Nauru's Criminal Code Outlaws Suicide, Abortion And Witchcraft

16/04/2016 1:35 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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News on Friday that a refugee on Nauru had been charged and convicted of attempted suicide -- a crime on the island nation -- was met with outrage, but more of the country's laws would be just as surprising to Australians.

The ABC reported an Iranian man had plead guilty to the 'crime' of attempting suicide, and served two weeks in jail before being freed on bail in February. The man had arrived on Nauru as an asylum seeker and spent time in the Australian-run detention centre on the island before being deemed a genuine refugee.

As the ABC reported, Nauru's criminal laws are based on the century-old Queensland Criminal Code. Nauru's Criminal Code 1899 has not been updated in the same way the Queensland code has been, with many anachronisms still embedded within that outlaw suicide, abortion, public duelling, a long list of offences around post and telegraph (remember, 1899), and even expressly legislate against witchcraft.

SUICIDE

Section 312 of the code outlaws suicide.

Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment with hard labour for one year.

Even harsher punishments are in place for someone who attempts to assist in a suicide, with a conviction making someone liable for imprisonment with hard labour for life.

ABORTION

It is still illegal to get an abortion on Nauru, to help someone have an abortion, or to even attempt to procure an abortion.

Any person who, with intent to procure the miscarriage of a woman, whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to her or causes her to take any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, is guilty of a crime, and is liable to imprisonment with hard labour for fourteen years.

Any woman who, with intent to procure her own miscarriage, whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, or permits any such thing or means to be administered or used to her, is guilty of a crime, and is liable to imprisonment with hard labour for seven years.

Any person who unlawfully supplies to or procures for any person any thing whatever, knowing that it is intended to be unlawfully used to procure the miscarriage of a woman, whether she is or is not with child, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment with hard labour for three years.

DEFAMATION OF FOREIGN PRINCES

Nauru has an entire section of criminal law to deal with insulting the prince of an overseas nation "without such justification or excuse." Two years in prison is in store for anyone who:

publishes anything intended to be read, or any sign or visible representation, tending to expose to hatred or contempt in the estimation of the people of any Foreign State any Prince or person exercising sovereign authority over that State.

nauru

Nauru from the air

DUELS AND FIGHTS

It's a criminal code with roots in the 19th century, but don't even think about challenging someone to a duel or a fight on Nauru. Sections 73 and 74 deal with these two offences.

Any person who challenges another to fight a duel, or attempts to provoke another to fight a duel, or attempts to provoke any person to challenge another to fight a duel, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment with hard labour for three years.

Any person who fights in a prize fight, or subscribes to or promotes a prize fight, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for one year.

LOST AND FOUND NOTICES

Again, don't even think about posting a note on the street advertising a reward for your lost dog or cat or bike. It's totally illegal on Nauru, where you can be fined fifty pounds. Really.

Any person who:

(1) Publicly offers a reward for the return of any property which has been stolen or lost, and in the offer makes use of any words purporting that no questions will be asked, or that the person producing such property will not be seized or molested; or

(2) Publicly offers to return to any person who may have bought or advanced money by way of loan upon any stolen or lost property the money so paid or advanced, or any other sum of money or reward for the return of such property; or

(3) Prints or publishes any such offer;

is guilty of an offence, and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of fifty pounds.

INTERRUPTING A CHURCH SERVICE

It's two months in jail for disturbing an assembly of religious worship. Make sure you're quiet.

Any person who wilfully and without lawful justification or excuse, the proof of which lies on him, disquiets or disturbs any meeting of persons lawfully assembled for religious worship, or assaults any person lawfully officiating at any such meeting, or any of the persons there assembled, is guilty of an offence, and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for two months, or to a fine of five pounds.

WITCHCRAFT

Yes, it's illegal to be a witch on Nauru. Section 432 of the code states:

Any person who pretends to exercise or use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration, or undertakes to tell fortunes, or pretends from his skill or knowledge in any occult science to discover where or in what manner anything supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment with hard labour for one year.

For the full code, via the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute (PACLII), click here.

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