MAC: Mines and Communities

PNG: Amnesty urges police violence at Porgera be investigated

Published by MAC on 2010-02-07
Source: Amnesty International, PNG Post Courier (2010-02-02)

Amnesty International has published a report on alleged police brutality and forced evictions, occuring around the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea.

The organisation asks members of the public to urge the PNG government to investigate the human rights violations, prosecute those responsible, and provide remedy to those whose human rights were violated.

An earlier report claimed that the mine operators, Barrick Gold and its joint venture partners, had acknowledged police culpability for the abuses. See: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9739

Barrick has admitted that homes were destroyed by the police. But the company continues to claim that others may also have been responsible for some of the destruction, although it provided no evidence to support the claim.

According to Amnesty, and regardless of the number of homes destroyed, no adequate notice was given to the occupants; there is substantial evidence that the police acted contrary to their search warrants, and none of the safeguards required under international law were implemented.

Nonetheless, Barrick and the Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) continue defending the police action (and attacking Amnesty) while failing to honour their earlier undertaking to call for an independent investigation. Meanwhile the PJV is still accommodating the police.

ESPAÑOL

Call for human rights training for cops

PNG Postcourier

2 February 2010

THE Papua New Guinea Government must ensure that the prohibition on forced evictions under international law and the human rights consequences of forced evictions are part of comprehensive human rights training for police.

This was among many recommendations made to the PNG Government by Amnesty International which will be launched in London next week.

The report also called for the Governmentto ensure the participation of senior members of the police force in all such training.

The Amnesty International report also called for the a full investigation into the State of Emergency (SOE) in Porgera and the forced evictions and police violence in the Special Mining Lease (SML), prosecution, and provide remedies to those affected, including adequate alternative accommodation and compensation for victims of the forced evictions.

The Government in conjunction with PJV and the SML area communities should immediately initiate an investigation into whether all SML area residents require relocation and that if so, such relocation occurs promptly in a manner that is fair and effective and fully respects their human rights, the report stated.

The report called for the Government to at all times ensure that policemen sent to all mining areas like in Porgera are accommodated and fed by the State.

It also called for the establishment of an effective complaints mechanism in Porgera and other mining areas regarding police activities that would enable members of the public to make complaints without fear of repercussions and ensure police wore identity tags while carrying out duties.

Meanwhile, similar recommendations had been made to the Government of Canada by the Amnesty International to strongly urge Barrick and its subsidiaries to implement all aspects of the voluntary principles on security and human rights to assist the company.

They should also ensure that any branch of the Canadian government that provides financial or other forms of support to Barrick now or in the future makes that support contingent on the company respecting all human rights across its global operations, the report stated.


Police violence and illegal evictions near Papua New Guinean gold mine must be investigated

Amnesty International Press Release

2 February 2010

The government of Papua New Guinea must investigate the conduct of police who burnt down homes and threatened people with guns while illegally evicting them from land next to one of the biggest gold mines in the country, Amnesty International said today.

Amnesty International's report, Undermining Rights: Forced evictions and police brutality around the Porgera gold mine, Papua New Guinea, documents police violence and the forced eviction by police of families living alongside the Porgera gold mine.

Amnesty International also has concerns regarding ongoing support to the police by companies involved in the mine after the companies became aware of the police activity in the area.

The mine is 95% owned and operated by subsidiaries of the largest gold mining company in the world, Canadian-based Barrick Gold Corporation (Barrick), as part of the Porgera Joint Venture (PJV). PJV supplied accommodation, food and fuel to the police under an agreement that PJV claims was conditional on the police abiding by national laws and international standards, including the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Amnesty International does not allege that either company is responsible for the police violence or the forced evictions, however it believes Barrick and PJV failed to respond adequately when company personnel became aware of the police activity in the area.

"Instead of being able to rely on the police to protect them, people who were living next to the mine's facilities have been the victims of human rights violations by police who illegally burnt down their houses and destroyed their belongings and gardens," said Shanta Martin, Amnesty International's mining and human rights specialist.

The report documents how between April and July 2009 police raided villages in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, burning down at least 130 buildings and forcing out families from their homes, including young children, pregnant women and the elderly.

Residents of the area where most of the evictions took place, Wuangima, told Amnesty International that they had no prior warning that their homes would be demolished and in many cases had no opportunity to take their belongings before their houses were burnt. No alternative housing had been provided to them by the government and many families from the area now depend on their relatives for shelter and food.

