Convicted Australian drug smugglers Myuran Sukumaran, left, and Andrew Chan are set to be executed in Indonesia. (AFP Photo/Sonny Tumbelaka)
Australia Reacts as Bali Nine Face Executions in a Matter of Weeks
BY :RABAB HANNAN & KIRSTY LAWRENCE
JANUARY 23, 2015
Jakarta. Australia-Indonesia relations are at question as President Joko Widodo plans to execute more people on death row despite persistent clemency for the Australian Bali Nine prisoners Andrew Chan and Myuran Sakumaran.
The Australian public desperately seeks the death sentence to be reduced as Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop work toward an agreement with the Indonesian government.
With Andrew’s bid for clemency rejected, both of the Australian citizens could be facing execution within weeks.
Bishop told Sky News that she would not speculate about what would happen “should the Indonesian government carry through its threat to execute Australians.”
“Assuming they go ahead, the reaction in Australia will be mixed. There will be groups in Australia which oppose the imposition of the death penalty … by the same token there will be some in the Australian community who will view the executions as the implementation of Indonesian law,” said professor David Hill, chair of Southeast Asian studies at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia.
He added that currently Australian-Indonesian relations remain strong as demonstrated in the past decade that the relationship is robust enough to be able to survive various incidents including the 2011 ban on live cattle exports or the monitoring the telephones of Indonesian senior officials in 2013.
With more prisoners awaiting the death penalty, Joko remains fixated on the executions, despite international conventions and rights in place with Indonesian law.
“The fact that [Joko] came out in December last year stating very unequivocally on the record that we would not be granting clemency to 64 death row prisoners who were in for drug-related offenses goes to show that he is not applying the rule of law because each case has to individually be decided on its own merits and to make blanket statements like that clearly aggravates the rule of law,” said Diana Sayed, Amnesty Australia activist and human rights lawyer.
Sayed has actively campaigned against the death penalty across the world, particularly for the two Australian citizens currently on death row who have allegedly responded positively to rehabilitation.
She said the death penalty violates the right to life as acknowledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and is also recognized under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that Indonesia has ratified with the protection for the right to life within Indonesia’s Constitution.
Australian nongovernmental organization Mercy Campaign has partnered with Amnesty International in support of the two Australians on death row, gaining the support of both the Australian and international community through petitioning and lobbying.
“Majority of people agree that there should be mercy and they should be spared,” said Mercy campaign spokeswoman Brigid Delaney.
With Bali being a popular tourist destination for Australians, Delaney remains concerned if the executions proceed.
“Of course there will be tension ... but [we] can’t tell how that tension will manifest itself. Last time an Australian was hung abroad was in Singapore and there was a lot of anger, people felt really upset,” Delaney said.
“A lot of Australians have a really close relationship with Bali, it’s their favorite travel destination and a place where they feel very close and connected to, so that has a lot of interest in the case.”
Abbott on Friday called on Indonesia to reconsider its decision to execute the two Bali Nine members.
“The prerogative of mercy should be extended to them,” Abbott said in a statement. “Australia opposes the death penalty at home and abroad.”
Bishop said earlier this week that she would not rule out recalling the Australian ambassador should the executions be carried out.
“This is an unimaginably difficult time for the families of these young men,” Abbott said. “I spoke with both families today and will ensure the government continues to support them.”
Relations between Indonesia and Australia hit a low in late 2013 after reports that Australia had spied on top Indonesian officials, including then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife.
Indonesia froze military and intelligence cooperation with Australia but restored relations in May 2014.
New Zealand concerned for citizens incarcerated in Bali
New Zealand citizens are starting to worry about the safety of one of their own after the first round of drug-trafficking executions took place in Indonesia on Sunday.
Anthony Glen de Malmanche, 52, from New Zealand was recently arrested in Bali where he had been found carrying 1.7 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine inside his backpack.
If found guilty of drug trafficking he could face the firing squad.
A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said New Zealand “opposes the death penalty.”
“The New Zealand government takes an active role in global efforts to abolish the use of the death penalty.”
They said consular staff from the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta continue to provide consular advice and regularly check on Malmanche’s well-being.
A fund-raising site has been set up for Malmanche, with New Zealand citizens so far donating $12,125.
The site describes the death penalty as a “real possibility,” with New Zealand Amnesty International spokeswoman Margaret Taylor speaking out against the use of the death penalty.
She said Amnesty International looked at the recent executions as a “retrograde step for human rights in the country.”
Taylor said the death penalty was an “irreversible and violent punishment that has no place in any justice system.”
“It is the ultimate denial of human rights and is ineffective as a deterrent to crime,” she said.
“The fact that there are currently 64 people on death row in Indonesia for drug charges is evidence of that.”
She added that New Zealand had a proud history of speaking out against the death penalty.
“Now is the time [for the New Zealand government] to be making representations directly to the Indonesian government and calling on them to immediately halt plans to put more people to death.”
Citizens of the island nation took to social media to express their outrage over the death penalty, with sales consultant Cherie Hodder saying: “It shouldn’t be in our hands to have the control to kill someone for wrongdoing.
“I believe people should be given a second chance and the opportunity to be a better person.”
Echoing her sentiments, Simone Collins considers the death sentence a “harsh penalty, [convicts] should be given mercy by serving a sentence in jail.”
Sasha Borissenko, a New Zealand court reporter currently specializing in legal policy, added that in “Western culture, the death penalty appears to be something of a yesteryear.
“There’s of course the philosophical argument at play, whereby if a severe penalty is in force, this will naturally deter offending,” she added.
“However, given the great number of prosecutions and executions, you have to ask whether this punitive punishment is actually working.
“What are the underlying issues? Is there another way to tackle the cause as opposed to the result?”
Additional reporting from Reuters