Reference on death penalty filed

A special reference has been filed in the Supreme Court that will test the constitutionality of the death penalty in the country.

Following the passage of the death penalty by parliament in 2013, the criminal justice system has imposed the penalty on serious criminal offences.

However, the sentence imposed by the courts in various serious criminal cases have not been carried out because of the procedures involved in executing the death penalty.

Acting public solicitor, Leslie Mamu, being the head of the public defender’s office, brought the issue of death penalty through the special reference for the Supreme Court to interpret its constitutionality under Section 35 (Right to Life) and Section 36 (Freedom from Inhuman Treatment) of the Constitution.

The reference arises from a five-judge Supreme Court bench decision of 2 May 2013, which set aside life imprisonment imposed by the Goroka National Court and imposed death sentence for former soldier, Major Alois Erebebe, and Taros Togote.

They were convicted and sentenced in July 2003 for killing nine people with the use of high-powered weapons.

Five years on, the execution of the death penalty remains pending by the appropriate authority while they remain at the Bomana jail.

Acting principal legal officer of the Public Solicitor’s Office, Ramsey Pariwa, says the reference is all about the sanctity of human life.

The special reference has been served on the Office of Secretary for Justice and Attorney General.

13 prisoners were on death row in February 2015, two died in custody while two were acquitted by the Supreme Court in Port Moresby last December.

Sally Pokiton