Parliamentary elections were marred by attacks against electoral officials and police, as well as fatal clashes between supporters of rival candidates. The National Alliance Party (NAP) returned the highest number of candidates and formed a coalition government with 12 other political parties and independent MPs.
Long-running tribal conflicts worsened in many parts of the country, with Enga and Western Highlands among the worst affected.
While a year-long state of emergency in the Southern Highlands was lifted in August, security concerns remained high in Bougainville with weapons disposal a pressing issue for the Autonomous Government.
Proliferation of illegal small arms
High levels of violent crime, fuelled by the unchecked proliferation of illegal firearms, showed no signs of abating, deepening the sense of fear and insecurity in the population.
A broad-based civil society advocacy initiative known as the Coalition to Stop Guns Violence was formed in response to government inaction over implementing the 2005 National Gun Committee’s recommendations to combat the proliferation and use of illegal firearms.
Police and security forces
The police appeared to have neither the ability nor the will to guarantee security. Investigations into crimes were not routine; arrests of perpetrators of violations were rare. Many victims of crime were denied justice as cases collapsed under a lack of police evidence or incompetent prosecution.
In an attempt to raise public confidence in the police, an agreement was signed in June between the police force and the Ombudsman Commission to form a Police Complaints Ombudsman. The Defence Force and the Correctional Services were in line to set up similar accountability mechanisms.
Violence against women
Gender-based violence, including sexual violence, was endemic in the home and in the community. In the context of the elections, women were traded for guns while gang rapes were reported among warring tribes.
Despite almost daily condemnations of abuses against women in the press, including a string of vehement statements by key government leaders and law enforcement officials, few incidents were investigated. Alleged perpetrators, including policemen and others in powerful positions, escaped justice and little concrete action to fight impunity materialised.
In August, the Supreme Court turned down an appeal by a re-elected MP against a 12-year sentence for rape. The Electoral Commission had earlier been criticized for effectively condoning rape by accepting the convicted MP’s nomination.
Women human rights defenders were increasingly active and organized in their advocacy. In a high-profile silent protest action on 9 October, more than 100 black-clad women activists with white ribbons, together with the Minister for Community Development and the only female MP, Dame Carol Kidu, petitioned the parliament to address violence against women.
Violence against women was seen as a key reason behind the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which, in turn, is fuelling more abuses against women, as HIV/AIDS deaths were sometimes believed to be the result of sorcery. Alleged witches were tortured and killed by mobs who believed they were responsible for deaths.
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