‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ – Papua New Guinea Joins Global Trend by Abolishing Death Penalty

The National Parliament of Papua New Guinea has taken a significant step towards upholding Human Rights principals by abolishing the death penalty and commuting the sentences of all death row inmates to life imprisonment. The PNG parliament voted on January 20, 2022, to remove the country’s 30-year-old death penalty statute and replace it with a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Section 614 of the  Criminal Code Act of Papua New Guinea dealt with the ‘Execution of Sentence of Death’ and provided for the modes of death penalty. Section 614 provided for various means of sentencing the culprit to death which included hanging by neck till the person is dead, by administering a dose which may be combination of anaesthetics and legal injection, death by deprivation of oxygen, death by firing squad or death by electrocution. Options has to be exercised by Head of the State on advice from National Executive Council.

Mr. James Marape, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, has said that his government is abolishing the capital penalty, and that individuals now on death row will be sentenced to life in prison and will not be provided parole.

Papua New Guinea gained its independence in 1975 after 60 years of Australian administration. Port Moresby is the capital and 95.5% of the population follows Christianity. Doing away the death sentence is rooted in the belief system as evident from Prime Minister James Marape remarks, who said that Papua New Guinea is a Christian Nation and referred upholding one of the principals of Jewesh Torah mentioned under Ten Commandments ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’. Mr Marape said that Death Penalty is not an effective deterrent against serious crimes and offences.

Right to life and Right to Live Free from Torture or cruelty have been protected and adopted by United Nation in 1948 under Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The European Union welcomed the move. European Union opposes death penalty as it considers death penalty to be a cruel and degrading punishment. Death sentences not only represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity but has also failed to provide deterrence to criminal behaviour. 

According to estimates from Amnesty International during 2020, most of the known executions took place in China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, with China remaining the world’s top executioner. Due to opaque nature of the country, true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown. China has classified the data as a state secret.

During 2020, Amnesty International recorded 483 executions carried out in 18 countries, (excluding thousands of executions believed to have been carried out in China) 88% of all reported executions took place in Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia alone. These numbers were down by 26% when compared with estimates of 657 executions in 2019.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights  , praised the decision. In Papua New Guinea, there have been no executions since the 1950s, and the death sentence was abolished in 1970. It was revived in 1991, and people were still being sentenced to death. Papua New Guinea becomes the part of increasing global trend of Human Rights awareness where countries are moving away from use of the death penalty. According to Michelle Bachelet, 170 nations out of 193 UN Member States have either abolished the death penalty or do not practise it and Papua New Guinea’s example will encourage the remaining States towards taking similar progressive steps for abolishing it.

Bureau Galactik Views

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