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Debates

The death penalty

4 Nov 2008 13:45

Sometimes, with a rueful shrug, a nation must spell 'diplomacy', h-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y. Hypocrisy is far from the worst sin in pursuit of national interest, but there is usually a price to pay. The history of Australia’s relations in Southeast Asia hints at the diplomatic dynamic that will flow from the execution of the Bali bombers.

On the bombers, Kevin Rudd is adopting the exact position of the Howard Government. That puts Rudd at odds with the long-standing policy of the Australian Labor Party, with its statement of complete opposition to the death penalty.

The Prime Minister judges that uttering no words in opposition to the Indonesian firing squad is a reflection of the Australian popular will. Rudd follows Howard, who saw nothing wrong with the execution of Saddam Hussein, but protested forcefully at Singapore’s execution of the Australian citizen, Van Tuong Nguyen.

COMMENTS

19 Oct 2012 14:55

Two encouraging developments regarding the death penalty have come to light in Indonesia in the past week.

First, it has emerged that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono granted clemency to four people on death row for narcotics crimes and reduced their sentences to life imprisonment.

These decisions show a willingness to grant clemency at odds with previous practice and rhetoric. Before these decisions were revealed, there had been only one other known case of clemency for a capital offence in the past 30 years and that was in exceptional circumstances.

As criticism of the clemency decisions mounted, Minister for Law and Human Rights Amir Syamsuddin disclosed that of 128 decisions on clemency for narcotics crimes (not all of which were death penalty cases) President Yudhoyono has granted clemency 19 times. This includes the four death penalty cases, which involve three Indonesians and one foreigner, as well as clemency for 10 juveniles.

COMMENTS

23 Jan 2015 10:33

Every few years, Southeast Asian countries make headlines for their capital punishment practices, and invariably these headlines come when foreigners are sentenced.

On Thursday, Andrew Chan, an Australian accused of drug trafficking in Indonesia, lost his appeal for presidential clemency. He is one of two Australians (the other, Myuran Sukumaran, lost his appeal in December) who will be executed by firing squad.

Under the new Indonesian president, this year has already seen six convicted drug traffickers executed. Among those executed were citizens from Brazil, Vietnam, The Netherlands, and Nigeria. These executions have, once again, brought Indonesia's death penalty into the international spotlight.

COMMENTS

28 Apr 2015 16:18

As Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran spend what may be their final hours on the prison island of Nusa Kambangan, there is anguished confusion in their home country as to how an Indonesian president elected on a platform of reform could sentence so many to their deaths for so little. Ensuing efforts to explain President Joko Widodo's actions have been incomplete, attributing a malevolence to Jokowi for which there is little evidence.

The broader political context suggests instead that Jokowi is motivated by the zeal of a reformer, albeit one with a very different sense than most Australians of what constitutes reform.

The first key to understanding the presidency of Jokowi is to grasp the degree to which he has sought to define himself in opposition to his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. President Jokowi has sought to be firmer, more focused, and faster.

Many Indonesians criticised Yudhoyono for pursuing a role as an international statesman, which they argued led him to curry favour by seeking accommodation with foreign powers like Australia. He was faulted for attending too many summits in an effort to build up his reputation while doing too little on behalf of Indonesian migrant workers facing difficult working conditions overseas.

COMMENTS

29 Apr 2015 11:23

While Australians are largely united in their sadness at the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran there is divide over how we should respond.

For many, the over-riding sense is one of helplessness. Prominent voices on the left and right have reacted with anger and want to go beyond withdrawing our ambassador to also punish Indonesia by cutting aid. Others, such as those in the #saveourboys video, seem to think the Australian Government can just snap its fingers and force Jakarta to change.

In the last 24 hours both Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have said Australia should campaign against the death penalty. How might our politicians make meaningful progress to end this practice?

COMMENTS