Justice Michael Kirby has commended the “abolishers, the agitators, the advocates and the founders” of Reprieve Australia in an honorary life membership ceremony.
Reprieve Australia provides legal representation and humanitarian assistance to those facing the death penalty, to advocate against the death penalty and to raise awareness about human rights. The organisation was established in Melbourne in May 2001.
Among the inductees was Julian McMahon, who has acted as an advocate for the “Bali Nine”, six of whom still face the death penalty in Indonesia. Justice Kirby announced that McMahon, along with three other lawyers, have just been provided with funding from the Rudd Government to return to Indonesia for the preparation of further submissions to the Indonesian courts.
Justice Kirby stressed the need to focus on matters beyond those directly impacting Australia and its citizens.
“The fact is that the greatest challenges in respect of the death penalty, and of human rights, lie beyond our shores. It’s very important for us, as human beings and as citizens of this much blessed country, to be concerned at the predicament of people beyond Australia,” he said.
Replying on behalf of the honourees, Dr Barry Jones called for Australia to continue to take part in the international fight for the abolition of the death penalty,
“To reinforce what Michael Kirby was saying in his eloquent remarks, Australians must not be hypocritical where we insist on one rule of law for nationals of our own country and on the other hand say that the general issue of the death penalty and retributive justice internationally, is really beyond us,” he said.
“Within the political process, there is no doubt there is overwhelming support for abolition, and I’d think that in the community as a whole there’s a shift in mood and sympathy for support for the cause of abolition. It’s certainly a cause that we must continue to work on,” Dr Jones said.
“I’m pleased that the Rudd government takes the issue very seriously, certainly where the Bali Nine are concerned, and I think that Australia will be seen as one of the international leaders in this area.”