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Solomons Is. Force Must Uphold Human Rights - NGOs


MEDIA RELEASE 24 JULY 2003 ? FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SOLOMONS IS. FORCE MUST UPHOLD HUMAN RIGHTS SAY PACIFIC NGOs

Australia and New Zealand must ensure that the Solomon Islands intervention force upholds human rights, Pacific non-governmental organisations meeting in Auckland said today.

The NGOs from ten Pacific countries called for the intervention to enforce the right to security in a civil conflict that has seen widespread displacement, torture and killings, but also to uphold other human rights, including the right to local participation in government and local cultural rights.

"Solomon Islanders asked for the intervention, but we want to be actively involved, not just spectators," said Edgar Pakoa, general secretary of a leading Solomon Islands NGO, Development Services Exchange.

"Many Solomon Islanders are calling for crimes to be addressed and not swept under the carpet, if satisfactory and long-lasting resolution of the four-year-old conflict is to be achieved."

He was reacting to the Australian-led police/military intervention aimed at restoring law and order in the Solomon Islands comprising New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu police and military personnel.

Mr Pakoa stressed the importance of in-depth cultural briefing of both police and military personnel by Solomon Islands civil society representatives to ensure respect for and adherence to local customs and traditions.

The NGOs were meeting in a Commonwealth forum bringing together key NGOs across the Pacific to discuss the role of "civil society" in democracy and development.

Contact Ced Simpson on 021 371 205 for information or to arrange interview with Edgar Pakoa

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