Rights groups united in calling on Australia to push for global end to death penalty

A group of leading Australian and international human rights organisations are calling for an overhaul to the way the Australian government campaigns to end the death penalty, today launching a new strategy document: ‘Australian Government and the Death Penalty: A Way Forward

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Law Centre, Reprieve Australia, Australians Detained Abroad, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Civil Liberties Australia and UnitingJustice Australia have joined forces to launch the blueprint.

The blueprint outlines the four steps the government must take if it wants to build on the current momentum to end the death penalty: 

  1. Developing a new Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade public strategy document aimed at ending the death penalty, everywhere;
  2. Using Australia’s aid programs to support civil society organisations campaigning for abolition in countries which retain the death penalty;
  3. Joining forces with other nations to push for universal adoption of a global moratorium on the death penalty;
  4. Putting in place stronger legislation so the Australian Federal Police (AFP) is required by law not to share information with other law enforcement agencies that would potentially result in suspected perpetrators facing the death penalty.

The National Director of Amnesty International Australia, Claire Mallinson, said the Australian Government must build on it's recent condemnation of state sanctioned killings in Indonesia

“It must, and can, continue to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, particularly in our region, irrespective of the nationality or crime of the person being sentenced. The recent executions of eight men in Indonesia, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, was an inhuman and unjust punishment and represents exactly why the Australian government must continue to speak out against the death penalty whenever it occurs. We must now ensure Australia’s stance against the recent executions is reflected in all government policy. We are asking for change across the Australian Government – through diplomacy, our aid program, our federal law enforcement agencies," said Ms Mallinson.

Elaine Pearson, Australia Director at Human Rights Watch agrees.

“The time is ripe for Australia’s foreign ministry to make public a new comprehensive policy to end the death penalty worldwide, with specific and achievable goals for individual countries. The strategy should include consistent public and private diplomatic pressure to end this cruel practice, showing how the death penalty has failed to deter crime and been unjustly applied,” said Ms Pearson.

Emily Howie, Director of Advocacy and Research at the Human Rights Law Centre, said it was time to reflect on how to avoid 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. 

Ursula Noye, Vice President, Reprieve Australia said Australia was well positioned to take a leading role in efforts to abolish the death penalty.

"Momentum is building globally for the abolition of the death penalty. In recent months, both the Australian people and the government have spoken out powerfully against executions. The time is right for Australia to take a lead role and build a regional coalition for abolition. We should make future generations proud," said Ms Noye.

Add your name to Amnesty International Australia's petition calling on Australia to help end the death penalty: click here.

For more information about the death penalty, please see Amnesty International’s annual review of the death penalty worldwide.

Related HRLC opinion pieceBali 9 - Time to death penalty-proof our AFP