Law Council of Australia


Australia must protect its troops from death penalty

12 October 2022

Military personnel who serve Australia as members of its Defence Forces should not face the risk of being sentenced to death when training or conducting operations overseas.

Appearing before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties today, the Law Council called for urgent amendment of the Australia-Japan Reciprocal Access Agreement to guarantee that Australian military personnel would not be subject to the death penalty if convicted of crimes while in Japan pursuant to the Agreement.

“Broadly, the Agreement is designed to facilitate cooperative activities between the Australian Defence Force and the Self-Defense Forces of Japan, for example, by allowing each nation’s military personnel to train within the other’s respective territory,” Law Council of Australia President, Mr Tass Liveris said.

“Under the Agreement, Australian military personnel present in Japan’s territory in connection with cooperative activities can be subject to the criminal law of Japan, and vice versa, for their off-duty actions.

“While the Agreement includes a range of rights for a person prosecuted in either country, it does not contain a clear and legally binding commitment that Australian Defence Force members will not face the death penalty in Japan.

“Australia’s commitment to pursuing global abolition of the death penalty is strong and bipartisan, as outlined in its 2018 Strategy for Abolition of the Death Penalty.

“Considering the strength of the position taken under the Strategy, it is disappointing that we would therefore agree to bilateral arrangements, such as this, which do not include clauses to prevent Australian citizens being condemned to death.

“Japan maintains the death penalty with executions by hanging being publicly reported as recently as July 2022.

“In the week this issue is being considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, it was coincidentally World Day Against the Death Penalty.

“We are asking the Treaties Committee to recommend that binding treaty action in respect of the Agreement be withheld until a written amendment is agreed to the effect that no member of a visiting defence force, including its civilian component, will be subject to the death penalty.

“We must protect those who protect us.”

Contact: Kristen Connell, P. 0400 054 227, E.


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