World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 

Solomon Islands: A Black Day For Human Rights

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *

19 December 2000 ASA 43/013/2000 239/00

The passing in parliament today of a blanket amnesty law for virtually all crimes and human rights abuses committed during the two-year ethnic conflict may encourage future political torturers and killers to expect to get away with atrocities, Amnesty International warned.

"Impunity for the torture, rape and killing of civilians, including children, is an outrage and contributes nothing to lasting peace or reconciliation," a spokesman said from the human rights organization's International Secretariat in London. "Sweeping amnesties haven't brought peace in other conflicts and are likely to cast a deep shadow on the future of human rights in Solomon Islands."

The amnesty law, rushed through parliament in 48-hours, reportedly provides for immunity from criminal and civilian prosecution to all members of armed political groups and their civilian "advisors". The wide scope of the law and the speed of its passing raises questions about whether parliament was actually free to discuss its implications.

While apparently still subject to future constitutional amendments, the law implements the most controversial clause (the amnesty clause) in the Townsville Peace Agreement -- signed in October in Australia by Guadalcanal's Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) and the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF).

Given the serious and far-reaching implications of the law, Amnesty International is urging the Solomon Islands government to reconsider its scope and the need for truth, justice and redress in all laws addressing human rights abuses.

Background Both the IFM and MEF are responsible for thousands of serious human rights violations for which no-one has been brought to justice. The conflict began in 1998 when groups -- which later called themselves the IFM -- terrorized ethnic Malaitan settlers on the main island of Guadalcanal. More than 100 people have since been killed and an estimated 30,000 internally displaced. Last year, Malaitan vigilante groups, supported by some police officers, retaliated, and in June 2000 the MEF ousted the government in a coup. Following the coup, the MEF forced parliament under threat of "all out war" to elect a new Prime Minister, and many members of parliament have since appeared fearful of attending debates or opposing MEF demands.

Escalating violence against civilians after the coup subsided after Australia and New Zealand facilitated negotiations which led to the Townsville Peace Agreement. Celebrated in the capital, Honiara, as a turning point in the conflict, the agreement provides rewards for members and supporters of armed groups but lacks provisions for the investigation and prosecution of crimes, including crimes against humanity and other serious human rights abuses. Civil society groups had complained about being excluded from the peace process. Tight deadlines for the peace negotiations in Townsville led delegations to agree on the amnesty clause, the major sticking point, only hours before the signing ceremony.

Implementation of priority provisions in the peace accord has been slow, mainly due to armed groups being reluctant to hand in at least 1,000 guns stolen from police armouries. According to the police, more than 100 officers who joined the MEF after the coup have been reinstated in the police service without being held accountable for apparent human rights abuses they may have committed as MEF members.

You may repost this message onto other sources provided the main text is not altered in any way and both the header crediting Amnesty International and this footer remain intact. Only the list subscription message may be removed.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

New IPCC Report: ‘Unprecedented Changes’ Needed To Limit Global Warming

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require “far-reaching and unprecedented changes,” such as ditching coal for electricity to slash carbon emissions, says a special report that finds some of the actions needed are already under way, but the world must move faster… More>>

ALSO:

Jamal Khashoggi: UK, France, Germany Join Calls For Credible Investigation

Germany, the United Kingdom and France share the grave concern expressed by others including HRVP Mogherini and UNSG Guterres, and are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness. More>>

ALSO:

MSF Not Wanted: Nauru Government Shows Continued Callousness

The Nauruan Government’s decision to ask Doctors Without Borders to immediately leave shows continued callousness towards asylum seekers desperately seeking a safe place to call home, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said today. More>>

ALSO:

Sulawesi Quake, Tsunami: Aid Response Begins

Oxfam and its local partners are standing by to deploy emergency staff and resources to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, as an estimated 1.5 million people are thought to be affected by the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit on Friday. More>>

ALSO:

Decriminalising Same-Sex Relationships: UN Rights Chief Applauds Indian Decision

“This is a great day for India and for all those who believe in the universality of human rights," Bachelet said. "With this landmark decision, the Indian Supreme Court has taken a big step forward for freedom and equality...” More>>

ALSO: