Papua New Guinea. After a few chaotic years in politics,
Parliament voted twice during the year to extend the ban on
declaring mistrust of the government. First, the time limit
was set at 30 months after a government's entry, and then
the time was extended to 36 months.
The increasing violent crime led to a hot political
debate, which resulted in the death penalty being re-used.
The cruel customs of so-called witch-burning continued. In
February, a young woman was burnt alive, accused of causing
the death of a boy through black art. In May, two women were
reportedly beheaded after allegations of black art against a
teacher who passed away. In both cases, police arrived at
the scene but were attacked by a mob and prevented from
Countryaah, the murders of alleged
witches were often carried out by young men and boys who
acted according to village instructions and were affected by
alcohol and drugs.
Amnesty International urged Papua New Guinea to work
vigorously against perceptions of witchcraft and to repeal
the so-called Witchcraft Act. The 1971 Act treated
witchcraft as a criminal offense and accepted charges of
witchcraft as a defense in murder trials.
In May, Parliament repealed the disputed law but at the
same time decided that the country should begin the death
penalty for a series of serious violent crimes, including
for murders with allegations of black magic. The death
penalty had been reintroduced in 1991 due to increased
violent crime, but no one had been executed since then.
According to the government, the death penalty would also be
used against the domestic burning and cultivation of
cannabis as well as against corruption and extensive theft.
Amnesty described it as "horrific" that the government
was trying to end a form of violence by introducing a
constantly state-sanctioned violence.
In July, Papua New Guinea agreed to Australia's request
to receive the boat refugees trying to make their way to
Australia. Papua New Guinea was promised assistance
equivalent to nearly SEK 3 billion, against refugees being
allowed to seek asylum in the country. They were to be
housed in an asylum center on the island of Manus, which,
according to the UNHCR, had a lack of resources and skills
for handling asylum. The political opposition went to court
to have the agreement with Australia tested against the
Parliament decided in September that the state would take
over 100% of the ownership of the large gold and copper mine
Ok Tedi in the west. This happened after a long conflict
with a development fund that controlled most of the shares
on behalf of the local population. At the same time, a
twelve-year-old immunity that protected the mine's former
owner, Australian-British BHP Billiton, was revoked from
lawsuits for environmental damage. BHP Billiton is the
world's largest mining company, which has been accused of
dumping millions of tons of toxic mining sludge into the
river system. The state takeover of the mine was challenged
by the Development Fund in court.