Protecting human rights defenders

Human rights defenders promote and protect other people’s rights, most times at their own cost and risk.

While they protect others, who, in turn, protects them?

The Momase regional consultation is hosted in Lae from March 1st-2nd to gauge stakeholders’ views on the ‘zero draft’ National Human Rights Defenders Protection Policy 2023-2027.

“I came here because we need to coordinate work on human rights,” the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, Stanley Raka, told participants at the Lae International Hotel.

“Particularly in the space of where the law and justice sector needs to properly and effectively coordinate our support to the provinces.

“The national agencies that work in that space are police, CLRC, the Ombudsman Commission, Department of Justice, National Judicial Staff Services, public prosecutor, public solicitor, Correctional Services and about 15 others.

“Recently we’ve brought in the Department of Community Development as one of the agencies for law and justice.”

Raka outlined that the PNG Constitutional Law & Reform Commission is leading talks on human rights defenders and policy development while the justice department is involved in the overall coordination of human rights.

DJAG legal officer, Rachel Vapuak, said they have invited stakeholders within the region to get their views on the main issues that should be captured.

“And also just to guide us, assist us in the development of the policy because initially, we did initial consultations on the proposed bill itself. However, when we did further internal consultation with the Department of Justice, it was agreed that we have to develop a policy first,” she said.

“Then that policy will guide the development of the bill itself.

“That is why we had to take a step back and we started with the first consultation in the Highlands region and this is the second stakeholder consultation.”

Vapuak said the Justice Department is participating for the first time in the Momase regional consultation; they were not part of the technical working group in the Highlands consultation.

Meantime, once the policy document is compiled and finalised, a National Executive Council submission will be made. From there, other processes involved in developing legislation will follow.

Carmella Gware