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Wednesday, 18 October 2006
Page: 240


Mr Melham asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in writing, on 11 September 2006:

Further to his response to question No. 3906 (Hansard, 6 September 2006, page 144), in which countries, in what circumstances and on what dates was the death penalty commuted.


Mr Downer (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

Australia’s opposition to the death penalty is well known. In addition to co-sponsorship of an annual resolution on the death penalty at the former UN Commission on Human Rights, Australia has raised this issue with many of the countries we reported on in our answer to No. 3906 since August of last year.

Regarding the conditions and results of our interventions, while we do not have information available that directly links a death penalty commutation to our efforts in every case, we do know that in some instances, our efforts have been successful.

For example, we have made representations on four cases in Vietnam in recent years

- An Australian citizen was arrested on 16 June 2003 and charged with illegally trading in narcotics and sentenced to death. An application for Presidential clemency, supported by a letter from myself, was made in August 2005. Senator Ellison also wrote to his counterpart in Vietnam, and personal representations were made by Prime Minister Howard to the Prime Minister of Vietnam. Mr Billson also raised the issue with the Vietnamese Government during a visit to Vietnam in 2005. His application for clemency was granted on 30 December 2005.

- A Vietnamese citizen and Australian permanent resident was arrested in December 2002 for illegally trading narcotics and sentenced to death. An appeal for clemency to the President, supported by myself, was submitted in August 2005. Senator Ellison also wrote to his counterpart in Vietnam, and personal representations were made by Prime Minister Howard to the Prime Minister of Vietnam. Mr Billson also raised the issue with the Vietnamese Government during a visit to Vietnam in 2005. His death sentence was commuted to life early in January 2006.

- An Australian citizen received a death sentence in 2002 for drug trafficking. She made a request for clemency on 27 December 2002. The Prime Minister and I made representations to the Vietnamese authorities on her case. Her death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment on 8 July 2003.

- An Australian citizen arrested on 2 July 2003 in Ho Chi Minh City for illegal trading of a narcotic received a death sentence. His appeal for clemency was supported by the Prime Minister and myself. In August 2005 the President of Vietnam commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.

The Australian Government will continue to encourage those countries that impose the death penalty to commit to the principles espoused in the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.