PAPUA NEW GUINEA POLICE OFFICIAL SLAMS U.S. RIGHTS REPORT

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By Philip Kepson

RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (September 23, 1999 – The National)---Assistant Police Commissioner John ToGuata yesterday described a United States Government report on human rights abuses in Papua New Guinea as inaccurate.

"I condemn it because it is a bad report," Mr. ToGuata said.

Mr. ToGuata said he did not read the contents of the report but if the publication in The National on Monday, this week, was an indication of what it (the report) tried to convey about rights abuses in PNG, he was against it.

The report, titled Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998, Vol. 1, claimed that the PNG Government continued to be responsible for human rights abuses despite a Bougainville cease-fire pact in October 1997 and progress in peace negotiations.

It also said that in other parts of the country there continued to be credible reports that police committed extra-judicial killings and beat suspects, adding that although the Constitution provides an independent judiciary and the courts are independent of executive, legislative and military authorities, at times political interest interferes with due process.

"Although the Constitution forbids torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment, police often beat suspects during arrests and allowed members of the public beat the suspects as well," the report said.

Mr. ToGuata said while he agreed with certain concerns the report had tried to raise, mainly in terms of abuse of powers by certain policemen in the course of executing their duties, he was not happy with the report because it had failed to make a general assessment of human rights abuses by PNG police that included the problems they faced in executing their duties.

"There are certain cases of human rights abuses in our country. However, as far as I understand there were situations that compelled policemen to act like the report had pointed out...and those were rare cases and not serious enough to attract the use of the word torture," he said.

On Bougainville, he said one must not take what had happened in past nine years as a normal crime situation because it was a civil war.

He said the PNG security forces had intervened in 1989 to maintain peace and to protect the rights of the civilians and the properties of rightful private companies and the state, adding that a rebellious group of Bougainvilleans that first took up arms against the civilians and the security forces were the ones that have started carrying out human rights abuses.

"The security forces were sent to stop a rebellious group from carrying out crimes. . .and when they did not cooperate with the authorities and the security forces, even to the extent of shooting and killing our men and civilians, what could the security forces do in defense?" Mr. ToGuata asked.

He said the people who put the report together should go back to Bougainville and find out whether the security forces were solely responsible for rights abuses.

"How would the report describe the many lives lost and hundreds of civilians that had suffered torture and other human rights abuses in the hands of the rebels?" he asked.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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