Home > Corruption, Human rights, Papua New Guinea > Disgraceful shootings of students must be promptly investigated

Disgraceful shootings of students must be promptly investigated

shot student

Injured student is rushed to emergency room in Port Moresby after police shot into crowd of peaceful protestors (Getty Images)

Amnesty International

The shooting of students peacefully protesting in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, is a disgraceful attack on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.

Amnesty International has received information that there are 38 people injured, including four in critical condition. Three people are still being assessed in emergency.

“The shooting of students peacefully protesting is reminiscent of the worst excesses of repressive regimes in the region,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

“Papua New Guinea’s authorities must establish a prompt, impartial and independent investigation to determine who is responsible for the unnecessary and excessive use of force.”

The Papua New Guinea police opened fire today on a group of students at Papua New Guinea University who were peacefully protesting against the alleged corruption of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Several eyewitnesses have come forward to say they saw students beaten and shot at, including one case where a student was shot in the head.

In a statement, Prime Minister O’Neill blamed the violence on the students who had set out from their university for a peaceful protest at parliament. Before any investigation has taken place, he has denied that the police targeted the students, claiming that their only response was the use of tear-gas and “warning shots.”

“Prime Minister O’Neill’s reaction has been completely inadequate. He should ensure an investigation worthy of its name takes place into reports of excessive use of force. Instead, he has prejudged the outcome, blamed the students for what happened to them, and sought to evade accountability,” said Djamin.

Prime Minister O’Neill told parliament that an investigation into the shootings at Papua New Guinea University will take place. It is not clear who will carry out the investigation, when it happen, or whether it will be independent of any government or police interference.

“It is not good enough for the authorities to investigate themselves,” said Djamin. “The Papua New Guinea government is trying to absolve the police of all responsibility for the unlawful use of force.”

Claims by the Papua New Guinea authorities directly contradict several first-hand accounts reported of the violence.

Outside Papua New Guinea General Hospital, families and friends of students who were attacked were peacefully protesting the shootings. Hospital officials have said that they heard shooting outside the hospital.

“The police must exercise restraint and respect the right to peaceful protest. Firearms must only be used when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life,” said Djamin.


Since May, Prime Minister O’Neill’s government has been the focus of sustained student protests over allegations of corruption. O’Neill is accused by PNG’s Taskforce Sweep of allegedly authorizing payments for fraudulent legal bills amounting to USD $22 million.

The students have used peaceful methods, including protests and a boycott of classes.

Prime Minister O’Neill has lashed out at the students for taking part in the peaceful protests, deriding them as poor performing students and warning that they will have to “face the consequences” in terms of their academic prospects

  1. Elling
    June 9, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Members in government are out of touch or ignoring to the real issues here and they are trying their best to blame the opposition for it.

  2. Dilu Goma
    June 9, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Thank you Rafendi Djamin and Amnesty International for this candid report and comment on the shooting of the University students by the Police yesterday. I truly appreciate this. So far I have only heard from Sir Michael Somare and statesman Ted Diro who unequivocally condemned the shooting of unarmed students trying to peacefully demonstrate their grievance with a march on the public street between UPNG and Parliament House. Where are our so-called leaders at this hour of need of true leadership?

    What I want to know is why did the Police open fire with live bullets on unarmed peaceful protesting students? If the students had breached a prohibition by the Police against marching on a public street, then ALL that the Police needed to do was to arrest these students, or at least the leaders of these students for this breach. And if the Police needed to disperse the unauthorized crowd, then the use of teargas alone would have done the job. What about the use of water to disperse crowds that we see being used in civilized countries? Did the Police not have shields to prevent missiles or stones being hurled at them from the crowd (if that is what had happened at the UPNG gates)? If the Police really needed to shoot, could they not have used rubber bullets?

    The big question now is WHO ordered the Police to shoot the students? The Police is a disciplinary force, meaning in this instance that members of the force carry out orders issued by their superiors. Was it the Police Commissioner? Was it someone below him? Or were the politicians involved: the Minister for Police or even the Prime Minister himself. Considering that the Prime Minister has not hesitated to stoop so low (morally and legally) in his attitude and responses to opposition or criticisms against him, I would not be surprised if he had at least given his nod on what happened. Someone must come out NOW and explain to this country who gave such an order and why?

    This is very crucial for the democracy. This act of the Police cannot be ignored by concerned citizens of this country. Where is the outcry by the people? The Opposition in Parliament must bring this concern out into the public now, because the Floor of Parliament will not work, as was clearly seen by the government using its numbers and conspiracy with the deputy Speaker to adjourn the Parliament yesterday to August. Forget about the ‘vote of no confidence’. True leaders in this Parliament must NOW disassociate from Peter O’Neill and his government. People of this country are waiting for their leaders to deliver them from this person and his government. Where are they now? You of all people know or should know how very bad this country is in now, and it is not only financially speaking. This beautiful country has gone to the dogs. What are you as our leaders going to do about it?

    Dilu Goma

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