Execution reach extended in PNG

In the wake of a wave of savage violence, including witch burnings, Papua New Guinea has restored the death penalty, extended its application and approved multiple ways of executing people.

Papua New Guinea’s Parliament yesterday approved the death penalty for robbery, rape and sorcery-related killings, reported the PNG Post-Courier.

Kidnapping would get life without parole and stealing money of over five million kina (NZ$2.86 million) 50 years without parole.

PNG has had death by hanging for decades, but has not carried it out since 1954 when it was under Australian rule.

But Parliament has now approved five methods of execution, including hanging, lethal injection, suffocation, firing squad and electrocution.

The method to be used in each case would be determined by the Head of State or Governor General on advice from the National Executive Council.

Earlier this year at least eight people were murdered in horrific sorcery related incidents. Men and women were tortured to death, burnt alive and beheaded.

In one case, a woman was burnt to death in front of hundreds of people at a Mt Hagen market – and dozens took photos.

Under the country’s Sorcery Act, people taking part in the killing of alleged witches had a defence against a murder charge, but Parliament yesterday abolished the act making many people liable to a capital charge and punishable by death.

Pack rapes are common in PNG and only usually make headlines when foreign women were the victims.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has formally apologised to the nation’s women for the violence they face and pledged he would bring in draconian new laws.

It repealed the Sorcery Act of 1971 in its entirety, making all sorcery-related killings a crime punishable by death.

Police Minister Nixon Duban has called for the death penalty to be extended to those who cultivate marijuana or produce home brew.

“The government is looking for ways to implement the death penalty,” he told the national broadcaster, NBC.

“People who spy around on our mothers and young girls will be hanged or face the firing squads.

“There are too many lawless people in the country. This will teach them a lesson,” Duban said.

But even as the penalties are toughened up, the country has been startled by a case of police brutality.

Police earlier this week arrested 30 men in Morobe near Port Moresby. Numerous independent accounts revealed that the police made them all lie on the ground as several other policemen went and chopped the Achilles tendons on each of them.

One policeman leaked photos to the media.

“I cried as I was taking pictures of the wounded men at Gordon police barracks,” he said.

“The Gordon police cells looked like an abattoir with bloodied men lying in their blood.”

Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga has expressed shock and anger at reports of an alarming increase in police brutality cases. In the latest case he has called for the responsible officers to be charged and locked up.