Australia should ensure opposition to the death penalty is reflected in foreign policy and international police cooperation

Australia must ensure that its opposition to the death penalty is consistently reflected across all its laws, policies and practices, the Human Rights Law Centre has told the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade’s Human Rights Sub-Committee. The Sub-Committee is currently inquiring into Australia’s advocacy for abolition of the death penalty.

The HRLC’s Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, said that although Australia had long ago abolished the death penalty, the country’s strong abolitionist stance is not yet implemented throughout foreign policy, engagement with the United Nations and in laws governing international police cooperation.

“In the aftermath of the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia, Australia was united in its opposition to the death penalty. Politicians from all sides condemned the executions. Australia is well placed to play a role in the global abolition of the death penalty given the strength of domestic practice and strong community opposition to the death penalty,” said Ms Howie. 

The HRLC welcomed the Foreign Minister’s announcement that Australia will be at the forefront of the global campaign to end the death penalty and that DFAT will develop a whole of government approach to global abolition.

“Australia must consistently advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, regardless of the citizenship of the person being executed and regardless of the country carrying out the penalty. This means pursuing the issue at the United Nations as well as having frank discussions with our closest allies such as the United States that remain an outlier among western nations as an executing state,” said Ms Howie.

The HRLC also called for the laws governing the Australian Federal Police to be amended to ensure that the AFP do not share information that leads to the death penalty. Evidence shows that the AFP is putting around 370 people a year at risk of execution, more than 95% of which are for drug cases.

“We need to learn from the mistakes of the past. If the Bali 9 case happened again tomorrow, nothing would prevent the AFP from acting in the same way. Parliament should amend the AFP Act to include sufficient safeguards to prevent police sharing information which could lead to the death penalty,” said Ms Howie. 


For further information or comments, please contact:
Emily Howie on 0421 370 997