[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] expressed concern on Friday about threats to rule of law [press release] in Papua New Guinea. Since August 2011 there has been a battle for leadership and the legitimacy of the Prime Minister has been called into question. Pillay’s concerns stem from actions taken by the government that she believes breach international human rights standards and adversely effect the judiciary and its ability to act independently. Pillay believes 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. Pillay said:
It appears that the Judicial Conduct Act is being used to interfere in particular with the legal proceedings to determine the legality of the current administration. The judiciary must be allowed to operate free from external pressures, threats or executive or legislative interference—international law is clear on this matter.
These actions, coupled with new reports that the country may delay elections and alleged attacks on reporters who have been reporting on the political situation with Papua New Guinea has created was Pillay calls the “slippery path to upending the constitutional order and undermining the rule of law.” She is urging all national actors to band together before the country starts too far down the path and cannot recover.
Pillay has been busy in recent days. On Wednesday she expressed concern [JURIST report] that recent restrictions on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in a number of countries may fundamentally affect freedoms and human rights. Earlier this month she wrote an open letter [JURIST report] to all UN member states urging them to consider the protection of human rights in their negotiations during the upcoming Rio+20 Conference [official website] where the nations will discuss international plans to further sustainable development. Pillay’s letter warned that the draft outcome document for the Rio+20 Conference “fails to take sufficient account of human rights imperatives.” She also called for the governments of Sudan and South Sudan [BBC backgrounders] to cease the recent violence [JURIST report] that has led to civilian casualties on both sides.