Death Penalty Database

Papua New Guinea

Information current as of: January 23, 2011

General

Official Country Name

Independent State of Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinea). [1]

Geographical Region

Oceania (Melanesia). [2]

Death Penalty Law Status

Abolitionist de facto. Papua New Guinea’s last execution was in 1954. [3]

Methods of Execution

Hanging. [4]

Comments.
There are reports that lethal injection may have been recently considered as a method of execution [5]

References

[1] U.S. Dept. of State, Background Note: Papua New Guinea, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2797.htm, Oct. 8, 2010.
[2] U.N., World Macro Regions and Components, U.N. Doc. ST/ESA/STAT/SER.R/29, 2000.
[3] Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture presents preliminary findings on his Mission to Papua New Guinea, Correctional Institutions, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10058&LangID=E, May 25, 2010.
[4] Papua New Guinea Criminal Code, art. 597, 1974; Papua New Guinea Criminal Code, art. 614, 1974
[5] Liam Fox, PNG ‘waiting for death penalty guidelines’, Australian Broadcasting Corporation News, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/07/07/2619443.htm, Jul. 7, 2009; Amnesty Intl., Execution by lethal injection—a quarter century of state poisoning, p.23, AI Index: ACT 50/007/2007, Oct. 2007.

Country Details

Language(s)

English, Tok Pisin, Motu. [1]

Population

6,500,000. (2008 est.). [2]

Number of Individuals Currently Under Sentence of Death

As of July 2017, a member of the Constitutional Law Reform Commission told the press there were 12 people on death row. One death-sentenced prisoner had recently died in jail. [3]

(This question was last updated on July 19, 2017.)

Annual Number of Reported Executions

Executions in 2017 to date (last updated on October 18, 2017)

0. [4]

Executions in 2016

0. [5]

Per capita execution rate in 2016

Executions in 2015

0. [6]

Per capita execution rate in 2015

0 executions.

Executions in 2014

0. [7]

Per capita execution rate in 2014

0 executions

Executions in 2013

0. [8]

Per capita execution rate in 2013

0 executions

Executions in 2012

0. [9]

Per capita execution rate in 2012

0 executions

Executions in 2011

0. [10]

Per capita execution rate in 2011

0 executions

Executions in 2010

0. [11]

Executions in 2009

0. [12]

Executions in 2008

0. [13]

Executions in 2007

0. [14]

Year of Last Known Execution

1954. [15]

References

[1] U.S. Dept. of State, Background Note: Papua New Guinea, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2797.htm, Oct. 8, 2010.
[2] U.S. Dept. of State, Background Note: Papua New Guinea, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2797.htm, Oct. 8, 2010.
[3] Tony Sii, Government to pay K400 million for ‘killing machine’, Papua New Guinea Post Courier, http://postcourier.com.pg/govt-pay-k400-million-killing-machine, Jul. 19, 2017.
[4] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[5] Amnesty International, Death sentences and executions in 2016, ACT 50/5740/2017, Apr. 11, 2017.
[6] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[7] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2015.
[8] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[9] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013.
[10] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, ACT 50/001/2012, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT50/001/2012/en, Mar. 27, 2012.
[11] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 5, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[12] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, p. 29, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[13] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2008, ACT 50/003/2009, Mar. 24, 2009.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2007, ACT 50/001/2008, Apr. 15, 2008.
[15] Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture presents preliminary findings on his Mission to Papua New Guinea, Correctional Institutions, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10058&LangID=E, May 25, 2010.

Crimes and Offenders Punishable By Death

Crimes Punishable by Death

Aggravated Murder.
Intentional, unlawful killing is punished by death according to statutory language. [1] Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court has determined the nation’s statute and Constitution permit the death penalty only for seriously aggravated murders in the absence of sufficient mitigating or extenuating circumstances. [2]

Treason.
The punishment for high treason is death. [3]

Other Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
Piracy aggravated by a serious assault or endangerment of life is punished by death. [4] The jurisprudence of Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court indicates that where death has not occurred, the death penalty is likely excluded as a possible punishment for piracy. [5]

Comments.
As interpreted in Papua New Guinea, the statutory scope of the death penalty may be quite limited. [6]

Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?

