Friday, 29 September 2006

UN: Australia should tackle drugs penalty

A United Nations (UN) human rights expert has criticised Australia's selective approach to the death penalty, and encouraged it to oppose the penalty for all drug trafficking offences.

Professor Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said Australia was pursuing the "worst possible strategy" of only speaking out against the execution of its own citizens.

He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the Australian government "essentially has to bite the bullet".

"It either confronts the issue squarely, in which case there's a chance of some impact, or it takes a position which is almost certain not to yield any productive results."

Professor Alston's comments echo growing criticism of the Australian government's position in the light of news that six Australians were now facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling.

"I would've thought that the worst possible strategy is the one being pursued, and that is what we might call the Australian exceptionalism strategy, to say that we're not going to say anything generally about the fact that you apply the death penalty for, in relation to drug offences, but we are going to say that you shouldn't execute Australians," Professor Alston said.

He encouraged Australia to raise the issue of the death penalty for drug offences at the current meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

"There's a lot of support in international law for the proposition that the death penalty should only be applied to the most serious offences, that those offences would normally be defined as including some lethal dimension.

"That's absent here [in drug cases], and therefore we should move, as a civilised world, beyond the practice of executing people who are carrying drugs," he said.

No comments: