Fourteen out of 15 prisoners currently on death row will be executed after a “possible execution mode is identified”, says Papua New Guinea Correctional Services Commissioner Stephen Pokanis.
Pokanis also said all executions could proceed soon after the National Executive Council (NEC) appoints members to a committee that will identify the most possible mode of execution.
His comments came in light of a court decision last week in which a five-man bench quashed a National Court temporary order that stayed the prisoners’ death sentences.
Pokanis said initially a total of 26 detainees were sentenced to death.
However, only 15 are in Correctional Service custody.
He said three had died while serving their sentences while four escaped from custody and are still at large.
“All those sentenced to death committed crimes that involved multiple murders,” Pokanis said.
“Two were released upon successful appeal to the Supreme Court and were released from Correctional Institutions and another two had their death sentence commuted to life sentences upon successful appeal.”
Pokanis said the 15 prisoners on death row are all low risk and are among the number of the best low risk detainees in the country.
“Correctional Service does not have a separate holding facility for death sentence detainees thus they live together with other sentenced detainees,” he said.
“Correctional Service treats all convicted detainees fairly like having same meals, access to families, access to church services, allowing them out for educational awareness, and allowing them to work in farms and other activities based on their risk assessment as low risk detainees who have the privilege to services like any other convicted-low risk detainee.”
The 14 are also eligible to apply for the power of mercy which comes into effect only after prisoners on death row have exhausted their right to appeal.
Solicitor General Tauvasa Tanuvasa said there was no impediment now and that those on death row could now apply to the power of mercy.
He said death row prisoners can get that help by writing and requesting for clemency and it is then that the power of mercy is considered or exercised by the advisory committee.
The last execution in Papua New Guinea was done in November 1954, in Port Moresby.
In 1970, Papua New Guinea abolished capital punishment but later re-introduced it in 1991 as an amendment to the PNG Criminal Code Act in 1974.
In 2013, Papua New Guinea took steps to revive the capital punishment, at the same time amending legislation for harsher punishment for heinous and premeditated crimes.
Following the 2013 amendment of the Criminal Code, the government introduced capital punishment by way of lethal injection, deprivation of oxygen (“medical” asphyxiation), firing squad, electrocution and hanging.
With the addition of four alternate methods of execution, the Constitutional Law Reform Commission was requested to report on the best method of execution and the most appropriate for PNG to utilise.
The commission travelled to countries with experience in capital punishment that included United States, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore “in order to provide advice to the government on what methods of execution should be adopted”.
But many in Papua New Guinea are still against the death penalty.
General secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands Father Giorgio Licini said: “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned it has recently ruled out, at its top level, any support, justification, approval for the death penalty under any circumstances.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS