Will death penalty affect aid to Papua New Guinea?

    The flag of Papua New Guinea. The country has reinstated the death penalty, a move that donors and human rights groups have called "a setback." Photo by: Contando Estrelas / CC BY-NC

    Papua New Guinea’s move to reinstate the death penalty has met the ire of some major donors, but aid is likely to stay in place.

    The decision was confirmed on May 30 by the country’s parliament, thus ending a 59-year moratorium after a string of violent crimes linked to claims of sorcery, a valid defense against a murder charge under the recently repealed Sorcery Act.

    Papua New Guinea will now allow execution for those convicted of serious crimes  including aggravated rape  through suffocation, firing squad, hanging and lethal injection.

    The United Nations, Australia, the European Union and human rights groups like Amnesty International called the decision a major setback and asked the Papuan government to keep the moratorium on the death penalty established in 1954, arguing that it is an inhumane practice and an unproven deterrent to future crimes.

    However, donors to Papua New Guinea  one of Asia-Pacific’s least developed nations  are unlikely to pull out of the country as it deals with lingering violence and poverty.

    A spokesman from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Devex that Australia will raise its opposition to the death penalty with the Papuan government but will continue to support its development efforts as one of the country’s top donors.

    “We give aid to Papua New Guinea because poverty remains pervasive there, and high poverty levels are a threat to stability […] Safeguards ensure Australian aid is only used for approved development activities that do not involve human rights abuses,” the spokesman said.

    Australia’s official development assistance for Papua New Guinea reached $474 million last year and is expected to rise up to $478 million in 2013-2014 to promote law and justice, education, health and HIV/AIDS awareness and transport infrastructure.

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    About the author

    • Johanna Morden

      Johanna Morden is a community development worker by training and a global development journalist by profession. As a former Devex staff writer based in Manila, she covered the Asian Development Bank as well as Asia-Pacific's aid community at large. Johanna has written for a variety of international publications, covering social issues, disasters, government, ICT, business, and the law.

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