People unaware of their rights: Judge

Making people aware of their rights and duties remains a challenge in Papua New Guinea due to lack of awareness.

Having human rights, rights under the constitution and other laws does not mean everyone knows about them.

Human rights judge, Justice David Cannings, said there is a big problem in making people in Papua New Guinea aware of their rights.

That problem he said is faced by people living with disability, people in remote locations, and vulnerable groups like women who suffer from domestic violence, children who come into conflict with the law, juveniles, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

“There are particular ways in which the courts need to approach juvenile accused and then we have children throughout the country who suffer from violence, including sexual violence and abuse, so those particular categories of people have special human rights.

“Human rights exist in Papua New Guinea, we need to get that message across. We need to make them aware of their human rights and their obligations. We are very free but each one of us is subject to respect that human rights of every other person.

“Wherever there is a right, there is an obligation. You have a right, I have an obligation to respect you. Not come and attack you for no good reason,” Justice Cannings said.

With the commemoration of World AIDS Day on December 1, he said people living with HIV/AIDS have special rights under the HIV/AIDS Management and Prevention (HAMP) Act.

“Whenever they feel that their right to a quality of treatment (and respect as every citizen in the country enjoys), if they feel that’s being infringed, we are working on ways to improve access to the courts, the National Court in particular, for them.”

He said in Waigani, there is a special human rights track where people can go and fill special forms, if they felt that they have a human rights issue they want to bring to court.

“Everybody has the right to the full protection of the law and that means everybody is treated equally by the law,” Justice Cannings added.

Sally Pokiton