Legislation prohibiting the use of torture and the death penalty under Australian law has been passed today, though the Law Council of Australia said more needs to be done.
The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009 was passed by Parliament with bipartisan support, introducing a specific torture offence and extending the application of the current death penalty prohibition to state laws - ensuring that the death penalty cannot be reintroduced anywhere in Australia.
"The Australian Parliament's commitment to abolishing the use of torture and the death penalty is a major step in the right direction, but there is still room for improvement," said Law Council of Australia president, Glenn Ferguson.
To comply with its international commitment to the penalty's abolition, the Law Council said the Government must strengthen its prohibition on extraditing or transferring people to foreign jurisdictions, where they may face the death penalty, and tighten restrictions on when Australia will assist in overseas investigations and prosecutions in death penalty cases.
The Law Council noted that the Government still allows agencies like the Australian Federal Police to work with and provide information to their counterparts in foreign jurisdictions, even where this assistance may lead to charges being laid which attract the death penalty.
"Given a number of countries in our region still impose the death penalty, it is critical Australian authorities adhere to Australia's international commitments to protect persons from the risk of execution when providing assistance to their overseas counterparts," Ferguson said.