Our rights and freedoms must be protected


HUMAN rights are the basic freedoms and protections that belong to every single one of us.
All human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms.
Human rights are based on dignity, equality and mutual respect – regardless of your nationality, your religion or your beliefs.
There are five universal declarations of human rights – right to equality; freedom from discrimination; right to life, liberty, personal security; freedom from slavery, and freedom from torture and degrading treatment.
Papua New Guinea joined the United Nations in 1975 and in 2011 extended a standing invitation to all the thematic mechanisms of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to visit the country.
In May 2010, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture visited and suggested that the country ratified the Convention Against Torture and its optional protocol.
As well as this, the rapporteur also suggested that PNG ratified the first optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which provided for the right of victims to lodge individual complaints to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and also the second optional protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
PNG has not yet ratified these instruments.
The Government recognises the challenges of not just having a Constitution that enshrined the rights of people but doing something about them.
The Human Rights Watch report of 2016 does not reflect too well on abuses in PNG, but it is reassuring to know that Minister for Justice and Attorney-General Davis Steven assures us that the Government is planning to create a commission to address human rights issues in the country.
It is vital that every citizen in PNG be aware of his or her human rights and obligations.
Human rights judge administrator David Cannings told the first human rights workshop for National and Supreme courts judges last week that PNG was faced with the challenge of making people aware of their rights and obligation.
He said laws exist in PNG to protect people and that message needs to get out to people in the cities, in the towns, in the settlements and in the villages.
Where there are human rights, there are obligations.
Quite interesting, too, that most of the human rights cases filed in the National Court nationwide are against the State and its officers.
There is a lot of cases against the State that arise from allegations of police misconduct and police brutality.
Police brutality cases, cases of prisoners complaining about their sentence and treatment, and cases involving an individual against another often go before the courts.
The courts have been successful in dealing with human rights cases and since 2011 have dealt with more than 2000.
It is the State’s obligation to protect individuals and groups against abuse and this obligation requires the State to take positive action to ensure people enjoy those rights.
At the individual level, while we are entitled to enjoy our rights as human beings, we should exercise those privileges with respect of others and their rights.