No. Under Article 19 of the Criminal Code, a person eligible for punishment by death may be sentenced to life imprisonment or any lesser term unless specifically prohibited by law. Article 598 of the Criminal Code addresses a sentencing system in which discretion was not the province of the judiciary; however, Article 19 is the product of amendments in 1983 and 1991, while Article 598 is simply an outdated description of how a death sentence should be pronounced. The more recent Article 19 gives courts broad discretion to assign a lesser penalty, and none of the death-eligible offenses specifically prohibits a court’s exercise of that discretion. [7] In its decision in Ume v. State in 2006, Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court outlined the history of the death penalty in Papua New Guinea and explained that the death penalty is the maximum penalty for any death-eligible offense, and may not be applied without full consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors and the circumstances of the offense. [8]

For Which Offenses, If Any, Is a Mandatory Death Sentence Imposed?

There is no mandatory death penalty. [9]

Crimes For Which Individuals Have Been Executed Since January 2008:

No one has been executed since 1954. [10]

Categories of Offenders Excluded From the Death Penalty:

Individuals Below Age 18 At Time of Crime.
We did not find a law that excludes individuals below the age of 18 at the time of their crimes from execution. However, no person would be executed in Papua New Guinea for a crime committed while under the age of 18. The nation’s constitution requires courts to consider an array of international instruments and customary law in determining whether a law comports with proper regard for the rights and dignity of mankind, [11] and the nation has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on the Rights of the Child, both of which prohibit such executions. [12] In a 2004 report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, there was discussion of the penal responsibility of juveniles in Papua New Guinea but no discussion to the effect that they could face the death penalty. [13]

Pregnant Women.
If a woman sentenced to death is pregnant, she may request that the execution be stayed until after the pregnancy is over. [14]

Mentally Ill.
A person unable to understand his actions or unable to control his actions is not criminally liable, and a person who commits an offense due to a delusion is held liable only insofar as the delusion would support criminal liability if it were true. [15]

Comments.
While we did not find a law under which intellectually disabled individuals are excluded from execution, a Supreme Court opinion from 2006 does suggest that “sophistication” and mental capacity beyond mere sanity could be a consideration in sentencing. [16]

References

[1] Papua New Guinea Criminal Code, art. 299, 1974.
[2] Ume v. State, paras. 51-67, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[3] Papua New Guinea Criminal Code, art. 37, 1974.
[4] Papua New Guinea Criminal Code, art. 81-82, 1974.
[5] Ume v. State, paras. 39-40, 66-67, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[6] Ume v. State, paras. 39-40, 66-67, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[7] Papua New Guinea Criminal Code, arts. 19, 37, 81-82, 299, 598, fns. 7 & 8, 1974.
[8] Ume v. State, paras. 39-40, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[9] Ume v. State, paras. 8-39, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[10] Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture presents preliminary findings on his Mission to Papua New Guinea, Correctional Institutions, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10058&LangID=E, May 25, 2010.
[11] Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, arts. 39, Sep. 16, 1975. In practice, this is a meaningful provision in Papua New Guinea—for example, see Ume v. State, paras. 51-67, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[12] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Oct. 18, 2010; Status, Declarations, and Reservations, CRC, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3, Nov. 20, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[13] U.N. CRC, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations : Papua New Guinea, generally, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.229, Feb. 26, 2004.
[14] Papua New Guinea Criminal Code, art. 599, 1974.
[15] Papua New Guinea Criminal Code, art. 28, 1974.
[16] Ume v. State, para. 74, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.

International Commitments

ICCPR

Party?

Yes. [1]

Date of Accession

Jul. 21, 2008. [2]

Signed?

No. [3]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Recognizing Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee

Party?

No. [4]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [5]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Toward the Abolition of the Death Penalty

Party?

