28 Apr 2012

UNHCR chief raises concerns about threats to rule of law in PNG

5:16 am on 28 April 2012

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has raised concern about threats to the rule of law in Papua New Guinea, which has been locked in a leadership battle.

The nation's politics have been in turmoil since August 2011, when parliament elected Peter O'Neill as prime minister while then-leader Sir Michael Somare was recovering from illness in Singapore.

Sir Michael contests the legitimacy of the vote - a view upheld by the Supreme Court, which ruled in December that Mr O'Neill's rise to power was illegal.

Navi Pillay has accused the O'Neill government and parliament of interfering with judicial independence with a new law on judicial conduct.

The new law gives government the power to suspend judges.

In a statement, Mrs Pillay says one after another, the executive and parliament have taken very worrying steps to interfere with judicial independence.

She says it appears the Judicial Conduct Act is being used to interfere in particular with the legal proceedings to determine the legality of the current administration.

She also added the judiciary must be allowed to operate free from external pressures, threats or executive or legislative interference - international law is clear on this matter.

Navi Pillay also raised alarm over reports that several journalists had been attacked, and called for "prompt investigations".

Mrs Pillay says Papua New Guinea is on a slippery path to upending the constitutional order and undermining the rule of law.