"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Monday, March 25, 2013

Execution and Indonesia’s justice system

Kerobokan Prison, Indonesia
Adami Wilson’s execution on March 15, is a timely reminder that the death penalty remains part of Indonesia’s rule of law landscape. Much of the reportage of Wilson’s execution highlighted his continuing criminality in jail. The message is none too subtle — “He deserved to die”.

It may well be that for more and more Indonesians that message misses the point. It is not a question of whether he deserved to die, but rather whether he needed to.

Is killing power how, in a modern Indonesia, respect for the rule of law should be upheld, or is there a better way?

The Indonesian government’s efforts to save its nationals on death row in places like Saudi Arabia or Malaysia has been applauded internationally. Those efforts sit well with the unmistakable momentum worldwide to abolish the death penalty.

When the government helps its nationals facing execution, it does so without judging whether they deserve to die. The criteria for diplomatic assistance is whether it is needed, not whether it is deserved.

The situation should be no different at home. We can always emphasize the heinous nature of a person’s crime, and their continuing lack of remorse, to justify executing them. That appears to be what happened in Wilson’s case.

But it was not necessary to kill Wilson. Killing him was to engage in the very kind of conduct that we abhor and want to prevent. It demeans us all.

Australians Myuran Sukumaran
and Andrew Chan
A case in point is the two remaining members of the “Bali Nine”, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran on death row in Denpasar. They recently submitted their clemency applications to the President, who will now determine whether they deserve to die.

They were part of a group that attempted to smuggle heroin from Bali to Australia. Whilst their crimes were reprehensible, in the 8 years since they were caught at Ngurah Rai airport they have changed enormously. Over a period of time they came to acknowledge the wrongfulness of what they had done and the damage that it potentially caused to Bali’s reputation as a holiday destination.

They are adapting to their circumstances by learning to speak Indonesian fluently and supporting those coming into the prison, helping them to adjust. Over time their efforts expanded to encompass setting up a computer training project. They taught inmates skills such as word processing, graphic design and they made submissions to overseas NGO’s and church groups to provide funding for properly qualified teachers in areas such as computers, English, first aid and philosophy.

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Source: The Jakarta Post, Editorial by Michael O’Connell S.C., Melbourne, Australia, March 25, 2013. The writer is a senior criminal law barrister. With other Melbourne barristers and solicitors, he is part of a team representing Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.