International Criminology World

World : Asia : New_Guinea

Archeological evidence indicates that humans arrived on New Guinea at least 60,000 years ago, probably by sea from Southeast Asia during an Ice Age period when the sea was lower and distances between islands shorter. Although the first arrivals were hunters and gatherers, early evidence shows that people managed the forest environment to provide food. There also are indications of gardening having been practiced at the same time that agriculture was developing in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Early garden crops--many of which are indigenous--included sugarcane, Pacific bananas, yams, and taros, while sago and pandanus were two commonly exploited native forest crops. Today's staples--sweet potatoes and pigs--are later arrivals, but shellfish and fish have long been mainstays of coastal dwellers' diets.

When Europeans first arrived, inhabitants of New Guinea and nearby islands--while still relying on bone, wood, and stone tools--had a productive agricultural system. They traded along the coast, where products mainly were pottery, shell ornaments, and foodstuffs, and in the interior, where forest products were exchanged for shells and other sea products.

The first Europeans to sight New Guinea were probably the Portuguese and Spanish navigators sailing in the South Pacific in the early part of the 16th century. In 1526-27, Don Jorge de Meneses accidentally came upon the principal island and is credited with naming it "Papua," a Malay word for the frizzled quality of Melanesian hair. The term "New Guinea" was applied to the island in 1545 by a Spaniard, Ynigo Ortis de Retez, because of a fancied resemblance between the islands' inhabitants and those found on the African Guinea coast. Although European navigators visited the islands and explored their coastlines for the next 170 years, little was known of the inhabitants until the late 19th century.

With Europe's growing need for coconut oil, Godeffroy's of Hamburg, the largest trading firm in the Pacific, began trading for copra in the New Guinea Islands. In 1884, Germany formally took possession of the northeast quarter of the island and put its administration in the hands of a chartered company. In 1899, the German imperial government assumed direct control of the territory, thereafter known as German New Guinea. In 1914, Australian troops occupied German New Guinea, and it remained under Australian military control until 1921. The British Government, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, assumed a mandate from the League of Nations for governing the Territory of New Guinea in 1920. It was administered under this mandate until the Japanese invasion in December 1941 brought about the suspension of Australian civil administration. Following the surrender of the Japanese in 1945, civil administration of Papua as well as New Guinea was restored, and under the Papua New Guinea Provisional Administration Act, 1945-46, Papua and New Guinea were combined in an administrative union.

On November 6, 1884, a British protectorate was proclaimed over the southern coast of New Guinea (the area called Papua) and its adjacent islands. The protectorate, called British New Guinea, was annexed outright on September 4, 1888. The possession was placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1902. Following the passage of the Papua Act of 1905, British New Guinea became the Territory of Papua, and formal Australian administration began in 1906. Papua was administered under the Papua Act until it was invaded by the Japanese in 1941, and civil administration suspended. During the war, Papua was governed by a military administration from Port Moresby, where Gen. Douglas MacArthur occasionally made his headquarters. As noted, it was later joined in an administrative union with New Guinea during 1945-46 following the surrender of Japan.

The Papua and New Guinea Act of 1949 formally approved the placing of New Guinea under the international trusteeship system and confirmed the administrative union of New Guinea and Papua under the title of "The Territory of Papua and New Guinea." The act provided for a Legislative Council (established in 1951), a judicial organization, a public service, and a system of local government. A House of Assembly replaced the Legislative Council in 1963, and the first House of Assembly opened on June 8, 1964. In 1972, the name of the territory was changed to Papua New Guinea.

Elections in 1972 resulted in the formation of a ministry headed by Chief Minister Michael Somare, who pledged to lead the country to self-government and then to independence. Papua New Guinea became self-governing in December 1973 and achieved independence on September 16, 1975. The 1977 national elections confirmed Michael Somare as Prime Minister at the head of a coalition led by the Pangu Party. However, his government lost a vote of confidence in 1980 and was replaced by a new cabinet headed by Sir Julius Chan as Prime Minister. The 1982 elections increased Pangu's plurality, and parliament again chose Somare as Prime Minister. In November 1985, the Somare government lost a vote of no confidence, and the parliamentary majority elected Paias Wingti, at the head of a five-party coalition, as Prime Minister. A coalition, headed by Wingti, was victorious in very close elections in July 1987. In July 1988, a no-confidence vote toppled Wingti and brought to power Rabbie Namaliu, who a few weeks earlier had replaced Somare as leader of the Pangu Party.

