Sun, Jun 02, 2013 - Page 5 News List

UN criticizes Papua New Guinea over new death penalty

AFP, GENEVA, Switzerland

The UN’s human rights office on Friday criticized Papua New Guinea for reviving the death penalty, saying it was a backwards step and would not deter crime in the poverty-stricken Pacific nation.

“We regret that Papua New Guinea has taken legislative action towards resuming implementation of the death penalty,” said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“Given the global trend toward abolition of the death penalty, the latest move by the government marks a significant step backwards,” he told reporters.

“We also categorically reject calls by some political leaders in Papua New Guinea for the introduction of other cruel and inhuman punishments such as castration or amputation,” he added.

Papua New Guinea’s parliament on Tuesday passed laws allowing execution by a range of methods, including hanging, electrocution, lethal injection and firing squad.

The country has not carried out an execution since 1954, and inscribed the de facto moratorium into law in 1970, while keeping the death penalty on the statutes for crimes such as treason and piracy.

It has vowed to extend the long-dormant death penalty to cover rape, robbery and murder.

Papua New Guinea’s government argues that the death penalty is needed to tackle a surge in violent crime.

However, Colville said that was wrongheaded.

“While recognizing the government’s commitment to achieving a safer and more secure society, we urge it to consider other alternatives in line with international human rights standards. Such efforts must address the root causes of the rampant violence and corruption reported in the country,” he said.

Colville nonetheless welcomed the related repeal of Papua New Guinea’s 1971 Sorcery Act, which provided a defense for violent crime if the accused was acting to stop witchcraft, in which there is a widespread belief.

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