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Foreign minister Julie Bishop speaking at the opening of the Kimberley Process in Perth on Monday May 1, 2017.?? Photo: Supplied continues to assist in international prosecutions where the death penalty is an option, while underpinning its bid for a seat on the United Nation’s Human Rights Council with a call to abolish capital punishment worldwide.
Newly released figures, obtained through freedom of information laws, show the n Federal Police have assisted in nearly 130 foreign investigations involving more than 400 people since 2015, where a successful prosecution could potentially lead to a death sentence.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop lobbied for ‘s election to the Human Rights Council for the 2018-20 term in New York this week, and has stated the worldwide abolition of the death penalty is one of ‘s goals.
But the AFP continues to assist foreign investigations where the death penalty could be handed down, refusing to co-operate in only nine of 129 cases it has been asked for information.
AFP approval rates for international assistance, mostly involving drug crime, have been steady since 2010. In 2015, 92 per cent of requests were, rising to 96 per cent in 2016. No other information, such as the countries requesting the information, or the cases involved, was given.
has used its opposition to the death penalty – and a call for a global abolition of the punitive measure used in nearly 60 countries – as a key argument for its inclusion on the UN Human Rights Council.
But this year, the government quietly rejected recommendations from a parliamentary committee which would have banned the AFP from sharing drug crime information with other countries unless provided with assurances the death penalty would not be applied, prompting fears of a repeat of the Bali nine heroin plot which saw ns Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran executed after tip-offs to Indonesian authorities.
The committee recommended ministerial approval be required for “high-risk” cases and the AFP refuse co-operation on drug trafficking cases unless assurances that the death penalty would not be sought, both of which were rejected by the government.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General’s department said the government “has and will continue to seek suitable assurances in appropriate cases where it is clear that the death penalty is likely to be imposed”.
But Emily Howie of the Human Rights Law Centre said was sending mixed messages.
“Global abolition of the death penalty is meant to be a core objective of ‘s Human Rights Council bid,” she said.
“But whilst the Foreign Minister spouts the right language to delegates in New York, the reality is that every week the AFP continues to share information that puts peoples’ lives at risk. If really opposes the death penalty, it must do so not just through the speeches of our ministers but through the actions of all n departments and agencies.
“The fact remains that if the Bali nine case were to happen again tomorrow, there is nothing to stop the AFP from doing exactly the same thing.
“Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran learned from their mistakes, we owe it to them to learn from ours.”
Researcher Sarah Gill, who has studied ‘s response to the death penalty, said neither legislation, or the guidelines the AFP follow when asked for co-operation “present much of an obstacle to information sharing”.
“The question we need to ask is: are we serious about human rights or aren’t we? Capital punishment is a core human rights issue, and we ought to have a consistent approach, including in relation to law enforcement co-operation, if we think this really matters,” she said.
Under the guidelines, a senior AFP official can sign off on requests from overseas before detention, arrest, charge or conviction. After an individual has been arrested, detained, charged or convicted, requests for information must have ministerial approval.
Police-to-police assistance can include everything from providing personal information like dates or birth or criminal records to wider co-operation in investigations. Some of the data includes foreign citizens.
Philip Ruddock, who served as attorney-general in the Howard government and is now ‘s special human rights envoy, led calls for a ban on sharing information in prosecutions where the death penalty could be handed down as a sentence following the executions of Chan and Sukumaran in 2015.
The Coalition said those recommendations were impractical because foreign law enforcement partners could not provide such assurances and it would be “inappropriate” to undertakings from prosecutors.
It is believed there are 12 ns sitting on death rows across the world, mostly for drug crimes.
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