In the wake of the final cruel hours before the sentenced deaths of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, all bids for clemency and all legal appeals have been exhausted. All that awaits these men, and seven others, is to stand down the barrel of the flawed Indonesian Criminal Justice system as a bitter conclusion to a traumatic decade.
Amid the flurry of government, UN, celebrity and community bids for mercy, many have sought to provide simple justifications for the death penalty. This is at great detriment to the dignity of human life. To simplify the complex nature of the rights, responsibilities and international law that play a part in the scenario of the Bali Nine can only be described as a blind bid to shield ourselves from the chance that such a fate could ever fall upon our own shoulders – or those of someone we love. It is counterproductive and it is merciless.
Indonesia’s stance on the death penalty
Let it first be made clear that regardless of personal perceptions of capital punishment itself, the firing squad is recognised as an inhumane method of execution in itself. When questioned in 2012 about it’s choice to continue implementing firing squads, Indonesia claimed it would only apply as a last resort. When the UN General Assembly voted in the same year to place a moratorium on executions, Indonesia abstained for the first time. Further, the Indonesian government paid over $1milAUD to gain reprieve for one of their own citizens facing the same punishment in Saudi Arabia.
Endangerment caused by drug trafficking does not warrant further death
People may argue that those guilty of drug trafficking have endangered the lives of others through providing illicit substances, thus the punishment “fits the crime”. However, in a contemporary society, the focus of punishment is based upon rehabilitation first and foremost, followed by deterrence. As Amy Corderoy of SMH argues, a range of serious offenders, including drunk drivers, cause a far greater threat to human life, but there has been no call for the death penalty to set an example for those convicted. A loss of life is not repaired through the spilling of another’s blood. An “eye for an eye” is not a principle of modern law or Human Rights frameworks.
Does Indonesia have a right to enforce their own laws?
Under their national law, yes. Under International Law and their signatory to a number of treaties, no. Morally, no. However, even Indonesia’s national policy on the death penalty can be called to question. The government’s definition of using execution as a “last resort” can not be assumed to encompass comprehensive rehabilitation and remorse, in addition to almost 10 years imprisonment. It is also legally unethical and inconsistent to enforce barbaric standards on another country’s citizens when Indonesia themselves bought clemency for their own citizens on death row in Saudi Arabia, 2012.
Basic human dignity
Whilst people tend to quickly thrust the “they shouldn’t have imported drugs” argument in the face of clemency pleas for the Bali Nine, the issue boils down to basic humanity. Society can be quick to eliminate someone’s humanity for the sake of criminal justice. Most could never imagine themselves personally in the position of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, possibly because they believe in an impenetrable set of moral standards. However, if it were our mother, brother or friend who had committed crimes that infringe our deepest convictions, the thought of their execution would haunt our veins for the rest of our lives.
If there was any further proof of the barbaric results of capital punishment, it is the legal advice the Australian government have received. Lawyers have recommended that Australia pull foreign aid from Indonesia if we do not receive mercy. This suggestion is a clear example of how inhumane decisions breed inhumane decisions. Violence and disregard for human life results in animalistic “eye for an eye” mentalities that perpetuate indefinitely.
The execution of the Bali Nine will be a pointless and inhuman loss of human life. Thoughts, prayers and condolences to the families of Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and all other individuals facing the firing squad today.
Hero Image: BBC UK