On January 20, Papua New Guinea’s parliament voted to repeal the country’s 30-year-old death penalty statute.
“For us as a Christian nation,” Prime Minister James Marape said, “the notion of ‘thou shall not kill’ still prevails.”
God should be the judge, he said, adding that the death penalty “is not an effective deterrent to serious crime and offences.”
More than 95% of the island nation’s nine million residents identify as Christian. Roman Catholicism is the largest single Christian denomination, and the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands strongly advocated for abolition of capital punishment, DPIC reported.
“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, told The Guardian. “If we claim to be a nation of Christians we have to walk the talk.”
Papua New Guinea’s last execution was carried out in 1954.
Justice minister Bryan Kramer told parliament that the government lacked the “necessary administrative mechanisms and infrastructure” to carry out the death penalty in a humane way, The Guardian reported.
Mr. Kramer said 40 people were facing execution. The abolition bill commuted their death sentences to life without parole.
Offenses such as treason, piracy, and murder will now be punishable by life imprisonment without parole or parole after 30 years.
Capital punishment was abolished in Papua New Guinea in 1970 but reintroduced in 1991.
In 2013, lawmakers expanded the number of crimes punishable by death and cabinet members proposed hanging, firing squad, and lethal injection as methods of execution after the country’s constitutional law reform commission traveled to the U.S. and neighboring Southeast Asian island nations to study their administration of capital punishment, DPIC reported.
“Papua New Guinea joins a global trend away from use of the death penalty,” United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said. “I hope Papua New Guinea’s example will encourage those remaining States that retain the death penalty to take similarly progressive and courageous steps to abolish it.”