Media Release

Australia should take the lead on abolishing the death penalty

10 October 2017

Australia should take a lead in global efforts to abolish the death penalty, according to the Law Society of SA as it marks the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty today.

This year is also the 50th anniversary of the execution of Ronald Ryan, the last person executed in Australia prior to the abolition of the death penalty. 

“The abolition of the death penalty in Australia has been an important milestone for human rights in this country,” said Tony Rossi, President of the Law Society.  

“As more Australians travel regularly overseas, including to countries where the death penalty remains, Australia must continue to push for the abolition of the death penalty globally.  No country should consider itself as having the right to take a human life as a sentencing option.” 

According to the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, 104 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and an additional seven have abolished the death penalty for all crimes except extraordinary crimes (such as those committed in times of war). The Coalition considers a further 30 countries as “abolitionist in practice” as they have not executed anyone during the last 10 years, and are otherwise thought to have adopted a policy, or established a practice of not conducting executions. 

The death penalty is still used as a form of punishment in 57 countries and territories. In some countries the death penalty continues to exist as sentencing option in respect of juvenile offenders. 

The death penalty continues to feature as a sentencing option for countries in the Asia-Pacific region. 

“Unfortunately, Australians only too well know of the continued use of the death penalty in the Asia-Pacific,” Mr Rossi said. 

“Most Australians would be familiar with the deaths of several Australian citizens, caught up in the legal systems of our neighbours while travelling abroad. These tragic examples have made Australians well aware that the death penalty robs people of the opportunity to rehabilitate, reform, and contribute to society.” 

The focus of this year’s World Day against the Death Penalty is the link between poverty and the application of the death penalty. According to the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, people living in poverty are at a greater risk of being sentenced to death and executed. They lack social, economic, and political resources to defend themselves and face higher instances of discrimination because of their impoverish state.

 “The death penalty is an affront to human worth and dignity,” Mr Rossi said. 

“It’s absolute, and offers no opportunity for rehabilitation. As such, its continued use inflicts universal injustice, and therefore demands Australia’s response. We call on the Australian Government to make the global abolition of the death penalty a focal point of Australian foreign policy.”