Such reversals of fortune and a revolving-door succession of Prime Ministers continue to characterize Papua New Guinea's national politics. A plethora of political parties, coalition governments, shifting party loyalties and motions of no confidence in the leadership all lend an air of instability to political proceedings. Under legislation intended to enhance stability, new governments remain immune from no-confidence votes for the first 18 months of their incumbency.

Today, Papua New Guinea has a federal parliamentary system, based on universal adult suffrage with periodic free and fair elections. The judiciary is independent.



The population is just over 5.1 million, and there are more than 800 distinct indigenous languages. The economy relies heavily on the export of minerals, hydrocarbons, tropical timber, and tree crops such as coffee, cocoa, and copra; national income is sensitive to changes in world commodity prices. During the year 2001, the national currency, the kina, continued to weaken in foreign exchange markets although domestic inflation fell below 10 percent for the first time in 3 years. Persistent macroeconomic stagnation mainly was a result of external factors, such as low commodity prices. Crime, especially in urban areas, is a critical problem. Approximately 85 percent of the population resides in isolated villages and engages in subsistence and smallholder agriculture. Poor performances by the public health and education systems are among the country's most important challenges. For a majority of citizens, income and educational levels are low, and infant and maternal mortality rates are high.



The crime rate in Papua New Guinea is (low, medium, high) compared to industrialized countries. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. In the UN reports, murders are referred to as "intentional homicides." Aggravated assaults are referred to as "major assaults," and larcenies are referred to as "thefts."According to the United Nations Seventh Annual Survey on Crime, crime recorded in police statistics shows the crime rate for the combined total of all Index crimes in Papua New Guinea to be 225.64 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2000. This compares with 1951.92 for Japan (country with a low crime rate) and 4123.97 for USA (country with high crime rate). For intentional homicides, the rate in 2000 was 9.06 for Papua New Guinea, 0,.50 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For major assaults, the rate in 2000 was 26.34 for Papua New Guinea, compared with 34.04 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. (Note these data for Japan are for total recorded assaults, since Japan did not report a figure for major assaults.) For rapes, the rate in 2000 was 25.24 for Papua New Guinea, 1.78 for Japan, and 32.05 for USA. For robberies, the rate in 2000 was 66.16 for Papua New Guinea, 4.07 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For automobile theft, the rate in 2000 was 29.31 for Papua New Guinea, 243.81 for Japan, and 414.17 for USA. The rate of burglaries for 2000 was 51.03 for Papua New Guinea, 233.45 for Japan, and 414.17 for USA. The rate for thefts in 2000 was 18.50 for Papua New Guinea, compared with 1434.27 for Japan and 2475.27 for USA. (Note that USA data were those reported to INTERPOL for year 2000, since USA has not yet reported this data to UN.)



Between 1998 and 2000 (Seventh Annual Survey) the rate for all recorded Index offenses increased from 200.87 to 225.64 per 100,000 in Papua New Guinea, an increase of 12.3%. The rate of intentional homicide decreased from 10.28 to 9.06, a decrease of 11.9%. However, the rate for major assaults increased from 20.4 to 26.34, an increase of 29.1%. The rate of rape decreased from 30.99 to 25.24, a decrease of 18.6%. The rate for robberies increased from 45.36 to 66.16 per 100,000, an increase of 45.9%. The rate for automobile theft decreased from 35.61 to 29.31, an decrease of 17.7%. The rate of burglaries increased from 43.01 to 51.03, an increase of 18.6%. Thefts increased from 15.22 to 18.50, an increase of 21.6%.



The Government has constitutional authority over the Defense Force, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, and the National Intelligence Organization. A brief mutiny in March by members of the Defense Force over proposed reforms ended with the proposed reforms dropped, stolen weapons returned, and amnesty accorded to the mutineers; reforms have been revised and reinstituted. Members of the constabulary committed serious human rights abuses.

Police committed arbitrary or unlawful deprivations of life, used excessive force, such as beatings, when arresting and interrogating suspects, and engaged in excessively punitive and violent raids. The Government on occasion investigated allegations of abuse and prosecuted those believed responsible.

