The Australian government has been urged by the Australian Bar Association and The Law Council of Australia to put restrictions on the country’s contribution regarding transitional crime investigations that could lead in harsh executions like death penalty. In addition, they have said that in order to prevent authorities from providing information to foreign countries in cases that could lead to death penalty, the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 needed some reform. The legal professional bodies said that the current practice do not comply with Australia’s “absolute opposition” to capital punishment in a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Trade, Defence and Foreign Affairs, which was held last month.
The submission stated that the death penalty has not been shown to combat crime; hence it is inhuman and cruel. It also stated that the Australian Federal Police can be relieved of their burden of making such complex death issues and tough decisions in life if the legislative reform would be put in place by the government. In addition, the submission entails that between 2009 and 2014; most of the 1,847 names that AFP provided to foreign police included investigations for drug offences in countries that supported the death penalty. However, AFP denied at least three requests that needed assistance in cases that could lead to serious executions. According to the submission, while the AFP keeps on approving the vast majority, this also shows that they are somehow exercising discretion.
The submission made by ABA and ALC questions whether this is the best approach putting in mind Australia’s position in opposing the death penalty. It also argues that a person cannot be extradited to face the death penalty as it is provided for under the Extradition Act 1988. Also, in the submission, ABA and LCA argue that there is no “solid difference” between helping with an investigation that may lead to that outcome and sending a person to face the death penalty directly. While arguing that Australia is in a good position to be a leading state actor in the Asia-Pacific region, the legal professional bodies’ submission highly promotes government strategies towards convincing other countries to do away with capital punishment.
Between 2009 and 2013, nine countries including Yemen, the US, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, China and Bangladesh carried out executions every year, while Australia ditched the death penalty for good in 1967. As a matter of fact, China alone executed more than 1,000 people in 2014. However, the good news is that some of the countries have started shying away from the bad practice while others are putting strategies on how to abolish the death penalty.