Amnesty International urges Australia to 'step up' in fight against death penalty in Asia-Pacific

When Bali Nine leaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed in 2015, the death penalty was a major focus for Australian media and politicians.

And while death penalties in the Asia-Pacific region have continued in the years since, opposition voices from Australia have reduced from a shout to a whisper.

The Asia-Pacific region has the most countries using the death penalty for drug-related offences, according to a new report by Amnesty International. 

READ MORE: Bali Nine lawyer calls on Australia to oppose death penalty 

READ MORE: Indonesia insists other countries ‘understand’ executions

Bali Nine members Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan in a holding cell at Denpasar Court in February 2006. (AAP)
Bali Nine members Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan in a holding cell at Denpasar Court in February 2006. (AAP)

And it’s time for Australia to “step up” and increase pressure on its neighbours if the region is to abolish the death penalty, according to Amnesty International spokeswoman Rose Kulak.

“Australia needs to be consistent and persistent in the death penalty, both regionally [across the Asia Pacific] and globally,” Kulak said.

Senior lecturer research fellow at University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute Dr Dave McRae reinforced that Australia must use its political position to make a stand.

“I think there is a strong perception in the region that Australia is only concerned with the death penalty when Australians are facing execution. And that really undercuts Australian advocacy,” he told

The Middle East and North Africa region had the highest number of drug-related executions, according to the report.

But Amnesty International says these figures may not be accurate.

Several countries, including China, Vietnam and Malaysia, misrepresent death penalty figures, the report states.

It is possible the Asia-Pacific region has the “highest number of executions carried out and death sentences imposed for drug-related offences,” Kulak said.

“We know that there are executions happening, especially in China. We don’t know how many, but we know it’s well over a thousand. 

“They are the highest executioner in the world. If we put in all the other executions that happen all around the world, they would be a fraction of what happens in China in one year.”

“Despite strides towards abolishing this abhorrent punishment, there are still a few leaders who would resort to the death penalty as a ‘quick-fix’ … Strong leaders execute justice, not people,” Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said.

While there is a global shift towards abolishing the death penalty, there is still a long way to go.

“We’ve seen the change every year… this is evident that the world is changing, but we just want it [to change] a bit faster in some countries,” Kulak said.

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018

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