Australians facing the death penalty overseas

All jurisdictions in Australia abolished the death penalty by 1985. New legislation was introduced in 2010 to ensure that this form of punishment can never be re-introduced.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “the death penalty has no place in the modern world. It brutalizes human society, is degrading, and is an affront to human dignity.”

Australia is strongly in favour of ending the death penalty worldwide.


Which countries have the death penalty?

There are 100 countries that retain the death penalty.

These countries differ in their approach to imposing capital punishment:

  • 58 countries including the United States and China actively impose the death penalty.
  • 35 countries including Russia and South Korea technically still have the death penalty but are considered abolitionist in practice and do not actively impose it.
  • 7 countries including Chile and Israel have laws that allow the death penalty for crimes under military law or crimes committed under exceptional circumstances.


How does the death penalty affect Australia?

While Australia does not impose the death penalty, Australian citizens and permanent residents may still be sentenced to death overseas if charged for crimes that carry the death penalty.

This can hinder international law enforcement cooperation, as Australia will not extradite an individual to a country where the offence concerned is punishable by death, unless assurance is provided that the death penalty will not be carried out.


Scheme for overseas criminal matters involving the death penalty

If an Australian is facing criminal charges involving the death penalty in an overseas country, the Australian government may cover their legal fees and other expenses, as outlined by the Attorney-General’s Department.



Assistance will only be granted to people who:

  • are Australian citizens or permanent residents,
  • are not eligible for legal assistance in the overseas country,
  • cannot meet the cost without incurring serious financial difficulty.

Assistance is only available where the accused person is at risk of being punished by the death penalty. Any costs incurred prior to application will not be covered.

There are also monetary limits applicable to certain disbursements. For example, the hourly rate of a lawyer is only covered up to $290.



The application form needs to be completed, as well as a criminal history check form.

The applicant must also provide an overseas penal clearance certificate (also known as an overseas police check) from each country in which they have:

  • resided for 12 months or more in the previous ten years, and/or
  • ever been charged with a criminal offence.

Completed forms and required documentation are to be emailed to [email protected]

A criminal defence lawyer will be able to assist with obtaining the required documentation and completing the application.

The application will be assessed within 28 days, and notification will be given if it is incomplete.



Australia is opposed to the death penalty and seeks its global abolishment. Financial support is provided to Australians facing overseas criminal charges where the death penalty is a possibility, to ensure that they receive adequate defence and that their human rights are upheld.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in serious international criminal cases prosecuted in jurisdictions which impose the death penalty.

Contact us if you require assistance.