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Dear friends, 

Thank you for all your support this past year. In 2015, we saw the death penalty come to the fore of our national conversation. This year we are working to ensure that this conversation becomes an important part of the movement for global abolition. 

Reprieve Australia’s purpose is to end the death penalty globally, with a particular focus on death penalty cases in our region and on Australia’s actions abroad. Our work includes advocacy, litigation support, volunteer placements, and political engagement to continue progress towards abolition.

The issues surrounding the death penalty are varied, regional and global. Our new aim is to send out a regular bimonthly newsletter to keep you informed with short articles and links to current events. Please note also that we will be revamping our website in the near future.

Reflections on the April 29 2015 Executions 

Many of Reprieve Australia’s Executive Committee, including President Julian McMahon, worked on the Bali Duo cases. Below are Julian McMahon’s reflections on the anniversary of the executions. 

At about 12:35 am on 29 April 2015 on the island of Nusakambangan, off the south coast of Java, in a little clearing in the jungle, 96 shots rang out in a huge sudden volley. Eight prisoners died, hopefully immediately. Quite a few people on the current board of Reprieve knew two of them personally, and some of us knew the majority of those shot. It was a tragic moment, and the reverberations of that volley of rounds are still being felt in many ways. We know two of those shot very well, but all 14 people executed in Indonesia last year deserve the same attention and care. Read more.

Developments in Asia-Pacific

In recent weeks, the fight against the death penalty in the Asia-Pacific has suffered setbacks in numerous countries with secret executions and the threat of many more. In both Japan and Malaysia, executions were very recently carried out in virtual secrecy, with word leaking out only at the very last minute.

Proponents of the death penalty argue that executions can serve as a deterrent for crime, despite decades of research showing this is not the case. Yet if proponents truly believe the deterrent effect of the death penalty, what deterrent value is there in killings prisoners in secret?

In Singapore, the long judicial journey of the Malaysian national Kho Jabing has ended dreadfully. Sentenced to death, then life, now sentenced to death again, his fate now rests with the political process. Ultimately, all executions are political, by their very nature undermining respect for law.

There is much talk of an imminent ‘third wave’ of executions in Indonesia, following executions in January and April 2015. The situation remains unclear, with numerous threats of killings being made in the media, of ten or more prisoners, and apparent preparations of a new larger killing field on the island of Nusakambangan. 

Reprieve Australia in the News

In 2012, Ursula Noye received a Reprieve Australia Blackstrikes Fellowship to conduct research on racism in jury selection in the U.S. state of Louisiana. Her meticulous research showed sentencing outcomes to be disproportionately worse for African Americans, and shed light on the challenges of structural racism in the imposition of the death penalty in the U.S. The research culminated in the groundbreaking Blackstrikes report, released in 2015.  

The report revealed that Louisianan prosecutors used their discretionary power to strike African Americans from jury service at a rate three times higher than non-African Americans. While the US Supreme Court is currently considering this issue as it relates to a capital case, our report has formed the basis of a civil rights lawsuit against the Caddo Parish Prosecutor’s Office. The report was covered in The New York Times, The Economist, and author Ursula Noye was interviewed by Radio National. Ursula Noye is a current Reprieve Australia Committee Member.

Upcoming Events

6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, 21–23 June, Oslo: Registrations are now open for the international conference, which brings together politicians, academics, and civil society actors from around the world to work on eradicating the death penalty. This year the conference has a special focus on the Asia Pacific region. Reprieve Australia have been actively involved in conference preparation and will be at the conference. We are very pleased to note that the Australian government is one of three co-sponsors of the Conference, and will be sending its own delegation.

ASEAN Literary Festival, 5–8 May, Jakarta: This exciting conference highlights writers, poets, and storytelling in the ASEAN countries. Julian McMahon from Reprieve Australia will speak on human rights, and engage in debate with an Indonesian scholar who actively supports the death penalty.

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Amnesty International recently released a report analysing executions around the world in 2015. Among the findings was the fact that at least 1,634 people had been executed in 2015—the highest figure since 1989.
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