Australia’s extradition legislation needs to guarantee protection from torture and the death penalty

Loopholes in Australia’s extradition procedures need to be closed to prevent exposing people to human rights violations, the Human Rights Law Resource Centre has recommended. The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department has concluded it consultation process for an exposure draft to update the Extradition Act and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act.

HRLRC Executive Director, Phil Lynch, said both the current and proposed process for accepting extradition requests and cooperating with foreign criminal investigations had inadequate safeguards to ensure Australia would not directly, or indirectly, be involved in human rights violations.

"Australian law should absolutely prohibit the involvement of Australian officials in exposing a person to death, torture, cruel treatment or a flagrant denial of justice," Mr Lynch said.

The HRLRC submission also highlighted problems posed by the Mutual Assistance Act, potentially partnering Australia in investigations with countries that enforce the death penalty, and the Foreign Evidence Act which provides that in certain cases, Australian authorities could use evidence obtained by torture.

"The risk of torture is currently one of the mandatory grounds to refuse mutual assistance to another country, but the death penalty is strangely not. This should be fixed," Mr Lynch said.

Neither of the Acts provide that extradition or assistance will be refused in situations where it would expose a person to the real risk of violation of other fundamental human rights, such as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or unfair trial proceedings.

"Although the proposed Bill contains some important additional safeguards, if the Government is fully committed to protecting and promoting human rights, these safeguards need to be strengthened and need to be non-negotiable," Mr Lynch said.

The Government first released its draft legislation for public consultation in July 2009 and then called for a second round of submissions regarding an amended draft in January 2011.

A copy of the submission can be found here: HRLRC Submission on draft Extradition and Mutual Assistance Bill 2011