Confronting death: Capital punishment in Asia

Date & time

5–7pm Thursday 13 October 2016



China in the World, Fellows Lane, The Australian National University


Julian McMahon (Reprieve Australia)


For interstate visitors, we offer suggestions for accommodation near ANU.



Presented by Law Reform and Social Justice

Panel discussion
Event image

Does the death penalty deter crime? What is the scope and nature of Australia’s role in the region? Why has there been a resurgence of the death penalty in the Asia-Pacific?

Jointly hosted by ANU Law Reform and Social Justice and Amnesty ANU, this symposium on the death penalty in Asia—the first of its kind in Australia—aims to bring together leading researchers and activists with diverse backgrounds to explore issues relating to the use of the death penalty in Asia in their own unique perspectives. 

Questions about the death penalty have arisen again in the wake of recent executions in Indonesia and the ongoing debates on bringing the death penalty back in abolitionist countries such as the Philippines and Turkey. Panellists will share their personal experiences and expertise in relation to the death penalty, exploring historical and contextual issues such as the role of public opinion, the impact of capital punishment on families of the inmates, and the extent to which Australia can play a leading role in promoting human rights in the region.

Our guest speakers include Julian McMahon (President, Reprieve Australia), Prof Susan Trevaskes (Adjunct Director, China in the World), Guy Ragen (Amnesty International) and Priscilla Chia (Co-founder, Second Chances Asia). The symposium will begin with a video address from Professor Gillian Triggs (President of the Australian Human Rights Commission), followed by presentations from each speaker, followed by a Q&A session moderated by Director of Law Reform and Social Justice Matthew Zagor.

This will be a good opportunity for students in the ANU College of Law, College of Asia Pacific, and School of Politics and International Relations to meet lawyers, activists and practitioners that are involved in the day-to-day work of campaigning against the death penalty in Asia.

Light refreshments will be provided after the event.


  • Julian McMahon »

    Julian McMahon is President of Reprieve Australia and the 2016 Victorian Australian of the Year. A barrister and human rights advocate, Julian has been working on pro bono death penalty cases for more than 13 years. He has represented numerous Australians facing the death penalty, including Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore, George Forbes in Sudan and the Bali Nine members Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia. In the months leading up to the executions of Chan and Sukumaran in April 2015, the overwhelming demands of their case required Julian and his co-counsel to make many personal sacrifices and, in Julian’s case, to exclude all other work and devote himself entirely to the case. 

    As President of Reprieve Australia, Julian continues to voice fierce opposition to the use of the death penalty. Reprieve Australia provides legal and humanitarian assistance to people facing the death penalty in the USA and South East Asia. 

  • Prof Susan Trevaskes »

    Susan Trevaskes is an Adjunct Director of the Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW) at ANU, and an expert on the death penalty in China. She has made significant contributions to the field of contemporary Chinese criminal justice studies through her work on criminal law, punishment and policing issues in China.

    She has authored a number of papers and books including the first monograph in English on criminal courts contemporary China (2007), a book on policing serious crime in China (2010), and a book on the death penalty in China (2012). She has also published numerous papers on Chinese justice in areas including criminal justice policy, justice reform, anti-crime campaigns, public security, stability maintenance operations, state responses to drug crime, public punishment rituals and death penalty reform. Her latest book is a co-edited volume titled The Politics of Law and Stability in China (2014). 

  • Guy Ragen »

    Guy works in Amnesty International's government relations team, advising on Amnesty's death penalty and Indigenous youth incarceration campaigns. Previously, he was adviser and speechwriter to two federal Cabinet Ministers and a Deputy Leader of the Opposition. 

  • Priscilla Chia »

    Priscilla Chia is the co-founder and Director of We Believe in Second Chances, a youth-led non-governmental organisation that advocates for the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore. Second Chances has campaigned on behalf of numerous death row inmates in Singapore, including Kho Jabing and Yong Vui Kong. Priscilla currently works as an associate at one of Singapore's leading public interest litigation firms. 




Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team