Australia Changes its Position on the Death Penalty
On 16 February 2003 the Australian PM said in a Sunday morning television interview that the Bali bombers “should be dealt with in accordance with Indonesian law. …and if [the death penalty] is what the law of Indonesia provides, well, that is how things should proceed. There won’t be any protest from Australia”.
In early March 2003 the PM told US television that he would welcome the death penalty for Osama Bin Laden. “I think everybody would”, Mr Howard said.
In response to these comments:
"Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia would not intervene if bin Laden was to be executed. 'I personsally have never supported the death penalty buit int he case of Osama bin Laden, I don't think that too many years would be shed if he was executed, bearing in mind all the people he's responsible for killing." 
These comments mark a significant change in Australia’s attitude to the death penalty and a further weakening of Australia’s commitment to international human rights standards.
Australia’s longstanding position
Australia has traditionally taken a strong principled stand against capital punishment. In 1986 diplomatic relations with Malaysia were strained when Australia protested the execution of two Australians, Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers. The then Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, went so far as to describe the death penalty as “barbaric”.
In October 1990 Australia acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that commits signatory nations to abolishing the death penalty within their borders. In the introduction to the Second Optional Protocol it is made clear that the abolition of the death penalty “contributes to [the] enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights”. It also states that signatory nations desire to undertake “an international commitment to abolish the death penalty”.
Even Mr Howard’s own government has in the past consistently condemned the use of the death penalty. As recently as August 2002, in response to Nigeria’s use of the death penalty, the Australian Foreign Minister, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a media release stating that:
The Australian Government is universally and consistently opposed to the use of capital punishment in any circumstances. The death penalty is an inhumane form of punishment which violates the most fundamental human right: the right to life. 
This policy was restated in December 2002 when the...