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Papua New Guinea Supreme Court refuses to restore power to detainee camp

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea (PNG) [official website] refused [judgment] Tuesday to restore power and provide water and medical services to the Manus Island detention center [BBC backgrounder].

The detention center was officially closed last week, but approximately 600 refugees have refused to leave. The refugees still in the compound asked the Supreme Court to restore the delivery of food and water and to mandate the continuation of health services in the camp.

In the decision, Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia [LoopPNG backgrounder] stated, "What is not clear and I am unable to make a definitive and conclusive finding on the question whether the PNG Government takes sole responsibility, legally speaking, to cater for the future welfare of the asylum seekers after the closure of the [Manus detention facility.]" The facility, although located in PNG, was started and, according to the Supreme Court, was the legal responsibility of Australia. Thus, the court was unclear on whether relief for the refugees was the sole responsibility of PNG. The court did note, however, that:, "The PNG Government, a sovereign nation, in its own right and with its eyes wide open, accepted full responsibility under domestic and international law to complete the task in settling their future appropriately in accordance with law." After acknowledging that PNG did have a responsibility to provide and care for the refugees, they ultimately concluded that "[t]here is no good reason why they should not voluntarily move to the new facilities."

Tuesday also marked the end of a two week investigation [AI report] by Amnesty International (AI) researchers into the Manus situation. AI stated that the current situation at the Manus detention center amounted to inhumane and cruel treatment in violation of the UN Convention against Torture [text]. According to AI, the individuals on still in the camp refuse to leave due to violent attacks [JURIST report] that have been continuously occurring against the refugees without any response from Australian and PNG authorities. AI is now asking if other nations will agree to resettle the PNG refugees in light of PNG and Australia's treatment of the refugees.

Last week, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] published a report condemning Australia and PNG's failure to protect the refugees on Manus from physical violence. According to HRW, approximately 770 refugees on Manus have suffered assaults and robberies and received inadequate health care.

Refugees were represented by Ben Lomai, a lawyer in PNG, and Greg Barns [official profile], an Australian lawyer. According to local news sources, Lomai is hoping to appeal [Sydney Morning Herald report] the matter as soon as possible.

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