10 Nov 2008

Australia to press UN on death penalty

8:55 pm on 10 November 2008

Australia will push for a new United Nations resolution against the death penalty, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said on Monday, following Indonesia's weekend execution of three men for the 2002 Bali bombings.

Human rights lawyers said Australia may have hurt its campaign by not speaking forcefully against capital punishment ahead of the Indonesia executions.

"I think it would have been better for us to stand up more clearly, and speak more firmly and loudly in the region prior to the execution," said human rights lawyer Julian McMahon.

The death penalty was officially outlawed in all Australian states in 1984. The last execution in the country was in 1967, when Ronald Ryan was hanged in Melbourne for shooting dead a guard during a prison escape.

Three Australians - Scott Rush, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran - remain on death row in Indonesia after being convicted for drug smuggling. Australia has said it will seek clemency if legal processes do not spare their lives.

Mr Smith told Parliament on Monday that the government co-sponsored a resolution in 2007 at the UN urging a moratorium on capital punishment, and would support a new resolution later this year.