UnitingJustice calls for abolition of death penalty

Andrew Chan and Myuran SukumaranIn April this year, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed in Indonesia alongside six other men.

The executions sparked international backlash and an outpouring of grief at the politically-motivated acts of state-sanctioned murder.

Seven months on, the Indonesian government has announced it will temporarily halt all executions.

While the Indonesian government did not impose a formal moratorium on capital punishment, it will not proceed with any executions while it focuses on fixing its weakening economy.

It has been a tough year for Indonesian president Joko Widodo. His popularity both locally and abroad continues to wane as Indonesia recorded its lowest economic growth rate in six years. His struggle to fulfil his election promise to tackle corruption has cost him the support of many voters.

The multitude of domestic issues means Indonesia has not executed any prisoners since the deaths of Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran.

Last week, UnitingJustice made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade – Human Rights Sub-committee on Australian advocacy against the death penalty.

The Uniting Church believes the death penalty is a cruel and inhumane form of punishment that violates the sanctity of life. It also denies an offender the ability to reform.

In its submission, UnitingJustice reiterated the Church’s opposition to all forms of capital punishment throughout the world.

“Capital punishment is an act that denies the love that Christians are called to show for each other and for every member of the human race,” it said.

“The Uniting Church considers capital punishment to be a human rights issue, in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ assertion that each person is entitled to the right to life, and to freedom from ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.”

The submission outlined recommendations for the Australia government to strengthen its advocacy efforts. These include playing a leadership role in encouraging Asia-Pacific countries to abolish the death penalty and greater government support for non-government advocacy campaigns.

“Where human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are conducting research and advocacy internationally, the Australian government could lend its voice to strengthen those campaigns,” it said.

“Australia could also collaborate with child rights organisations to highlight the detrimental impact on children who have a parent facing the death penalty.”

UnitingJustice also expressed concern at the federal government’s selective approach when responding to international cases of death penalty. Inconsistent messages can erode community support for the global abolition of capital punishment.

“The Australian government should be more consistent and clear in public comments about international death penalty cases,” the submission said.

“There should be no discrimination based on nationality or the crime committed.”

The latest announcement by the Indonesian government will not bring back those who were executed, but it offers a glimmer of hope for the more than 120 prisoners still on death row in Indonesia.

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