PNG police beat, rape children'
SYDNEY, SEPTEMBER, 31: Papua New Guinea police are engaging in brutal beatings, rape and torture of children and risk spreading HIV/AIDS in the South Pacific island nation, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report on Thursday.
The 124-page report details an epidemic of police brutality against children, who are arrested or detained by a police force riddled with corruption, low morale and poor resources.
"Boys and girls report being shot, knifed, kicked, beaten by gun butts, iron bars, wooden batons, fists, rubber hoses and chairs and being forced to chew and swallow condoms," said the report, the first by the human rights group on PNG.
"Eyewitnesses describe pack (gang) rapes in police stations, vehicles, barracks and other locations," it said.
An internal review of PNG police in March found rampant corruption in the force, with police involved in executions and the burning of villages as pay-back.
Zama Coursen-Neff, author of the Human Rights Watch report, said a police culture of violence against children in PNG was among the worst in the developing world.
"Extreme violence is business as usual for the Papua New Guinea police," Coursen-Neff said in Sydney.
Beatings are so routine that officers make little effort to hide the violence and sometimes force young boys to fight naked or have anal sex in front of other prisoners and police.
"Most policemen on night duties use the women and girls kept in custody for sex," an unidentified police officer in PNG's Eastern Highlands told researchers for the report.
Gang rapes are described by police as "line-up sex" but the rapes are rarely reported because the girls are too afraid and feel ashamed.
"They never take us to the station and charge us. They take us to the bushes and forcefully have sex with us," said a 19-year-old woman from Goroka in PNG's rugged Highlands.
Sex workers, some as young as 12, homosexual boys and street vendors were also targeted by police for sexual abuse or beatings. Homosexuality is illegal in PNG.
The report said police were spreading HIV/AIDS by not only sexually abusing young girls and sex workers but also by beating those who carry condoms, including health workers promoting safe sex. In one case they forced prostitutes to swallow condoms.
PNG's HIV/AIDS problem is on par with Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar and many health workers fear an African-style epidemic.
At least 80,000 PNG people have HIV, half of them women. Within five years, officials predict at least 13 per cent of the 5.5 million population, or some 715,000, may be HIV positive.
Australian police are trying to help combat growing crime and violence but their efforts were hampered earlier this year by an argument over immunity from prosecution.
Human Rights Watch called on Australia, PNG's biggest aid donor, to also promote human rights among PNG's police.