No. [6]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [7]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

American Convention on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Death Penalty Protocol to the ACHR

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

2016 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [8]

Vote

Against. [9]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [10]

2014 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [11]

Vote

Against. [12]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [13]

2012 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [14]

Vote

Abstained. [15]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [16]

2010 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [17]

Vote

Against. [18]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [19]

2008 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [20]

Vote

Abstained. [21]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [22]

2007 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [23]

Vote

Against. [24]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [25]

References

[1] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[2] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[3] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[4] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[5] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[6] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[7] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[8] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[9] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[10] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Note Verbale dated 7 September 2017, U.N. Doc. A/71/1047, Sep. 13, 2017.
[11] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 141, 144, U.N. Doc. A/69/488/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2014.
[12] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, 73rd Plenary Meeting, pp. 17-18, U.N. Doc. A/69/PV.73, Dec. 18, 2014.
[13] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Note Verbale dated 28 July 2015, U.N. Doc. A/69/993, Jul. 29, 2015.
[14] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 95-96, U.N. Doc. A/67/457/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2012.
[15] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, 60th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/67/PV.60, Dec. 20, 2012.
[16] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Note Verbale dated 16 April 2013, U.N. Doc. A/67/841, Apr. 23, 2013.
[17] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, p. 5, U.N. Doc. A/65/456/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2010.
[18] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, 71st Plenary Meeting, pp. 18-19, U.N. Doc. A/65/PV.71, Dec. 21, 2010.
[19] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Note Verbale dated 11 March 2011, U.N. Doc. A/65/779, Mar. 11, 2011.
[20] U.N.G.A., 63rd session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/63/430/Add.2, Dec. 4, 2008.
[21] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, 70th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/63/PV.70, Dec. 18, 2008.
[22] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, Note Verbale dated 10 February 2009, U.N. Doc. A/63/716, Feb. 12, 2009.
[23] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, pp. 3-4, U.N. Doc. A/62/439/Add.2, Dec. 5, 2007.
[24] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, 76th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/62/PV.76, Dec. 18, 2007.
[25] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Note Verbale dated 11 January 2008, U.N. Doc. A/62/658, Feb. 2, 2008.

Death Penalty In Law

Does the country’s constitution make reference to capital punishment?

The Constitution specifies that the right to life cannot be deprived “except in execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of an offence for which the penalty of death is prescribed by law.” Additionally, the Constitution specifies that while capital punishment does not contravene the prohibition of inhuman treatment “the manner or the circumstances of the killing may contravene it.” [1]

Does the country’s constitution make reference to international law?

The Constitution specifies that courts determining whether a law may be applied “in a democratic society that has a proper regard for the rights and dignity of mankind” may look to a number of specific international instruments as well as foreign and international courts, customary law, and other international influences. Essentially, a court determining whether a law is arbitrary or inhuman must consider relevant conventions, jurisprudence and jurisdictions worldwide. [2]

Have there been any significant changes in the application of the death penalty over the last several years?

There has been no actual application of the death penalty in Papua New Guinea since 1954. [3] In 2006, the Supreme Court rejected an apparent trial court position that discretion was limited for certain murder cases. The Court outlined the legislative and common law history of the death penalty in Papua New Guinea—the statutory history shows that the death penalty has not been mandatory for about a century and that it was not made mandatory upon re-introduction in 1991. [4]

Is there currently an official moratorium on executions within the country?

Unsure. As of July 14, 2009, a moratorium on executions in Papua New Guinea was in place. In 1991, the nation re-introduced the death penalty; [5] however, by 2009, officials had not promulgated regulations necessary to reinstate the death penalty, although they were considering doing so. [6] As of 2009, there was a moratorium in place on executions; however, we are unsure whether it is an official moratorium because it might be terminated by a regulatory act of government officials in the Ministry of Justice or Attorney General’s Office. [7] It should be noted that the 2009 Justice Minister (and AG) asserted that his office was drawing up regulations that, if made effective, would reinstate executions; [8] this is a significant departure from a 2006 statement by his predecessor that “killing Papua New Guineans is out of my calendar, and I will work towards aborting the death penalty.” [9]

Have there been any significant published cases concerning the death penalty in national courts?

While it may be unlikely that Ume v. State, decided in 2006, represents a change in jurisprudence in Papua New Guinea, this case outlines a century of legislative and common law development and is the seminal case regarding judicial discretion in Papua New Guinea. In Ume, the Court reduced the death sentences of petitioners; these sentences had been pronounced by a trial court judge who had failed to make adequate factual determinations regarding aggravating factors and who had “completely shut his mind to the existence of any mitigating factors.” [10] The court outlined the legislative history of the death penalty in Papua New Guinea, illustrating that the death penalty in Papua New Guinea is beyond question a discretionary penalty. [11] Because the legislature had not outlined a framework for which cases warrant a death penalty, the Court considered other jurisdictions where a discretionary death penalty exists; the Court determined that the death penalty can apply only for seriously aggravated offenses where mitigating factors or extenuating circumstances are insufficient to suggest leniency is appropriate in light of the gravity of the offense. [12]

Where can one locate or access judicial decisions regarding the death penalty?

