Nearly one third of the 545 Australians currently imprisoned or facing charges overseas were convicted or arrested for drug-related crimes, according to the latest figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. [...]
"That's an extraordinary number," said Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. "If that's correct then publicly-sourced information is only scratching the surface."
Amnesty International's latest report on the death penalty, released last month, highlighted the secrecy surrounding the use of capital punishment in countries such as China, Vietnam and Malaysia.
As many as a dozen Australians - including Sherrif, Bannister, Gardner and Jalloh - are believed to be held in a single city in southern China, Guangzhou, putting estimates of the number of Australians on or facing death row as high as 17.
"China keeps its grotesque use of the death penalty a 'state secret', but our research shows that thousands of people are sentenced to death and executed each year," said Amnesty International Australia's Rose Kulak.
"China executes more people than all other countries in the world put together."
In 2016, at least 1032 people were executed worldwide, excluding in China, according to the latest Amnesty International figures.
DFAT annual reports tracking statistics on Australians arrested overseas for any offence show the rate of arrest rose to its highest level in six years in 2015-16, with 15.2 arrests per 100,000 departures. The largest number of arrests were in the US (262), followed by Thailand (107) and the United Arab Emirates (100).
"DFAT has long provided clear and consistent messaging to Australians that they must respect the laws of the countries in which they work, live or travel," a departmental spokesperson said.
Mr Blanks said the death was not appropriate for any crime, for "many reasons apart from the barbarity".
"There is always the possibility that errors in the judicial process have been made. There is always the possibility that criminals can reform themselves - and the examples of the two Australians executed in Indonesia, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, stand out in that regard," he said.
"In practice, the death penalty operates in a discriminatory way against those least able to defend themselves. Typically, it will be the drug mules that are caught and executed, rather than the organisers of the drug trade."
Source: Sydney Morning Herald