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Papua New Guinea top judge arrested for sedition

Police in Papua New Guinea on Thursday stormed the country's supreme court and arrested the chief justice on charges of sedition. Chief Justice Salamo Injia was arrested after the court ruled for the second time that former prime minister Michael Somare should be reinstated. There has been a struggle for power since last August when Prime Minister Peter O’Neill took office after Somare was ruled ineligible because of an extended absence due to illness. The Supreme Court ruled in December that Somare should be reinstated and ruled again this week that Somare should serve as caretaker prime minister during upcoming elections. O'Neill has refused to accept the court's rulings, creating a standoff with the judiciary. Injia was released on bail [Reuters report] Thursday and is due to appear in court Friday.

Last month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] about threats to rule of law [press release] in Papua New Guinea. Pillay's concerns stemmed from actions taken by the government that she believed breach international human rights standards and adversely affect the judiciary and its ability to act independently. Pillay said the actions of both the legislature and the executive have curtailed the power of the judiciary and it can no longer function independently. In March, the Parliament passed a bill to refer judges to a system for dealing with misconduct. When the Supreme Court held that such a system was unconstitutional the legislature passed another law creating criminal sanctions [amendment text] against anyone who would not comply with the first law.

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