I have had this post bouncing around in my head for over a week now. Everytime I sit down to write it I decide something else is more important. I suppose that subconsciously I don’t want to think about it but it’s important and something I have become fixated on.
I have been following the saga of the Bali 9 members, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. In a nutshell a bunch of 20 year olds were smuggling heroin and got caught. Now they are sentenced to die. You can read the grim details of what they will face.
If the shooters miss, or the victim is taking too long to die, the firing squad commander must take an “amnesty shot” using his pistol, firing point-blank at the temple above the ear.
Stop and let that wash over you for a second.
The display from the Indonesian government has been nothing short of nauseating. The large numbers of armed military swat teams, armoured personnel carriers, jet fighter escorts would make you think they are afraid of an armed rescue like out of a movie or something. Clearly this is intended as a power-play and it has nothing to do with justice. Australia has appealed on their behalf, they have offered prisoner swaps but like a terrorist organization the Indonesian government thinks compromise is a dirty word.
I have all sorts of issues with capital punishment. I find it difficult to see how killing anyone is justified or anything other than revenge. And when we look at capital punishment we have to ask ourselves, do we honestly trust lawyers and police that much? How many innocent people have been steamrolled into prison cells. How many “confessions” coerced, or outright beaten from people. How many years have been lost to people incarcerated unjustly. Newly available DNA evidence has allowed the exoneration and release of more than 17 death row inmates since 1992 in the United States. I am not naive enough to believe that only guilty people go to jail, but imagine how angry you would be if a loved one was killed by the state and it turned out they were innocent? What kind of compensation would satisfy you for this murder by committee? Now innocence is not an issue in this case. They’re guilty, but does that mean they deserve to die?
Another common arguments I hear is, “The Indonesians have the right to make their own laws.” To which I would respond, “ya, but within reason.”
We fuck with other countries’ laws all the time. We pressure and influence, we bargain and trade with other countries to shape their laws. We enforce trade laws, convict war criminals in UN world courts, we’ve even overthrown democratically elected governments who refused to give our corporations access to their resources, Syria, Guatemala, Iran, Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua. So the idea that a country should remain isolated legally is failing to recognize what is already happening.
Part of the reason this argument about self-determination is so troublesome to me is, where does that, “it’s their country” argument end? What if they were being executed for being homosexual? Many countries feel this is totally acceptable. Or what about killing people for blasphemy like they do in Saudi Arabia? Should we just let that slide without protest?
If we follow the argument that countries should be allowed to make their own laws without interference, then we should stop fighting ISIS, it’s not our country. Let’s pull out of Afghanistan, and refuse aid (military or otherwise) to all other countries. If being the wrong type of Muslim is a crime warranting beheading, who are we to judge, that’s their law.
Of course that argument is spurious, we are citizens of the world, and it is our obligation to stand up to injustice. I don’t know who said it, but “all it takes for evil to succeed is for good men do nothing.”
Now you can argue that they broke the law and they should be punished. And I would agree, but what is punishment without a chance of redemption? Some of the greatest stories in our collective history are about failure, atonement and reconciliation. Think of “Les Miserable”, or “A Christmas Story” or the most famous story of redemption the prodigal son.
For all intents and purposes these men seem to have reformed. So what does does killing them gain society? Nothing. Not a thing.
Indonesia is going to kill Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, along with a number of others over drug related offences in a war that the governments of the world will never win. They are going to do it not because it is the right thing to do but because they want to put on a show. They want to put on a brave face about their hard line on drugs at any cost; even if it means two more deaths in the war on drugs.