Despite the formal or de facto abolition of capital punishment in many countries, its continued use in a significant number of nations, particularly in our own region, continues to be controversial on moral, political, legal and pragmatic grounds. It also gives rise to challenges for Australia’s engagement and collaboration in law enforcement activities with our near neighbours.
Part 1 of this article provides an overview of the extent of capital punishment in today’s world, identifying those countries that retain the death penalty and discussing the number of death sentences imposed and carried out in those countries. Part 2 briefly reviews the principal arguments for and against capital punishment. Part 3 summarises the international law on capital punishment, describing the trend toward its abolition and the significant restrictions under international law on its imposition, even when it is still permissible for a state to impose it. Part 4 briefly discusses the death penalty in Australian law and Australia’s international obligations in relation to the death penalty. Part 5 considers some of the complications that arise for Australian authorities in criminal law enforcement cooperation with countries which retain the death penalty. Part 6 examines the approach of the current Australian Government to the death penalty abroad, and the apparent inconsistencies that have emerged in recent years.
Human Rights Law
Date of this Version
Andrew Byrnes, "The Right to Life, the Death Penalty and Human Rights Law: An International and Australian Perspective" (November 2007). University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series. Working Paper 66.