Together with Australians Against Capital Punishment (AACP), ALHR will hold an event in Red Hill, Queensland to commemorate the 11th World Day Against the Death Penalty.
Guest speakers will include Fr Frank Brennan, a well-known human rights advocate and the son of Sir Gerard Brennan, a former chief justice of the High Court of Australia; and Lee and Christine Rush, parents of Scott Rush, a member of the Bali Nine whose death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment on appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court in 2011. The Rush parents are also the founders of AACP.
ALHR president Stephen Keim SC (pictured) told Lawyers Weekly that, while the death penalty has been formally abolished in Australia (it was last used in 1967 when convicted killer Ronald Ryan was hanged in Victoria), it’s important to raise awareness of how it still affects Australians like Scott Rush.
“Holding an event like this is just to get people to think about it ... the more influence we can exert against [the death penalty], the better,” he said.
A patron of AACP, Keim would not comment on whether the Government is adequately supporting Australians who face the death penalty overseas. He did reveal, however, that more Australian lawyers are responding to this issue.
“Every lawyer I come into contact with is grateful the death penalty doesn’t exist in Australia, particularly as they would have to be involved as prosecutors, defence counsel or judges,” he said.
But he fears that the general public’s views on the death penalty are “more complex”. “[The group that supports it] is surprisingly large given the death penalty was abolished in Australia some time ago,” he said.
This year will mark the third World Day Against the Death Penalty dinner hosted by ALHR and AACP. The event is one of a number of ALHR initiatives aimed at bringing human rights issues associated with the death penalty to the attention of lawyers, said Keim.
The ALHR website and Facebook page host petitions against the death penalty along with other campaigns run by not-for-profit organisations, including Amnesty International.
According to Amnesty International, 21 countries recorded executions in 2011, compared to 31 countries 10 years ago. Keim urged lawyers to help continue this trend by attending the World Day Against the Death Penalty dinner, which will be held on 12 October at Broncos Leagues Club in Red Hill, Queensland.