Rick Lines, the executive director of Harm Reduction International (HRI), said the decision to carry out death sentences was not a cultural, social or regional trend, but instead a mere political choice, which is what he saw happen in Indonesia, which went from two executions in the last five years to 13 in the last five months.
The fact that most of those executed were foreigners played to the narrative of drugs as a foreign threat, which Lines said was merely a way for the authorities to avoid dealing with developing health or harm reduction policies and therapies to treat people living with drug abuse domestically.
Julian McMahon, a lawyer for the late Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the two Australians executed in Indonesia on April 29, refuted the Indonesian government’s insistence that the death penalty served as an effective deterrent against the drug trade.
“The drug kingpins move drugs by the tons. It’s laughable to think that by executing these two boys, it will deter consumption or distribution of drugs in Indonesia. Nobody is talking about the distribution or the making of drugs already happening inside Indonesia,” he said.
McMahon, who usually avoids giving out personal stories to the media because they tend to divert attention from the actual legal work being done by his office, made a rare exception at the congress in Kuala Lumpur.
“When I first met those boys in 2006, they were ordinary punk criminals,” he said.
“But they became poster boys for what the prison reform system could be. They turned the prison around into a safe learning space.”
He also shared his story of spending time with Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina drug mule who was also slated to be executed with the others, and her two sons, all of them believing that it was the end.
“She held her two boys, thinking it would be for the last time. She sang to them, the boys sang to me, I gave them chocolate,” McMahon said.
When the shots rang out on the Central Java prison island of Nusakambangan, the grief of the Veloso family was immense. They were convinced she had been shot, only to be notified later that she had been granted a last-minute reprieve.
“And to think she’s going to face all of this again is just inhumane,” McMahon said.
He said what upset him the most about the Indonesian government’s approach to the issue was that there was no pretense whatsoever that President Joko Widodo had read the pleas for clemency: It was simply decided that 64 people must die, even though many of them, Chan and Sukumaran among them, still had appeals pending.
The Australians’ appeal hearing was scheduled for May 12; they were shot dead less than two weeks before their court date.
“There is no country in the world that deployed more energy, money and diplomats to get their citizens out of death row than Indonesia. And they do so in the most praiseworthy way,” McMahon said.
“So imagine my disappointment when all my legal efforts were met with the simple argument of trying to interfere with the sovereignty of another country.”
For the lawyer, the bitter experience of the Chan and Sukumaran case is the exact scenario that Chen, the Taiwanese judge, has always dreaded.
“Criminal judgment is not just about retribution, but also about a settlement between society and the defendant. In the rehabilitation process, society can embrace this defendant, or the defendant can embrace society again,” Chen said.
“But death is the ultimate retribution that leaves no chance for this settlement process to happen.”
Source: The Jakarta Globe, Isyana Artharini, June 15, 2015
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