Judgments of the National Court, decisions on appeal before the Supreme Court, and the decisions of other courts can be accessed at http://www.paclii.org/databases.html#PG.

What is the clemency process?

Consideration of clemency begins after conviction. The Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy, which consists of a lawyer, a doctor with psychiatric experience, a member of Parliament, a religious minister and a community worker, investigates a sentencing decision and provides majority and dissenting reports to the National Executive Council, which makes recommendations to the head of state. The head of state must exercise the power of mercy in accordance with the advice of the Council. [13]

Are jury trials provided for defendants charged with capital offenses?

Jury trials are not provided. [14]

Brief Description of Appellate Process

Capital offenses are tried before the National Court in its original jurisdiction; the District Courts may hear criminal cases only if they are fit for summary adjudication or are not indictable offenses. [15] Appeals are from the National Court to the Supreme Court on questions of fact, law and mixed law and fact. [16] Appeals in criminal cases are as of right on questions of law and mixed fact and law, and by leave of the Supreme Court or certification of the National Court on questions of fact alone. [17] The prosecutor may appeal a sentencing decision of the National Court. [18] An acquittal is not appealable by the prosecutor, who may only appeal to the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on a point of law. [19]

References

[1] Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, arts. 35-36, Sep. 16, 1975 (we take “the manner or circumstances of the killing” to refer to the specific application of capital punishment).
[2] Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, art. 39, Sep. 16, 1975.
[3] Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture presents preliminary findings on his Mission to Papua New Guinea, Correctional Institutions, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10058&LangID=E, May 25, 2010.
[4] Ume v. State, paras. 8-39, 74, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[5] Ume v. State, paras. 8-39, 74, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[6] Human Rights Watch, Papua New Guinea: Don’t Regress on Death Penalty, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/07/14/papua-new-guinea-don-t-regress-death-penalty, Jul. 14, 2009.
[7] Human Rights Watch, Papua New Guinea: Don’t Regress on Death Penalty, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/07/14/papua-new-guinea-don-t-regress-death-penalty, Jul. 14, 2009.
[8] Human Rights Watch, Papua New Guinea: Don’t Regress on Death Penalty, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/07/14/papua-new-guinea-don-t-regress-death-penalty, Jul. 14, 2009.
[9] Asia Death Penalty, Papua New Guinea: Ending its Isolation?, http://asiadeathpenalty.blogspot.com/2006/04/papua-new-guinea-ending-its-isolation.html, Apr. 26, 2006.
[10] Ume v. State, para. 74, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[11] Ume v. State, paras. 8-39, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[12] Ume v. State, paras. 43-45, 51-67, 74-77, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[13] Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, arts. 151-152, Sep. 16, 1975; Organic Law on the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy, arts. 1-2, date unknown.
[14] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Papua New Guinea, Denial of Fair Public Trial, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/136005.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[15] Papua New Guinea District Courts Act, art. 20, 1963.
[16] Papua New Guinea Supreme Court Act, art. 4, 1975.
[17] Papua New Guinea Supreme Court Act, art. 22, 1975.
[18] Papua New Guinea Supreme Court Act, art. 24, 1975.
[19] Papua New Guinea Supreme Court Act, arts. 25-26, 1975. Interestingly, on an appeal by the prosecutor for an advisory opinion, the acquitted defendant is treated as a respondent to the petition. Note that it is impossible to appeal the National Court’s quashing of a death sentence because the National Courts have original, not appellate jurisdiction over capital offenses. Papua New Guinea District Courts Act, art. 20, 1963.

Death Penalty In Practice

Where Are Death-Sentenced Prisoners incarcerated?

