Pacific Scoop

PNG’s expanded death penalty law draws heavy criticism

EMTV news report on the death penalty debate in PNG’s National Parliament.

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Daniel Drageset of Pacific Media Watch

Papua New Guinea’s National Parliament has given a resounding yes to dramatically expanding the use of the death penalty, triggering international criticism.

The death penalty was technically legal in Papua New Guinea prior to yesterday’s vote, but it has not been used since 1954, according to the NGO Against Death Penalty In The World.

The NGO lists Papua New Guinea as “abolitionist de facto”, but that may change as a result of Parliament’s latest actions.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International condemned the move.

“It violates the right to life as well as freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” Amnesty’s Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze said according to ABC News.

Crime deterrent
Specifically, the Papua New Guinean Parliament has opened up for applying death penalty to crimes such as aggravated rape, sorcery-related killings and violent robberies, according to The National.

The death penalty amendment comes as a reaction to a series of violent murders and sex crimes in the country this year, One PNG reports.

In one case, a young mother was stripped and burned alive in a public market, while in another a former teacher was beheaded. Women accused of being witches have also been killed in gruesome public show-trials.

In the wake of these heinous crimes, it was necessary to implement an actual access to the death penalty, according to Justice Minister Kerenga Kua, which he believes will act as a deterrent.

Amnesty International disputes Kua’s assertion. It says that statistics show that the death penalty has not reduced violent crimes in countries that enforce it.

“If the government is serious about reducing crime, I’d say there’s a number of measures which they can take immediately to do that,” Kate Schuetze at Amnesty International said.

“One of them would be to invest in the law and justice sector, including the police sector.”

Execution methods
The new amendment to the Criminal Code Act includes the following execution methods, according to EMTV:

1) Hanging
2) Administration of anaesthetic followed by lethal injection
3) Medical death through deprivation of oxygen (i.e. suffocation) or
4) Death by firing squad

One PNG also reports that electrocution may be used.

A spokesman of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill defended the new policy.

“These are very tough penalties, but they reflect the seriousness of the nature of crimes and the demand by the community for Parliament to act.”

Australia has voiced regret over the death penalty extension in its neighbouring country.

“Australia is universally opposed to the death penalty”, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said according to One PNG.

“That is not a question about the death penalty in PNG. It is about the death penalty anywhere,” she said.

There are currently five prisoners on death row in Papua New Guinea, according to Amnesty International.

Source: Pacific Media Watch 8315