No to Death

A young Australian man is to be put to death in Indonesia, before firing quad, after the Supreme Court last week rejected a final appeal against his drug-trafficking sentence. We reject the death penalty as an intrinsically inhuman punishment for any crime.

The only hope for Bali Nine ringleader Andrew Chan now is a pardon from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. We welcome comments from Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard that she will personally intervene in an attempt to stop 27-year-old’s execution.

It must be remembered that while Chan’s crime of attempting to export heroin from Bali to Australia had the potential to cause human misery – whether through addiction; further crimes such as theft, to pay for drugs; or inadvertently supporting the activities of criminal gangs – he was arrested before departing this island and therefore caused no one any harm.

Meanwhile, the central government was furious last week at the execution of an Indonesian maid in Saudi Arabia who had confessed to killing her employer. The Foreign Ministry even recalled its ambassador to the country in protest at the execution and for not being informed beforehand. This week, Saudi Arabia apologised for not forewarning Indonesia of the migrant worker’s beheading by sword.

The government was right to express indignation at the maid’s killing by Saudi Arabia. But it cannot take that stance when handing down and carrying out capital punishment in its own country – of foreigners or its own citizens.

The government must show its humanity and follow the lead of regional neighbours such as the Philippines in abolishing the death penalty. Capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime – there has been no let-up in drugs cases in Bali, for instance – and the fundamentalist eye-for-an-eye approach does not benefit any country in the 21st century.

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