Death row prisoners are “kept together with other prisoners at Bomana Correctional Institution and are not discriminated in special death row sections.” [1]

Description of Prison Conditions

Papua New Guinea permits human rights monitors [2] and journalists [3] to visit its prisons, though few reportedly do so. [4] In late May 2010, Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, reported on his visit to the nation’s prisons. [5]

According to the U.S. Department of State, prisons were overcrowded in 2009 due to the temporary closure of two prisons, with approximately 4,900 prisoners held in a system with accommodations for only 3,600. [6] The International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College in London suggests that, even at full capacity, Papua New Guinea’s prison system could accommodate only about 4,400 individuals. The ICPS’s report also suggests that approximately 700 prisoners were unaccounted for in the Department of State’s reporting, perhaps because the ICPS report includes pre-trial detainees, who are reportedly held with convicted prisoners. [7]

Aerial photographs of Bomana Prison and close-up photography of another prison of similar design show that living conditions on death row may be spartan and unhygienic, prisoners may have to sleep on mats in large common cells, buildings may be open-air and compounds and appear to lack distinct medical and nutritional facilities. [8] The Department of State reports that medical facilities are, in most prisons, non-existent and that nutrition, water and bedding are inadequate. Underfunding is a serious obstacle to improving conditions. Additionally, a sluggish criminal justice process results in lengthy pre-trial detention, and vulnerable people such as juveniles or women are sometimes held alongside adult male offenders, resulting in abuse. [9] A May 2010 report by Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, indicates that at Bomana Prison, overcrowding and lack of resources and medical care is a problem, boys may be mixed with adults (who are not separated on the basis of sentence), and women are held in separate, better-maintained facilities staffed by female guards. Additionally, Nowak’s report indicates that access to rehabilitative services, vocational training and the like is very limited, although some prisoners are able to work outside of prisons. [10]

Reliable sources indicate that prison security is a major problem. At least some prisoners are held in mass cells; [11] on one occasion a prison’s guards (all of them) failed to appear on-duty due to a pay dispute, leading to a mass escape that went undiscovered (whilst police were providing security for the PNG-AU rugby match, at which the Prime Minister of Australia was present) until hours after the fact; on another occasion, notorious criminals, including death row prisoners, were able to stage a jailbreak with the help of a woman who, impersonating an attorney, smuggled a gun into Bomana Prison. [12] Nowak’s 2010 report suggests that internal and external security in correctional facilities is flawed and that, in response, guards engage in punitive beatings. He reported severe collective punishments. Escapees, after recapture, could face crippling by gunshot or knife and prolonged denial of medical attention, sometimes leading to death. [13]

Are there any known foreign nationals currently under sentence of death?

We did not find any reports of foreign nationals held under sentence of death in Papua New Guinea; the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College, London reports that as of June 19, 2009, there were approximately 21 foreigners incarcerated for various offenses in Papua New Guinea. [14]

What are the nationalities of the known foreign nationals on death row?

We did not find reports of foreign nationals held under sentence of death in Papua New Guinea.

Are there any known women currently under sentence of death?

In our research, we did come across reports of women who potentially faced capital charges; [15] however, we did not find reports of women on death row.

Are there any reports of individuals currently under sentence of death who may have been under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed?

We did not find any reports of juveniles held under sentence of death.

Comments regarding the racial/ethnic composition on death row

We did not find any reports regarding ethnic disparities on death row, although there is some potential for cultural disparity. Papua New Guinea is an extraordinarily diverse country, with several thousand separate communities and approximately 860 known spoken languages. While tribal/group conflict-based killing is outlawed, courts appear to consider the reality of this situation in sentencing decisions involving group violence. [16]

Membership in lawful communities and conversion to the Christian faith is taken as a mitigating factor, but a person’s lack of “sophistication” could also be considered a mitigating factor. [17] It is difficult to know whether this results (or could result) in cultural disparity in sentencing, or whether instead courts fairly consider any relevance these factors have to an offender’s culpability or reformation.

Are there lawyers available for indigent defendants facing capital trials?

Indigent individuals facing charges punishable by over two years’ imprisonment are provided attorneys by the Public Solicitor’s Office (the Public Defender). The Public Solicitor determines whether to accept a case; this decision is reviewable by the National Court. [18]

Are there lawyers available for indigent prisoners on appeal?

