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Stronger anti-death penalty stance urged


Cite as: (2007) 81(3) LIJ, p. 15

Australia’s international credibility on the death penalty was undermined by its pragmatic approach to its use in other countries, according to Lex Lasry QC.

Mr Lasry and author Dr Mike Richards were guest speakers at HumanWrites 7, a public conversational forum on human rights held at the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV).

The forum, held on 2 February, marked the 40th anniversary of the execution of Ronald Ryan, the last man to face capital punishment in Australia.

Mr Lasry was the Law Council of Australia’s official observer at the preliminary military hearings of Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks and has continued to be outspoken against his detention. He was a member of Van Nguyen’s defence team, an Australian convicted and executed in December 2005 for the importation of heroin into Singapore.

Dr Richards is a former journalist, senior medical executive, political scientist, management consultant, a former political adviser and the author of The Hanged Man: The life and death of Ronald Ryan.

About 70 people attended the forum which discussed the circumstances surrounding the execution of Mr Ryan and the public’s then reaction.

Both speakers said there was a need for Australia to continue to reiterate its absolute opposition to the death penalty, wherever it was practised.

Mr Lasry said unfortunately the reaction of Australian government leaders to the use of the death penalty overseas undermined the country’s credibility when it opposed death sentences given to Australian citizens abroad.

The speakers said it was important the subject of the death penalty was discussed regularly and opposition maintained.

They felt that opposition could be weakened if there was ever a terrorist attack on Australian soil and the perpetrators were captured.

The LIV in June last year adopted a policy opposing the use of the death penalty, as a result of the hanging of Van Nguyen in 2005.

The policy provides a frame-work for the LIV to lobby on behalf of Australian residents and others in foreign jurisdictions who face, or have been sentenced to, the death penalty.

The LIV policy is available from


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