Australian Lawyers for Human Rights calls on Government to do more to oppose the death penalty in our region following the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

April 29, 2015

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) is deeply saddened to hear of the execution by firing squad of Mr Andrew Chan and Mr Myuran Sukumaran.

Our thoughts are with their families and loved ones. These young men had been genuinely rehabilitated and demonstrated an understanding of the criminal nature of their acts and the tragic impact of illicit drugs on Indonesian society. The belief that we should respect the inherent dignity and value of human life is the foundation of all human rights and their executions are a seriously retrograde step at a time when there is a trend towards abolition of the death penalty in many regions of the world.

Today’s grave news from Indonesia underscores the importance of ALHR’s call on the Australian Government to take a consistently stronger stand against the death penalty in all countries, under any circumstances, and for all peoples regardless of their nationality.

Whilst ALHR recognises that every country has the right to approach domestic criminal justice issues in a sovereign manner, the death penalty is inconsistent with international human rights law. The taking of life is far too absolute and irreversible a measure for the State to impose, even when backed by legal process – a process which in this case has been cast into serious doubt by the recent allegations made by the former lawyer of the pair, Muhammad Rifan.

It is a fundamental human right that every human being has an inherent right to life, and that this right should be protected by law. By ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the Death Penalty, Australia has committed itself to opposing the death penalty. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has stated that where countries have abolished the death penalty, they have an obligation not to expose a person to the real risk of its application. This means that Australia should ensure our mutual assistance and agency assistance arrangements reflect Australia’s commitment to abolishing the death penalty.

There is little evidence to suggest that the death penalty is effective in deterring drug related crimes or reducing drug use. Extensive studies have showed that criminals are deterred more by an increased likelihood of apprehension than by an increase in the severity of their punishment.

Australia’s position in the Asia Pacific, where mandatory death penalties are retained by many of our closest neighbours, means the Government is uniquely placed to take on a leadership role in advocating for the abolition of the death penalty in the region.”

ALHR calls on the Australian Government to strengthen its position on the death penalty following the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. We can and should do more on a regional and international level to oppose its use in any country in any circumstances.

Please read our full press release attached.

ALHR has been campaigning along with AACP (Australians Against Capital Punishment) and Lee and Christine Rush for a number of years against the death penalty in Indonesia and the welfare of the Bali 9.