By CHRISTOPHER YOWAT
PAPUA New Guinea has an international-standard set of laws in its constitution that protects human rights but it faces enormous challenges in implementing and enforcing it, a leading judge says.
National and Supreme Court judge Justice David Cannings told the inaugural magistrates’ workshop on human rights in Port Moresby this week: “We are blessed with a beautiful constitution and we are blessed with human rights entrenched in our constitution
“Not just with guiding principles but our constitution also has enforceable human rights that you can take to court and which the courts are encouraged to apply.
“The Constitution Planning Committee saw human rights as being critical to the future of Papua New Guinea.
“They saw human rights as a binding force that would unify all of the different cultures in the country.
“The human rights that we find in our constitution are of the universal declaration of human rights made by the United Nations.
“We have a couple of provisions that go beyond the universal declaration of human rights.
“PNG has a remarkable set of laws that protects human rights but we face enormous challenges in implementing the laws in our courts and everywhere in our country.”
Cannings told the magistrates at the workshop to look for inspiration in the constitution when they are faced with the difficulty of implementing human rights law.
Workshop facilitator and Pacific Judicial Strengthening Initiative human rights adviser Dr Carolyn Graydon said PNG “is blessed with a very empowering constitution.”
“PNG is blessed with a wonderful legal system,” she said. “The constitution is a very rights-based constitution, we have the legal tools to create a society that is very strong on the human rights.
“PNG has also made many efforts in terms of domestic laws to bring protection of particular groups like victims of family and gender-based violence, sexual violence. We have juvenile laws, especially for children, we also have child-protection laws as well.
“PNG has this wonderful constitution which provides not only for the human rights but for the enforcement of the human rights. So PNG has the potential to make those human rights real and not just theoretical or nice on paper.”
By CHRISTOPHER YOWAT