NEW anti-torture laws, introduced today, are a “landmark” move in the right direction, commentators say.
Attorney General Robert McClelland said today the new laws ensure Australia complies with its international obligations to combat torture as well as demonstrate its commitment to the worldwide abolitionist movement.
The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomed the introduction of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009, as a landmark piece of legislation in Australia’s Human Rights protections.
The new legislation amends the Commonwealth Death Penalty Abolition Act 1973 to extend the application of the current prohibition on the death penalty to state laws, and ensure the death penalty cannot be introduced anywhere in Australia.
Human Rights Commission president, Cathy Branson QC, said the legislation was an important contribution to the protection of human rights in Australia.
“The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomes the introduction of a specific offence of torture in to the Commonwealth Criminal Code,” Branson said.
“Torture is any act by which severe pain orsuffering is intentionally inflicted upon a person by a public official forcertain purposes, such as obtaining information or a confession from a person,” she said.
This new offence means that torture will be criminalised both within and outside Australia, she said.
Branson also applauded the introduction of legislation prohibiting the death penalty throughout Australia.
“This legislation fulfils Australia's obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – which requires Australia to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty,” Branson said.
“The death penalty will not be able to bereintroduced anywhere in Australia.
“The Australian Human Rights Commission looksforward to the ratification and implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
“Once Australia becomes a party to the Optional Protocol,we will be required to establish a national system of inspection of all places of detention to prevent the mistreatment of people who are detained,” Branson said.