Indigent individuals on appeal regarding an offense punishable by over two years’ imprisonment are provided attorneys by the Public Solicitor’s Office (the Public Defender). The Public Solicitor determines whether to accept a case; this decision is reviewable by the National Court. [19]

Comments on Quality of Legal Representation

We found no comments on the quality of legal representation. In one capital case, defendants were convicted of a seriously aggravated murder—a group of men had allegedly raped a woman and then tortured and murdered her by chopping her to death; this was in premeditated retaliation for an alleged act of her son against a member of their community. All of these factors are aggravating under Papua New Guinea law. Defendant’s counsel on appeal before the Supreme Court was able to obtain a reduced sentence of life imprisonment because the trial judge had failed to make a proper factual finding of rape and because defendant’s counsel showed that, effectively, the trial judge had “shut his mind” to the existence or relevance of mitigating factors. The ability of counsel to focus the court on grave inadequacies in sentencing amidst what the Court characterized as an extremely bad killing [20] seems to speak well of the quality of available representation in Papua New Guinea.

Other Comments on Criminal Justice System

Our research suggests that Papua New Guinea’s criminal justice system faces serious obstacles in extending the rule of law to tribal regions. Extrajudicial action (extreme though not lethal) by police forces in this regard is a serious problem. Manfred Nowak reported in mid-2010 that there are thoroughgoing problems with severe beatings by police rising to the level of torture, both for indiscriminate punishment and for use as an interrogation technique. A failure to discipline or control state security forces is a serious problem, and in some regions, private security forces carry out some of the duties of police. [21]

Pre-trial detention can be lengthy due to a lack of a sufficient number of judges, and prisoners and pre-trial detainees, including women and juveniles, suffer because of a lack of sufficient monetary resources. By and large, however, criminal justice is defined by impartial adjudication and adherence to and enforcement of high standards regarding the rights of the accused. [22]

References

[1] Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture presents preliminary findings on his Mission to Papua New Guinea, Correctional Institutions, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10058&LangID=E, May 25, 2010; The National, Maximum Security Prison Break in Papua New Guinea, http://www.thenational.ae/news/worldwide/asia-pacific/maximum-security-prison-break-in-papua-new-guinea, Jan. 13, 2010. For an aerial photo of this maximum security facility, see Wikimapia, Bomana Prison, http://wikimapia.org/#lat=-9.3771728&lon=147.2481466&z=18&l=0&m=b, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010. For close up photographs of a Papua New Guinea prison of similar design, see Benjamin Lowy, Papua New Guinea Prison, http://benlowy.com/#/editorial/papua-new-guinea-prison/VII_PNG0019, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[2] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Papua New Guinea, Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/136005.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[3] Benjamin Lowy, Papua New Guinea Prison, http://benlowy.com/#/editorial/papua-new-guinea-prison/VII_PNG0019, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[4] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Papua New Guinea, Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/136005.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[5] Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture presents preliminary findings on his Mission to Papua New Guinea, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10058&LangID=E, May 25, 2010.
[6] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Papua New Guinea, Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/136005.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[7] ICPS, Prison Brief for Papua New Guinea, King’s College in London, http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/law/research/icps/worldbrief/wpb_country.php?country=205, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010; The Sydney Morning Herald, Fifty on Run After Papua New Guinea Prison Break: Official, http://www.smh.com.au/world/fifty-on-run-after-papua-new-guinea-prison-break-official-20090928-g97h.html, Sep. 29, 2009 (in which a prison official confirms that 22 of 50 escapees were convicts, whereas the others had merely been charged with an offense).
[8] For an aerial photo of this maximum security facility, see Wikimapia, Bomana Prison, http://wikimapia.org/#lat=-9.3771728&lon=147.2481466&z=18&l=0&m=b, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010. For close up photographs of a Papua New Guinea prison of similar design, see Benjamin Lowy, Papua New Guinea Prison, http://benlowy.com/#/editorial/papua-new-guinea-prison/VII_PNG0019, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[9] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Papua New Guinea, Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/136005.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[10] Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture presents preliminary findings on his Mission to Papua New Guinea, Correctional Institutions, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10058&LangID=E, May 25, 2010.
[11] For an aerial photo of this maximum security facility, see Wikimapia, Bomana Prison, http://wikimapia.org/#lat=-9.3771728&lon=147.2481466&z=18&l=0&m=b, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010. For close up photographs of a Papua New Guinea prison of similar design, see Benjamin Lowy, Papua New Guinea Prison, http://benlowy.com/#/editorial/papua-new-guinea-prison/VII_PNG0019, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[12] The Sydney Morning Herald, Fifty on Run After Papua New Guinea Prison Break: Official, http://www.smh.com.au/world/fifty-on-run-after-papua-new-guinea-prison-break-official-20090928-g97h.html, Sep. 29, 2009.
[13] Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture presents preliminary findings on his Mission to Papua New Guinea, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10058&LangID=E, May 25, 2010.
[14] ICPS, Prison Brief for Papua New Guinea, King’s College in London, http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/law/research/icps/worldbrief/wpb_country.php?country=205, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.
[15] Human Rights Watch, Papua New Guinea: Don’t Regress on Death Penalty, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/07/14/papua-new-guinea-don-t-regress-death-penalty, Jul. 14, 2009.
[16] Ume v. State, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[17] Ume v. State, para. 74, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[18] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Papua New Guinea, Denial of Fair Public Trial, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/136005.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; Independent State of Papua New Guinea, Independent Office of the Public Solicitor, Legal Aid and Services: Range of Legal Services, http://www.paclii.org/pg/ops/Docs/Brochure%20-%20Legal%20Aid%20and%20Assistance.pdf, 2007.
[19] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Papua New Guinea, Denial of Fair Public Trial, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/136005.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; Independent State of Papua New Guinea, Independent Office of the Public Solicitor, Legal Aid and Services: Range of Legal Services, http://www.paclii.org/pg/ops/Docs/Brochure%20-%20Legal%20Aid%20and%20Assistance.pdf, 2007.
[20] Ume v. State, generally, paras. 74, 82, 84, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[21] Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture presents preliminary findings on his Mission to Papua New Guinea, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10058&LangID=E, May 25, 2010.
[22] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Papua New Guinea, Denial of Fair Public Trial, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/136005.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; U.S. Dept. of State, Background Note: Papua New Guinea, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2797.htm, Oct. 8, 2010; Ume v. State, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.

