Family’s human rights was breached: Court

A human rights case that has been outstanding for 20 years will go for trial for assessment on damages after the National Court established that a family had a case against the state.

This was filed in 1998 by Bruno Yara from Turingi, East Sepik Province, who at the time was an employee of the Ok Tedi Mining company and was living at Tabubil, Western Province.

It was left un-prosecuted for many years and was almost dismissed for want of prosecution on several occasions.

The court, in handing its decision on whether the Yara family established a case before the court, said the delay was due to how his previous lawyers handled the case.

Justice David Cannings found the case had merit for breach of human rights.

At that time, Yara was living in Tabubil with his two wives, Anna and Rosa, and three adult sons, Terence, Cherobim and Rudolf.  

They alleged that Kami Yanjuan, who was then the Tabubil Police Station Commander, and other members of the Police Force, were involved in five incidents in 1998 in which their human rights were breached.

The event that sparked the incidents was an armed robbery of the Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation branch at Tabubil on Wednesday, 22 July, 1998.

Yanjuan and other members of the Police Force suspected that Bruno Yara and his three sons had aided those who directly committed the robbery.

Four men the police suspected of directly committing the robbery were, according to the evidence of Yanjuan, shot dead in two incidents in the course of a police operation on 6 and 7 August 1998.

Following a trial, the Yara family failed to prove that Yanjuan was primarily responsible for the human rights violations that they suffered.

They however, did prove that such violations were committed by some members of the Police Force in connection with purported performance of police functions, and the state who is the second defendant, was found to be vicariously liable.

Yara and two of his sons, Cherobim and Rudolf, were deprived of their liberty, lawfully, on reasonable suspicion of having committed offences.

They were subject to unlawful detention and treatment at the Tabubil Police Station. They were detained but not brought to court.

Police was obliged to take them before a court without delay and to ensure that they were not further held in custody. This was not done.

Cherobim was arrested and detained at 10pm on Friday 24 July. He was released from custody on August 18, 1998.

Yara was arrested and detained on Sunday 9 August. He was released nine days later while Rudolf was arrested and detained on Tuesday 11 August and released on August 18.

It was also found that police breached Yara, Anna, Cherobim and Rudolf’s human rights, in particular the rights in Sections 37(1), 42(1) and 44 of the Constitution, in respect of the unlawful entry and search of their premises, property and persons at Tabubil on 23 July 1998.

A separate trial will be held at a later date if they are liable to be paid damages.

Sally Pokiton