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PNG move on death penalty raises concerns for asylum seekers

Staff Reporter 5/30/2013 | |
AAP and Bianca Hall

Asylum seekers on Manus Island will be subject to the death penalty, the department of immigration has confirmed.
Papua New Guinea's parliament on Tuesday passed laws allowing execution by a range of methods, including hanging, electrocution, lethal injection, and firing squad, while repealing its contested sorcery act.
Janet Kemo Fogodi was victim of a brutal attack in which a family member tried to murder her due to "sorcery". Changes to PNG laws will prevent people who commit violent acts from using sorcery as a defence.
Janet Kemo Fogodi was victim of a brutal attack in which a family member tried to murder her due to "sorcery". Changes to PNG laws will prevent people who commit violent acts from using sorcery as a defence. Photo: Brendan Esposito
It also vowed to extend the long-dormant death penalty to cover rape, robbery and murder.
Immigration department spokesman Sandi Logan said on Twitter that asylum seekers detained on Manus Island were subject to PNG laws "100%", but declined to comment further.
Amnesty International deputy director for the Asia-Pacific, Isabelle Arradon, said the reintroduction of the death penalty was counterproductive.
"Papua New Guinea has taken one step forward in protecting women from violence by repealing the sorcery act, but several giant steps back by moving closer to executions," she said.
"The taking of a life - whether a person is beheaded by villagers or killed by the state - represents an equally abhorrent violation of human rights.
"The government has failed to heed calls from civil society to not start killing prisoners again."
Capital punishment is currently in place for treason, piracy and wilful murder but Papua New Guinea has not carried out an execution since 1954.
Amnesty says at least 10 people are on death row.
As well as reviving the death penalty, parliament also repealed its 1971 sorcery act, which provided a defence for violent crime if the accused was acting to stop witchcraft.
It means any black magic killings will now be treated as murder punishable by death following a spate of horrific public killings of women accused of sorcery, in which there is a widespread belief in PNG.
According to Amnesty, more than two-thirds of all countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice with the last known execution taking place in the Pacific in 1982 in Tonga.
Arradon said countries were moving away from the death penalty, in part because there were no assurances it was an effective deterrent to crime.
"By passing these death penalty laws, Papua New Guinea will find it is on the losing side of history," she said.

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