Parliamentary committee delivers blueprint for Australia’s global leadership to abolish the death penalty

A joint parliamentary committee has today urged the Australian Government to do more to abolish the death penalty worldwide including prohibiting the Australian Federal Police from sharing information about drug crimes that could lead to the imposition of the death penalty.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, welcomed the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s report, A world without the death penalty, and said its 13 practical recommendations should be adopted immediately.

“Under current laws and guidelines, if the Bali 9 case happened again tomorrow, nothing would prevent the AFP from acting in the same way. Change is clearly needed and this important report provides a blueprint for meaningful and human rights-compliant reform,” said Ms Howie.

The report’s recommendations urge Australia to advocate against the death penalty regardless of the citizenship of the person concerned and particularly where the death penalty is imposed on pregnant women, juveniles and people with mental or intellectual disabilities.

The report adopted a number of recommendations put to the committee by the HRLC, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reprieve and others in a joint submission to the inquiry chaired by Phillip Ruddock. It provides guidance to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Attorney-General’s department and the Australian Federal Police on their role in abolishing the death penalty.

“Today’s report is an important reminder that the AFP must not expose people to the risk of 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,” said Ms Howie.

The recommendations would prohibit the AFP from sharing information with overseas police services in relation to drug offences, if that information sharing would be likely to lead to imposition of the death penalty.

“The report rightly identifies the potential for Australia to play a leadership role in the Asia Pacific region and urges Australia to utilise its strong ties with the USA to advocate for the global abolition of the death penalty. The report also highlights the strength of applying a strategic human rights-based approach to foreign policy,” said Ms Howie.

Ms Howie said the Government should immediately accept and implement the recommendations of the Committee, given Australia’s candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

“The abolition of the death penalty is bipartisan policy and the Committee’s framework should be adopted by the next Government, regardless of who wins the election,” said Ms Howie.


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