State to pay K190,000 to police brutality victims

The Waigani National Court has ordered the state to pay K190, 733.80 to three men from Tari, Hela Province after they were assaulted, stripped naked and paraded around Tari by police six years ago.

Justice David Cannings in a matter of enforcement of basic rights under Section 57 of the Constitution ordered the State to pay Ikipe Wakalu, David Wale and Elawi Haroli K63,986 each.

This amount covers the individual’s breach of human rights, breach of constitutional rights, general damages and an additional interest of K16,782.

On July 20, 2010, Wakalu, Wale and Haroli were detained by villagers at Alua Kambe, Southern Highlands Province (then) on suspicions they were involved in a string of armed robberies on the Highlands  Highway at Tari Gap.

The three were suspected members of a 19-member gang who were said to be responsible for crimes committed along the Ambua Gap section of the highway between Mendi and Tari.

Police in Tari assaulted the men, stripped them naked, tied each of them to the bonnet of police vehicles and paraded them around Tari town while rocks, sticks and other missiles were thrown at them. One of the gang members, allegedly the gang leader, was hacked to death.

While being paraded around town, they were forced to say they were “the Commandos of Ambua” and confess in public that they had committed the armed robbery crimes.

Naked and injured from the parade of shame, they were detained in the police cells for three days without any charges being laid. They were taken to the Tari hospital on July 23,2010.

More assault were endured by the three at the hands of police on July 26,2010 when they were taken to the Mendi District Court  and later remanded at the Bui’iebe Correction institute without being charged until Sept 3,2010.

Justice Cannings said the parade was reported in the National Newspaper dated Wednesday July 21, 2010 with a photograph of Wakalu which incited the National Court to commence proceedings on its own initiative under section 57(1) of the Constitution.

The three plaintiffs (Wakalu, Wale and Haroli) in this civil proceeding were represented by lawyers from the office of Public Solicitor while the defendants (Southern Highlands Province police, Police Commissioner and State) were represented by the Solicitor General.

The Defendants failed to file a defense in the proceeding which resulted in a default judgement entered against them on April 13, 2011.

A trial on assessment of damages commenced and the decision was handed down on Jan 20 at Waigani.


Sally Pokiton