses and chairs. Some were forced to chew and swallow condoms.
Eyewitnesses describe gang rapes in police stations, vehicles, barracks
and other locations. Children were also routinely detained with adults
in sordid police lockups and denied medical care.

Internal police statistics indicate that very few officers are punished for
violence against children. A 2004 report commissioned by Minister of
Police Bire Kimisopa also found a breakdown of discipline. The
minister's report recommended reforms that have not been
implemented. With little or no penalty for violators and few incentives
for good practices, police training has had little effect on abusive
police tactics.

"Papua New Guinea Police Commissioner Sam Inguba told me in
September that officers who commit crimes against children would be
disciplined," said Coursen-Neff. "Yesterday's police shootings of
children demands leadership from the top. This incident highlights the
urgent need for Papua New Guinea's police force to reform the way it
treats children."

Human Rights Watch called on the Papua New Guinea government to
investigate the shootings and to make public the results of the
investigation. Officers and their commanders found responsible for
excessive force should face, as appropriate, internal disciplinary
measures, including dismissal, and criminal prosecution, the
organization said. Human Rights Watch has also called on the
government to designate an independent body to monitor police
violence against children.

Human Rights Watch urged the government to ensure that police
strictly comply with the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of
Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. Under the
Principles, law enforcement officials may use lethal force only "when
strictly unavoidable in order to protect life." When doing so they must
act with restraint and in proportion to the seriousness of the offense,
minimize injury and respect and preserve human life.

Australia is Papua New Guinea's largest foreign donor, with much of
its assistance going to the police. Human Rights Watch 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