Decisions of International Human Rights Bodies

Decisions of Human Rights Committee

Papua New Guinea acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on July 21, 2008, [1] but the Human Rights Committee has not yet made any concluding observations: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/PGIndex.aspx.

Decisions of Other Human Rights Bodies

Papua New Guinea is scheduled for Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council in mid-2011: http://www.upr-info.org/-Papua-New-Guinea-.html.

References

[1] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Oct. 19, 2010.

Additional Sources and Contacts

Direct member(s) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

None.

Other non-governmental organizations and individuals engaged in advocacy surrounding the death penalty

None.

Helpful Reports and Publications

None.

Additional notes regarding this country

Papua New Guinea is an extraordinarily diverse country, with several thousand separate communities and approximately 860 known spoken languages. Many communities were (due to the mountainous terrain) until recently completely separate from each other and the outside world or historically engaged in tribal conflict. In this situation, and with the influx of modern weaponry, violence between community groups is increasingly serious. [1] Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, indicated in May 2010 that the country faces high levels of internal violence exacerbated by the growing availability of firearms. [2]

The extreme diversity has been acknowledged as a factor in assuring human rights protections [3] and both in application of the rule of law and in violations by security forces. [4] A mid-2010 report by Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, suggests that Papua New Guinea faces challenges in extending the rule of law, disciplining its security forces, and in dealing with the fact that private security forces are often turned to as a solution to security problems. [5] As Papua New Guinea continues to address issues inherent to its cultural and linguistic diversity, assurance of the rule of law and human rights protections remain a topic to follow.

References

[1] U.S. Dept. of State, Background Note: Papua New Guinea, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2797.htm, Oct. 8, 2010.
[2] Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture presents preliminary findings on his Mission to Papua New Guinea, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10058&LangID=E, May 25, 2010.
[3] U.N. CRC, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations : Papua New Guinea, generally, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.229, Feb. 26, 2004.
[4] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Papua New Guinea, Denial of Fair Public Trial, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/136005.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; U.S. Dept. of State, Background Note: Papua New Guinea, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2797.htm, Oct. 8, 2010; Ume v. State, SCRA 10 of 1997, Supreme Court of Justice, May 19, 2006.
[5] Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture presents preliminary findings on his Mission to Papua New Guinea, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10058&LangID=E, May 25, 2010.

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