find the latest legal job
Corporate/Commercial Lawyers (2-5 years PAE)
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Specialist commercial law firm · Long-term career progression
View details
Graduate Lawyer / Up to 1.5 yr PAE Lawyer
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Mentoring Opportunity in Regional QLD · Personal Injury Law
View details
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Lawyers condemn government for death penalty

Lawyers condemn government for death penalty

THE LEGAL profession has called on politicians to clearly reaffirm their opposition to capital punishment at all times not just here in Australia but also overseas.In the wake of Opposition…

THE LEGAL profession has called on politicians to clearly reaffirm their opposition to capital punishment at all times not just here in Australia but also overseas.

In the wake of Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd’s backtrack from opposing death sentences abroad, legal groups have called for uniform leadership and have criticised a lack of clear direction on the government’s stance.

Australian Lawyers Alliance president, Ian Brown, told Lawyers Weekly that Prime Minister John Howard and the Opposition Leader both needed to oppose the death penalty unequivocally. “It is not good enough for Australian governments to publicly oppose the death penalty in relation to the Bali nine when they appear to support the use of the death penalty in the case of the Bali bombers or Saddam Hussein,” said Brown.

Brown argued that this double standard should be challenged, highlighting the inherent hypocrisy in the government’s position. “At the end of the day, you can’t straddle the fence on this particular issue, you either oppose the death penalty or you don’t, you cannot partially execute somebody,” he said.

According to Brown, the issue is black and white. “It’s not a matter of assessing the relative merits of the convicted person, the fundamental issue is: should any person be executed, killed by the state for committing a crime? It’s a very clear-cut question, the answer is either yes or no,” he said.

Law Council of Australia president, Ross Ray, said in a statement that he was “disappointed” that Rudd had retreated from shadow foreign affairs minister Robert McClelland’s assertion that if elected, Labor would adopt a principled, consistent approach to opposing death sentences. Ray commented that the Law Council “would unreservedly support” a uniform approach to opposing the death penalty — whenever and wherever imposed.

“This is a matter of principle. Adopting a position of vocal and absolute opposition to the death penalty should not be regarded as offensive to anyone,” Ray said.

Ray acknowledged that “consistent public opposition to the death penalty is desperately needed in this region. The hypocrisy of the current government’s silent consent to the execution of the Bali bombers is not lost on our Asian neighbours. The Australian Government can hardly expect that the last-minute rallying to save the lives of Australians will succeed when other executions are met with tacit approval”.

Celebrated human rights barrister Julian Burnside QC said: “the principle reason for opposing the death penalty is that it is premeditated murder by the power of the state. If that is wrong in Australia on moral grounds, then it is wrong everywhere, for all people at all times.” He argued that opposing the death penalty should be a universal, rather than selective endeavour.

“While Australia can’t force other countries to abandon the death penalty, we should at least speak with a consistent voice about our opposition to it, whether its people in Australia, Australians overseas or people in any country,” he said.

Illustrating what he suggested was the paradoxical nature of the government’s stance, Burnside said “when you take it through to its logical conclusion the government position would be: if a foreigner happened to be in Australia and committed a very serious offence it would be okay for us to execute that person because they are not Australian”. This sort of argument would clearly not have widespread support, Burnside said, so “why then do we sanction death sentences?”

Burnside said that ultimately the argument against the death penalty is based on “very basic human rights thinking” and argued that Australia has lost sight of the universality of human rights. “In Australia, unfortunately I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that if we acknowledge human rights, its not that we have them because we are nice, we have them because we are human. Human rights matter for everyone, including people we don’t like, including people like Saddam Hussein,” he said.

According to Burnside, this latest hypocrisy is just one more instance in the broader climate of the curtailing of civil rights in Australia. Burnside also highlighted that “every Western democracy has a bill of rights, except Australia”, which — despite ACT and Victoria penning state charters — has no federal Bill.

“I think all these things taken together add up to a fairly disturbing picture — part of it is what the legislation enables and part of it is the fragile grass which [Attorney-General Philip] Ruddock has on the notion of a fair trial,” he said.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Lawyers condemn government for death penalty
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Lawyers welcome same-sex marriage reform
06:05
Lawyers welcome same-sex marriage reform
Australian lawyers have welcomed the recent legalisation of same-sex marriage, after a prolonged nat...
Senate disallows double standards for temporary visa holders
Dec 8 2017
Senate disallows double standards for temporary visa holders
Lawyers have welcomed the Senate’s rejection of regulations imposing strict penalties on temporary...
Handcuffs, freedom
Dec 7 2017
Queensland clocks up more breach of bail offences
A new report about sentencing trends in Queensland shows the number of offenders who have been sente...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...