Labor has called on the Liberal government to “urgently” reinstate a ministerial direction that federal police must “take account” of the death penalty when co-ordinating with foreign law enforcement.
The government reportedly removed the instructions in May 2014, reversing of the previous Labor government’s policy implemented in 2010.
The ministerial direction should be reinstated ‘urgently’, Opposition justice spokesman David Feeney wrote in a letter to the Abbott government on Wednesday, Fairfax Media has reported.
Protecting Australians from the death penalty may “no longer be considered a critical priority” for the federal police in the absence of the direction, said the letter sent to Justice Minister Michael Keenan.
The “devastating loss” of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, executed by firing squad in Indonesia on Wednesday morning, made the issue “more important than ever”, the opposition spokesman wrote.
“Australia’s political leaders [must] do all we can to protect Australians from the threat of the death penalty, and to campaign for the global abolition of this cruel punishment,” the letter said.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) already has an internal guideline requiring it to consider “the likelihood the death penalty will be imposed” before assisting foreign police forces.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has supported Labor’s push for clarity on the matter.
On Wednesday, Senator Xenophon wrote to the joint standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and trade “requesting it urgently inquire” into the national police force’s protocols on the risk of executions.
“These revelations seem to be at odds with statements in the past day by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Education Minister Christopher Pyne,” the Senator said in a statement.
“This needs to be cleared up as a matter of urgency.”
Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, Government MP Kelly O’Dwyer accused the Opposition of trying to score political points from the execution of the two Australians.
The AFP has been widely criticised for tipping off Indonesian police about the heroine smuggling plot of Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran, which resulted in their overseas arrests and eventual deaths.
A Federal Court ruled in 2006 the police force acted appropriately by sharing the information, while some commentators have argued the men should instead have been detained before leaving Australia.