26 Feb – More than 60 prisoners are still at large in Papua New Guinea following a mass breakout of 94 inmates in the Pacific nation’s second largest city on Thursday. Police shot and killed at least 11 prisoners and wounded at least 17.
Prisoners reportedly attacked two guards at the Buimo prison in Lae, a city of around 100,000 people located nearly 200 miles north of the country’s capital, Port Moresby. The injured were taken to nearby Angau hospital, with Australia’s ABC News reporting that four inmates are in critical condition.
“It is confirmed that 11 prisoners have been shot and killed and 17 wounded and recaptured,” Metropolitan Superintendent Anthony Wagambie told Papua New Guinea news outlet EMTV.
All of the prisoners involved were in pre-trial detention, according to ABC.
Papua New Guinea’s prison population of over 4,500 is around 93 percent of maximum capacity, with at least 35 percent of inmates held in pre-trial detention, according to the International Centre for Prisons Studies.
In 2009, 73 prisoners cut through two fences to escape from the same facility.
Papua New Guinea, formerly administered by its near-neighbor Australia, struggles with endemic violence and poverty. The Australian government warns of “high levels of serious crime” on its travel advice website and refers to a “general atmosphere of lawlessness.” Violence against women is also a particular problem.
Following a visit to the country in March 2015, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns expressed concerns about police use of excessive force during arrest, interrogation, and pre-trial detention, sometimes resulting in death.
According to the World Bank, Lae has a murder rate of 66 per 100,000 — higher than the country’s notoriously violent capital.