Eleven prisoners killed during mass jailbreak in PNG

3:10 pm on 18 August 2020

Eleven prisoners who broke out of Papua New Guinea's second biggest prison have been shot dead.

At least 34 other prisoners remain on the run after the mass breakout from Buimo Prison in Lae on Friday.

Reception area at Buimo Jail in Lae, PNG.

Reception area at Buimo Jail Photo: Human Rights Watch

PNG media are reporting that the breakout occurred when some inmates pretended to be sick and were escorted by others to the clinic.

The newspaper The National reported that inmates overpowered guards at the compound gate when it was opened to allow supposedly sick inmates to pass through.

PNG's Correctional Services Commissioner Stephen Pokanis confirmed the vast majority of those who escaped were detainees on remand.

Buimo prison staff had warned that those on remand had been expressing their frustration over long delays in the hearing of their court cases.

This is the second jailbreak at Buimo this year.

According to EMTV, Lae police were investigating how the 11 escapees were shot dead.

The Lae Metropolitan Superintendent Chief Inspector Chris Kunyanban said police were now searching for 35 escapees, and investigating the escape.

"From initial inquiries that we made, the escape, they pretended that someone was sick, they took him over to the post and they attacked the Correctional Services officers with knives and slingshots, and they dashed for freedom."

Since 2015, there have been six breakouts at the prison with 138 prisoners still at large.

From the six breakouts, 11 escapees were recaptured, 19 were wounded and 32 killed.

According to The National, Pokanis said there was a shortage of warders at Buimo because one had tested positive for Covid-19 last Tuesday, forcing 50 colleagues off work to undergo mandatory 14-day isolation.

Over-crowding also remained a problem contributing to poor conditions for prisoners, and exacerbating the lack of capacity to manage prisons.

A former prison commanding officer, Felix Nomane, now the Assistant Commissioner Northern Command, said earlier that Buimo could only accommodate 436 inmates, but that there were now more than 1,000, with around 80 warders looking after them.