The police killed several persons during the year 2001. According to police reports, most killings occurred during gunfights with criminal suspects who were resisting arrest. However, in one case, a suspected criminal in police custody was beaten to death by police officers; no action was taken against the police. Other similar incidents have been reported.

On June 26, police officers fired weapons during demonstrations organized by university students in Port Moresby. Four persons died of gunshot wounds, and approximately 20 persons were injured. The Government imposed a nighttime curfew in Port Moresby for the following 2 months. The Government also ordered an independent inquiry into the shootings by a former judge. At year's end 2001, the results of the inquiry had not been released to the public.

In 2000 police beat a youth to death in front of bystanders in Port Moresby and, in another Port Moresby case, the police apprehended an intoxicated man whose corpse subsequently was discovered in an isolated area. During the year 2001, no action was taken against the police in these cases.

All police shootings are investigated by the police department's internal affairs office and reviewed by a coroner's court. If the court finds that the shooting was unjustifiable or due to negligence, the police officers involved are tried. Families of persons killed or injured by police in such circumstances also may challenge the coroner's finding in the National Court, with the assistance of the Public Solicitor's Office. Cases of accidental shootings of bystanders by police during police operations also are investigated and reviewed by a coroner's court.

No human rights violations were reported in connection with military operations during the year 2001. Although four soldiers suspected of complicity in the killing of Bougainville Transitional Government Premier Theodore Miriung in 1996 were questioned by police in 1999, no arrests were made and no further progress has been reported. In August several members of Parliament called on the Government to resolve the case; however, at year's end 2001, the Government had made no response.

The Constitution forbids torture and other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment; however, police often beat suspects during arrests, interrogations, and while suspects are held in custody awaiting trial. Although abuses in previous years such as citizens being permitted to beat suspects and the rape of female detainees by police reportedly did not occur during the year 2001, no action was taken against offenders in previous cases.

The Constitution prohibits such action; however, there were instances of abuse. In January 2000, heavily armed police searched the home of a man accused of a nonviolent offense. Subsequently, the court agreed that the search was politically inspired and police methods were excessive and contrary to constitutional protections of privacy; however, no action was taken against the police during the year 2001. Although provisions in the Constitution require warrants, the police continued to conduct warrantless searches and raids. Paramilitary police units operating in highlands regions use intimidation and destruction of property to suppress tribal fighting. The extent of such tribal fighting is unknown, and many incidents are not reported. More than 20 persons were killed in tribal fighting in the Southern Highlands during December.



The courts generally enforce constitutional protections against arbitrary arrest and detention. Under the law, only National or Supreme Court judges may grant bail to persons charged with willful murder or aggravated robbery. In all other cases, the police or magistrates may grant bail. Suspects who are arrested have the right to legal counsel, to be informed of the charges against them, and to have their arrests subjected to judicial review.

Due to limited police and judicial resources and a high crime rate, suspects often are held in pretrial detention for long periods of time. Pretrial remand is subject to strict judicial review through continuing pretrial consultations, especially at the National Court level. However, cases frequently are delayed for months awaiting results of police investigations. Additionally, circuit court sittings were infrequent because of a shortage of judges and funds, delaying both the trial process and the rendering of decisions. Some detainees have been held in jail for more than 2 years because of the shortage of judges. During the year 2001, the Government increased the number of full-time judges and took steps to expand training of the judiciary.

Forced exile is prohibited by the Constitution and is not used.


The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respects this provision in practice.

The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal and has original jurisdiction on constitutional matters. The National Court hears most cases and appeals from the lower district courts established at the provincial level. There also are village courts headed by lay persons, who judge minor offenses under both customary and statutory law.

The legal system is based on English common law. The Constitution provides for due process, including a public trial, and the court system generally enforces these provisions. Defendants have the right to an attorney. Legal counsel is provided by the Public Solicitor's office for those accused of "serious offenses" who are unable to afford counsel. Serious offenses are defined as charges for which a sentence of 2 years or more is the norm. Defendants and their attorneys may confront witnesses, present evidence, plead cases, and appeal convictions. The shortage of judges creates delays both in the process of trials and in the rendering of decisions.

There were no reports of political prisoners.


