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2009 Media Release: Commission welcomes outlawing of torture and prohibition of the death penalty

Commission Commission – General

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Commission welcomes outlawing of torture and prohibition of the death penalty

The Australian Human Rights Commission has welcomed the introduction today of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009, as a landmark piece of legislation in Australia’s Human Rights protections.

Commission President Cathy Branson QC, said the legislation was an important contribution to the protection of human rights in Australia and further ensured Australia was meeting its international obligations.

“The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomes the introduction of a specific offence of torture in to the Commonwealth Criminal Code,” Ms Branson said.

“Torture in any form is unacceptable.

“Torture is any act by which severe pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted upon a person by a public official for certain purposes, such as obtaining information or a confession from a person,” she said.  

“This new offence means that torture will be criminalised both within and outside Australia.

“This legislation demonstrates Australia’s commitment to fully meeting its obligations under the United Nations Convention against Torture.”

Ms Branson also applauded the introduction of legislation prohibiting the death penalty throughout Australia.

“This legislation fulfils Australia's obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – which requires Australia to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty,” Ms Branson said.

“The death penalty will not be able to be reintroduced anywhere in Australia.

“The Australian Human Rights Commission looks forward to the ratification and implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

“Once Australia becomes a party to the Optional Protocol, we will be required to establish a national system of inspection of all places of detention to prevent the mistreatment of people who are detained,” Ms Branson said.

“This legislation demonstrates a commitment to preventing some of the most serious breaches of human rights.”

Media contact: Louise McDermott 02 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597