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New Zealand Government must step up efforts to end the death penalty

18 Sep 2015
This article was published 9 years ago. Content may no longer be relevant.

Australian death penalty experts to visit New Zealand – Monday 21 September

The New Zealand Drug Foundation and Amnesty International are calling for the New Zealand Government to increase its diplomatic efforts on the global abolition of the death penalty.

This call follows the conviction and sentencing of Tony de Malmanche who was facing the death penalty for methamphetamine trafficking into Indonesia, and the executions of eight people, including two Australians in Indonesia in May.

"New Zealand needs to make its voice heard loud and clear in this important debate", said Ross Bell, New Zealand Drug Foundation Executive Director.

"Our government has previously played a central role promoting a global moratorium on the death penalty at the United Nations. The government's condemnation of the recent Indonesia executions was welcome, but since then we've been silent on the many executions conducted by the United Sates of America, Saudi Arabia, China, and our new trading partner Iran," said Mr Bell.

This year, the World Day Against the Death Penalty (10 October) will focus on ending the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences. 33 countries and territories retain the death penalty for drug crimes, many of which are within our part of the world or are countries with whom New Zealand has a strong trading relationship.

As part of efforts to build political and diplomatic momentum for the abolition of the death penalty the Drug Foundation and Amnesty International are hosting two leading Australian death penalty experts next week. They will meet with the minister responsible for drug policy Hon Peter Dunne, members of Parliament, and government officials.

Julian P McMahon is a Melbourne-based barrister who has worked on death row cases in the Asia region. Most recently, he represented Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, two Australians who were executed in Indonesia in April along with six others. In 2005 Julian represented Australian citizen Van Nguyen who was executed by Singapore for drug trafficking.

Ursula Noye is Vice-President of Reprieve Australia, which provides legal representation to people on death row, and is a lawyer practicising in Melbourne.

Earlier in 2015 eight Australian NGOs issued a joint call to action outlining the key things they want their government to do to put in place. The visit is a chance to hear from those directly involved in death penalty cases how New Zealand can play its part speeding up the demise of this inhumane punishment.

"The Australian Parliament has responded to the recent executions of its citizens by conducting a cross-party inquiry into how Australia can improve its advocacy efforts for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. We are urging our government to do the same. We shouldn't sit back and wait until another New Zealander is facing a possible execution," said Mr Bell.

"As a member of the UN Security Council our government has the authority and responsibility to speed up the global trend away from the use of the death penalty," Mr Bell said.

There is every reason to continue the momentum towards abolition of the death penalty. In 1977 only 16 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Today, there are 140.

"The use of the death penalty is a misguided effort to combat drug trafficking. There is not a shred of evidence to show that it is an effective method of tackling crime. All countries planning to carry out executions should immediately impose a moratorium as a first step towards abolition," said Carsten Bockemuehl, Advocacy and Research Coordinator at Amnesty International.

A public seminar is being held on Monday 21 September, at Te Papa from 5.00pm, to which anyone is welcome to attend.


WHAT: Why must they die? Campaigning to end the death penalty, Public talk

DATE: Monday 21 September

TIME: 5.00pm

LOCATION: Icon Room, Te Papa.


  • Julian P McMahon, Melbourne barrister
  • Ursula Noye, Vice-President, Reprieve Australia
  • Carsten Bockemuehl, Advocacy and Research Coordinator at Amnesty International
  • Chaired by Ross Bell, New Zealand Drug Foundation Executive Director




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