The 1975 Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea explicitly protects the right to life.S. 35, 1975 Constitution of Papua New Guinea.It is also stipulated that the right to life is not violated as the result of the use of force that is reasonable in the circumstances when force is used to defend a person against violence; to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a lawfully detained person; to suppress a riot, an insurrection or a mutiny; to prevent a person from committing a criminal offence; to suppress piracy or terrorism or similar acts; or as a result of a lawful act of war. These are potentially very broad exceptions.
The national Police Force is established under the 1975 Constitution.S. 188, 1975 Constitution of Papua New Guinea.The primary functions of the Police Force are stated to be:
in accordance with the Constitutional Laws and Acts of the Parliament—
(a) to preserve peace and good order in the country; and
(b) to maintain and, as necessary, enforce the law in an impartial and objective manner.S. 197(1), 1975 Constitution of Papua New Guinea.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||Not party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||N/A|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||N/A|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Not party|
There is not yet a regional human rights treaty to which Pacific nations can adhere despite discussions going back decades as to the possibility of establishing a regional mechanism.
Police Use of Force
The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary is the national organisation responsible for law enforcement throughout Papua New Guinea.
The 1977 Arrest Act enables authorised persons, including law enforcement officials, to use all reasonable means to effect an arrest where a suspect resists arrest.S. 14(1)(c), 1977 Arrest Act.The force used must, though, be reasonable in the circumstances.S. 14(1)(c), 1977 Arrest Act.Excessive use of force is also prohibited under the earlier 1974 Criminal Code Act.S. 281, 1974 Criminal Code Act.
A Code of Ethics exists which stipulates that each member of the Constabulary shall "Respect and uphold the rights of all people in the community regardless of race, social status or religion" but the Code does not directly address police use of force.There is not yet a specific law governing recourse to the use of firearms by the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
Section 112 (3) of the 1995 Correctional Services Act authorises a correctional officer to use a firearm if he or she “believes it to be necessary to maintain the good order and security of the correctional institution or the custody of a detainee”.S. 112(3), 1995 Correctional Services Act.It is further stated that a correctional officer shall not be “liable for injury or damage caused by the use of force, instruments of restraint or firearms when acting in accordance with this section.”S. 112(4), 1995 Correctional Services Act.As the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has stated in his 2015 mission report:
Such provisions allow for scenarios where excessive use of force can be regarded as lawful, as well as the avoidance of accountability.UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Report on Mission to Papua New Guinea, UN doc. A/HRC/29/37/Add.1, 30 March 2015, para. 33.
The Constitution stipulates that the national Police Force "is subject to the control of the National Executive Council through a Minister".S. 196(1), 1975 Constitution of Papua New Guinea.There is also an independent police oversight body in Papua New Guinea located within the Ombudsman Commission.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
The Human Rights Committee has not issued Concluding Observations on Papua New Guinea for the last decade and the state is not a party to the 1984 Convention against Torture. In 2014, however, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions visited Papua New Guinea and in his mission report published the following year he stated that:
It is widely perceived that police in Papua New Guinea are prone to using high levels of unwarranted force. Several reasons were put forward, including poor working and living conditions of the police; understaffing; the perception by police that they must assert themselves in a violent environment; cases of misuse of the wantok system where police officers may use their position to protect their relatives; corruption; low remuneration; lack of training on human rights standards regarding the use of force; and lack of accountability.UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Report on Mission to Papua New Guinea, UN doc. A/HRC/29/37/Add.1, 30 March 2015, para. 25.
There is no regional human rights mechanism governing Papua New Guinea.
In January 2016, Papua New Guinea’s Police Commissioner Gari Baki told journalists that more than 1,600 complaints of police abuse were filed between 2007 and 2014. Of these, 326 were classified as criminal cases and 20 officers were charged, but police gave no information on the number of convictions.
In June 2016, Amnesty International condemned the shooting of students peacefully protesting in Port Moresby. “The shooting of students peacefully protesting is reminiscent of the worst excesses of repressive regimes in the region,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific. “Papua New Guinea’s authorities must establish a prompt, impartial and independent investigation to determine who is responsible for the unnecessary and excessive use of force.” The Ombudsman Commission said it would investigate the police shootings, but no public report of their findings was available as of August 2018.