Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Papua New Guinea: Ending its isolation?

Papua New Guinea's new Justice Minister is reportedly working towards the abolition of the death penalty, saying the police and justice departments could not provide evidence reliable enough to sentence someone to death.

According to a Post-Courier report quoted by Hawaii-based Pacific Magazine, Justice Minister Bire Kimisopa told a press conference in Port Moresby on 12 April that the country was not ready to impose the death penalty.

"Killing Papua New Guineans is out of my calendar, and I will work towards aborting the death penalty," Mr Kimisopa said.

Papua New Guinea has not executed anyone since it reintroduced the death penalty in 1991.

Unreliable evidence
The report said Papua New Guinea "was not in a position to impose the death penalty because the Police and Justice Departments cannot fully and clearly verify hard facts and evidences to support the death penalty against anyone on death row".

Mr Kimisopa said: "The police forensic (lab) does not have up-to-date equipment to prove a murder or rape, and finger print machines and other such machines to assist police in investigations are not that up-to-date to give accurate evidences to clearly and accurately prove someone guilty for a death penalty."

Mr Kimisopa said a submission on the death penalty from the constitutional law review committee was currently before Cabinet, although he did not say what the submission recommended.

Not importing the death penalty
Mr Kimisopa said he supported tougher action against serious crime, but it was not the right time for PNG to impose the death penalty.

"We cannot adopt the death penalty from other foreign countries given the cultural back grounds," Mr Kimisopa said.

In April 2004, Amnesty International reported that Papua New Guinea was studying the execution procedures used in Singapore -- the country believed to have the highest per capita execution rate in the world.

Amnesty International said in April 2004 that Papua New Guinea, the last independent South Pacific state contemplating executions, was "increasingly isolated" over the issue.

"Papua New Guinea stands alone in the Pacific in planning to enforce the death penalty," the organisation said. "All other states of the Pacific Islands Forum either no longer have laws providing for the death penalty or have stopped enforcing them, often decades ago.

"The application of the death penalty in Singapore is far from being a shining example worthy of emulation. Application of the death penalty in that country is shrouded in secrecy and execution rates are among the highest in the world. Papua New Guinea should focus instead on working with international donors towards a more effective system of fighting crime."

Amnesty International's April 2004 report "Papua New Guinea: The State as Killer?" is available here.

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