Inquiry into Australia’s Advocacy for the Worldwide Abolition of the Death Penalty
In July 2015, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP asked the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade to inquire into and report on Australia’s efforts to advocate for worldwide abolition of the death penalty.
The Human Rights Sub-Committee, chaired by the Hon Philip Ruddock MP was asked to review how Australia currently engages internationally to promote the abolition of the death penalty and to consider further steps that Australia could take to advocate for worldwide abolition, including by:
• Engaging with international institutions and likeminded countries;
• Cooperating with non-government organisations;
• Bilateral engagements and other diplomatic activities; and
• Other appropriate means.
The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and several members, including Reprieve Australia, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, prepared and submitted responses to the Australian inquiry, and on 17th November, World Coalition member, Professor Peter Norden, from Australia, spoke to the submission.
Peter Norden reported that the submission received a warm and positive response. “The central problem in Australia”, he explained “is that the Australian media and the Australian public are more highly motivated by the issue of capital punishment when Australian citizens are on death row. Our task is to extend the awareness and the commitment to action beyond that limited stance, and to support the efforts of Australian government representatives to work as a partner of our efforts for worldwide abolition in the coming years”, he concluded.
The World Coalition’s submission emphasised Australia’s unique geographic position which places it in a crucial situation for the abolition of the death penalty in the Asian-Pacific region. It suggested that the Australian Government should give further consideration to joining the “Friends of the Protocol”, a group of countries which officially support the campaign for the ratification of the UN Protocol for the abolition of the death penalty.
It also suggested that while recognising that Australia consistently makes recommendations on the death penalty as part of the review of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, it could strengthen its position by systematically making recommendation to abolitionist countries that have not yet ratified the Second Optional Protocol.
It further suggested that Australia could participate in the global abolition movement by supporting and funding NGOs working for the abolition of the death penalty in the Asian-Pacific region and worldwide and by participating in the annual World Day against the Death Penalty.