Justice minister says state lacks ability to humanely execute those convicted, while PM says PNG is a ‘Christian nation’
Papua New Guinea has repealed the death penalty 30 years after reintroducing it, with prime minister James Marape saying it was “not an effective deterrent to serious crime”.
Offences such as treason, piracy, murder – including sorcery related violence – and aggravated rape will now be punishable by life imprisonment without parole or parole after 30 years.
The last execution in Papua New Guinea took place in November 1954 in Port Moresby. The country abolished capital punishment in 1970 but reintroduced it in 1991, though there have been no executions since then.
In 2013, Papua New Guinea took steps to revive capital punishment, broadening the number of crimes to which it could be applied and also amending legislation to include harsher punishment for other crimes.
Presenting the bill to parliament, justice minister Bryan Kramer said there were 40 prisoners on death row. But he said the state lacked the “necessary administrative mechanisms and infrastructure” to carry out the penalty in a humane way.
Marape said the death penalty had “been in our laws for many years, but consistent with other global trends and studies, it is not an effective deterrent to serious crime and offences.
“For us as a Christian nation, in my view – the notion of ‘thou shall not kill’ still prevails.”
God should be the judge, he said “Instead of the death penalty, offenders will serve life sentence without parole – I think this is better.”
Members of the Catholic church, which has previously spoken out against capital punishment, welcomed the repeal.
“The Catholic church in PNG has always opposed and still stands opposed to death penalty for it being un-Godly and unchristian, inhumane, morally wrong and against the inherent human right to life of every person,” Paul Harricknen, president of the Catholic Professionals Society, said.
“If we claim to be a nation of Christians we have to walk the talk. Our laws must reflect moral and Christian values, and death penalty is against that.”