"As soon as PJV became aware that the police were burning down people's homes right next door to the mine's facilities, they should have recorded and reported the activity to the Papua New Guinean authorities and urged an investigation, as recommended by the Voluntary Principles," said Shanta Martin. "Instead, PJV is continuing to support the police, and Barrick has publicly defended the police activity."
Amnesty International's report urges the Papua New Guinean government to carry out a full investigation into forced evictions and police violence. The report urges the prosecution of those responsible, and for victims to be provided with remedies. It also calls on Barrick and PJV to provide information regarding the police conduct to the Papua New Guinean authorities and to urge the authorities to investigate.

Background

On 11 May 2009, Amnesty International issued a Public Statement regarding police activity that resulted in the forced evictions of people living in villages in Porgera.

On 16 June 2009, Barrick publicly condemned Amnesty International's public statement as "ill conceived and erroneous" and claimed that the buildings which had been burnt down were only temporary makeshift shacks and crude shelters inhabited by a transient population.

Between 18 August 2009 and 2 October 2009, Amnesty International conducted further investigations into the human rights of those affected by the forced evictions, including by undertaking a visual inspection of the burnt remains of houses and conducting 27 meetings involving over 180 people. Amnesty International's further enquiries confirmed that at least 130 buildings were destroyed, including solidly constructed permanent homes, however, it was not possible to determine exactly how many houses were destroyed and how many people were affected.

In early November 2009, Amnesty International communicated the initial findings of its research to the Papua New Guinean government and to Barrick and PJV. At a meeting between Amnesty International, Barrick and PJV on 3 December 2009 and in correspondence on 7 December 2009, Barrick acknowledged that earlier public statements by the company that only temporary structures were burnt down were inaccurate. Barrick and PJV told Amnesty International that they now agree that further investigation is warranted. As at 10 December 2009, despite requests from Amnesty International for the companies to urge an independent investigation, neither company had done so.


PJV hits back at critics

By Eric Tapakau, PNG Post Courier

4 February 2010

GOLD miner Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) and its parent company Barrick Gold Corporation have hit back at Amnesty International (AI) for the latter's report calling on the Government to investigate police atrocities near the mine.

Both companies said yesterday that they were committed to protecting human rights and operating in alignment with Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.

"Barrick and the PJV are each committed to protecting human rights and operating in alignment with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Throughout the police deployment, each has operated in a manner expected of companies and consistent with the Voluntary Principles." PJV and Barrick said in a joint statement.

"The companies have advanced international human rights standards through formal agreements with and training involving PNG police authorities.

They said the severe deterioration in law and order that led to the police deployment had been a source of serious concern among government officials, community and religious leaders, local landowners, non-governmental organisations, area businesses including the PJV, and residents.

Amnesty International in its report titled "Undermining Rights: Forced evictions and police brutality around the Porgera gold mine, Papua New Guinea, documents police violence and the forced eviction by police of families living alongside the Porgera gold mine. The report makes specific mention of Wangima village. "Instead of being able to rely on the police to protect them, people who were living next to the mine's facilities have been the victims of human rights violations by police who illegally burnt down their houses and destroyed their belongings and gardens," said Shanta Martin, Amnesty International's mining and human rights specialist.

Barrick and PJV hit back saying that Amnesty International's report "does not address the complex social and law and order challenges in the central highlands of PNG, nor does it acknowledge the role of local landowners, clans, in-migrants and other interests".

"AI's unequivocal assertion that police were solely responsible for the destruction of all structures totally ignores an array of local interests and appears to discount the involvement of individuals or groups that may be motivated by political or financial reasons," said PJV and Barrick.


PNG police chief claims Amnesty on Porgera evictions fabricated

Radio New Zealand International

4 February 2010

Papua New Guineas police commissioner dismisses evidence in an Amnesty International report into alleged illegal police evictions at a mine as fabricated.

Last year, police conducted an operation to restore law and order around the Porgera gold mine.

Amnesty International has now released a report, saying the police illegally evicted people and burned down homes, while holding the permanent residents at gunpoint.

Amnesty is calling for an independent investigation.

Police Commisioner, Gari Baki, defends the action of his men and maintains that they burnt down 50 illegal shacks to clamp down on illegal mining activities.

"My honest view about this is that it has been fabricated. Knowing the mentality of the highlands people, you expect these kinds of things to happen. When you have disagreement with something that happens over there, you use every opportunity to discredit anything that takes place. Particularily in regards to violence and tribal fights. You never know these people that claim to be victims could be victims of tribal fights".

Gari Baki says he might order a police investigation into those claims to refute them.

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