Prison conditions are poor. The prison system suffers from serious underfunding, which results in the deterioration of infrastructure and the poor delivery of services. Prisons closed in 2000 because of life-threatening conditions remain closed, and there has been no new construction. There were no reports of deaths in prisons. Male and female inmates are housed separately. Prisoners are often confined in crowded conditions in police stations. Some prisons are seriously overcrowded, most frequently in urban areas. Prison guards' living conditions are as poor as those of the prisoners. During the year 2001, there were several prison escapes, and there were approximately 200 escaped prisoners nationwide at year's end 2001. For example, on September 25, 62 prisoners escaped from the Bomana jail near Port Moresby; approximately half have been recaptured. Forty-eight of the escaped prisoners were being held on remand while awaiting trial. According to government officials, in 17 of 20 prisons nationwide, the number of detainees on remand equaled or exceeded the number of convicted prisoners. Overcrowding is exacerbated in rural areas by infrequent court sessions and bail restrictions for certain crimes.

The Government permits prison visits by human rights monitors.


Violence against women, including domestic violence and gang rape, is a serious and prevalent problem. Domestic violence is common and is a crime. However, since most communities view domestic violence as a private matter, and few victims press charges, prosecutions are rare. Traditional village mores, which served as deterrents, are weakening and largely are absent when youths move from their village to a larger town or to the capital. Although rape is punishable by imprisonment, and sentences are imposed when assailants are found guilty, few assailants are apprehended. The willingness of some communities to settle incidents of rape through material compensation rather than criminal prosecution makes the crime difficult to combat.

Violence committed against women by other women frequently stems from domestic disputes. In areas where polygyny still is customary, an increasing number of women have been charged with the murder of another of their husband's wives. According to one report, 65 percent of women in prison are there for attacking or killing another woman.

The Constitution and laws have provisions for extensive rights for women dealing with family, marriage, and property issues. Some women have achieved senior positions in business, the professions, and civil service. However, traditional patterns of discrimination against women persist. Many women, even in urban areas, are considered second-class citizens. Village courts tend to impose jail terms on women found guilty of adultery, while penalizing men lightly or not at all. Circuit-riding National Court justices frequently annulled such village court sentences. The law requires that orders for imprisonment be endorsed by a district court before they take effect.

Polygyny and the custom of paying a bride price tend to reinforce the view that women are property. In addition to the purchase of women as brides, women also sometimes are given as compensation to settle disputes between clans. The courts have ruled that such settlements are a denial of the women's constitutional rights.

According to statistics published in the U.N. Development Program's 1999 report on human development, women are gaining rapidly in literacy and education. Adult literacy has risen to 73 percent; 65 percent of women are literate, compared with 86 percent of men; however, there are 15 percent fewer girls in primary schools than boys. Maternal mortality levels remain relatively high at 930 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Prostitution is not legal; however, the laws are not enforced and the practice is widespread. Although sex tourism exists, it is not considered to be a problem.

Sexual harassment is not illegal, and it is a widespread problem.

There is an Office of Women's Affairs in the Office of Church and Family Services of the Ministry of Provincial Affairs. It was active during the year 2001; however, it had little effect on the Government's policy toward women.


The Government does not dedicate significant resources to protecting the rights and welfare of children. Most programs to protect and develop youth and children are operated by NGO's and religious organizations. Many government programs are underfunded. In the past, children were well cared for within the family and under traditional clan and village controls. However, preliminary, small-scale studies indicate that this situation has changed over the last decade, especially in areas where households have become isolated from the extended family support system and depend on the cash economy for a livelihood. According to a report prepared by the Government and UNICEF, sexual abuse of children is believed to be prevalent. Because of the geographic isolation and remoteness of many villages, malnutrition and infant mortality rates are very high. More than 60 of every 1,000 children born do not survive their first year.

Primary education is not free, compulsory, or universal. Substantial fees are charged. Approximately 80 percent of children attend primary school; many do not progress further. Boys and girls are represented equally; generally all children in a family attend school or none attend.

The Government provides free medical care for its citizens, including children. However, facilities and resources are very limited, particularly in rural areas, and many children do not have effective medical care.


While the Constitution does not prohibit trafficking in persons, there is no evidence that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country. However, in 2000 and during the year 2001, the Government investigated allegations of corruption among officials dealing with passport issuance and immigration. These allegations centered on the organized circumvention of immigration controls; however, there were no results from the investigations. Nevertheless there is concern that the country may be used as a route for the trafficking of illegal immigrants to Australia.



Internet research assisted by Jacqueline Black-Polk

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