Monday, August 21, 2006

Do Australians Really Oppose The Death Penalty?

Unlike us barbaric Singaporeans, Australians are opposed to the death penalty. That's why they protested vehemently and even threatened consequences when we executed an Australian drug trafficker last year (My earlier post). That's why they refused to extradite Michael MaCrae to Singapore to stand trial for the murder of two people until our government promised that he will not be hanged even if he was found guilty.

And I began to admire them for their convictions when I saw this August 9th article on ABC Online carrying the headline, Condemnation of Bali bombers' executions urged.

The article began with these words:

"The Federal Government is being urged to speak out against the upcoming executions of three Bali bombers,"

Wow, I told myself; these people are truly principled. They stick to their belief in the wrongness of the death penalty; even to the extent of objecting to the execution of people who murdered their countrymen. But wait till you read the second part of the sentence;

"if it hopes to save the lives of Australians on death row in foreign countries."

Here's the rest of the article.

Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Ali Gufron are to face the death penalty in Indonesia in less than two weeks for their roles in the 2002 terrorist attack in Bali that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Australia's political leaders, including Prime Minister John Howard, are on the record as saying they do not oppose the execution of those behind the Bali bombing.

But a report released by the Lowy Institute today argues that comments supporting capital punishment are damaging Australia's reputation in Asia and its chances of securing leniency for its own citizens.

The author of the report, Michael Fullilove, says there is not a lot of consistency among Australia's political leaders when it comes to the issue of the death penalty.

"We have seen blatant and deliberate departures from Australia's official policy of opposition to capital punishment in all cases," Dr Fullilove said.

"For example, Prime Minister Howard saying that there would be no protest from Australia over the execution of the Bali bombers, former Opposition leader Mark Latham rejoicing in the awarding of a death sentence to the terrorist Amrozi.

"Both Mr Howard and Mr Latham suggesting there would be no complaint about the execution of Saddam Hussein.

"This hurts our interest [and] it makes us look hypocritical when we ask for our own people to be spared."

Consistency call

Tim Lindsay, of the Asian Law Centre at the University of Melbourne, has also urged politicians not to endorse or be enthusiastic at the upcoming executions of the Bali bombers.

"It will be difficult for them to say this but they need to say that Australia opposed the death penalty for any time, for any offence, anywhere," he said.

"That includes the Bali bombers, otherwise we just get into an argument over what is barbaric and what isn't."

He says many Australians would not agree with his suggestion but he says the Government needs to be consistent . "The Government needs to work harder at explaining its policy to Australians rather than pretending it does not exist," he said.

Dr Fullilove says while he does not support megaphone diplomacy, he does think the Australian Government could form a regional coalition with like-minded governments.
"I think the work of a regional coalition should be guided by the principles of effectiveness and prudence," Dr Fullilove said.

"We should look for ways to chip away at capital punishment and rather than pulling out the megaphone and screaming into it. "We need to make common cause with other countries in the region that oppose the death penalty, we need to look for creative approaches to nudge retentionists states toward abolition."

There are presently four Australians facing execution overseas.
Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran of the Bali nine were sentenced to death in February.

In Vietnam, Trinh Huu is facing execution for drug trafficking and an unnamed man is facing murder charges in Lebanon


Anonymous said...

I think most Singaporeans would prefer to keep the death penalty - but perhaps change the way it is carried out. Hanging a person, to me, is babaric and inhumane.

I am against the death penalty - cos I do not believe any one has the right to inflict the ultimate punshment when the justice system itself is made up of imperfect men and women.

Hey, would you like to be a part of an independent online project?

Please do email me to discuss further.


Sleepless in Singapore said...

No thank you.