Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


UN Human Rights Council – 21st Session

Item 3 – General debate

Statement by Australia, 14 September 2012

Australia welcomes the presentation of the reports today.

Australia unequivocally supports the abolition of the death penalty. It is an inhumane form of punishment has no proven deterrent effect. In carrying out the death penalty, any miscarriage or failure of justice is of course irreversible and irreparable.

We welcome the growing number of States which have abolished the death penalty for all crimes or have joined the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or its regional equivalents – including Benin, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Latvia and Mongolia.

Australia is concerned that some States have recently chosen to reintroduce the death penalty or resume executions. We are also concerned that some States have expanded the categories of crimes for which the death penalty may, or in some cases, must apply, and that several States do not restrict the use of the death penalty to the most serious crimes. A particular concern highlighted by the Secretary-General is the use of the death penalty against children, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. We appreciate the ongoing attention paid to these issues – which helps to being much needed transparency and accountability to this deplorable area of State practice.

Mr President

We welcome the contribution of the UN system to the advancement of the business and human rights agenda and its dissemination and implementation of the Guiding Principles. We appreciate the efforts to integrate the Guiding Principles into its programmes and activities, including capacity-building efforts.

Not only do the Guiding Principles advance human rights, they are also an effective means to identify and manage risks, and can lower business costs. We look forward to participating in the Forum on Business and Human Rights in December.

Lastly, Mr President

We draw attention to the OHCHR report providing technical guidance on maternal mortality and morbidity. Gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. As the report highlights, if we are to improve the lives of women we must focus our effort on comprehensive strategies that target the root causes of gender inequality, such as discrimination, poverty, exclusion and harmful traditional practices.

Saving the lives of poor women and children is one of five strategic goals of the Australian aid program through which we target family planning, vaccination and increasing access to and quality of health services.

For example, Australia is helping to improve maternal and neonatal health in East Nusa Tenggara, one of Indonesia’s poorest provinces. The program has trained more than 5,000 health workers and volunteers (approximately half of health workers and volunteers in the province), and renovated 24 birthing wards, which have contributed to twice the number of births taking place at these clinics. This has helped save the lives of many women and babies. Australia will look to build on these types of experiences in developing our assistance programmes.