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 intervening.
According to 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In May, Parliament repealed the disputed law but at the same time decided that the country should begin the death penalty for a series of serious violent crimes, including for murders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 constitution.
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.