Indonesia and the death penalty: the two-minute version

In the early hours of Wednesday 29 April Indonesian authorities carried out the executions of eight men, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

We take a look at what happened and why.

Indonesia and the death penalty

The Indonesian authorities have taken a hardline stance against drug offenders. In December 2014, it was reported that the country’s President, Joko Widodo, would not grant clemency to at least 64 people who have been sentenced to death for drug-related crimes.

On Sunday 18 January, six executions went ahead in Indonesia. The group, made up of five foreign nationals and one Indonesian, were executed by firing squad just after midnight.

On Sunday 18 January, six executions went ahead in Indonesia. The group, made up of five foreign nationals and one Indonesian, were executed by firing squad just after midnight.

There are at least 130 people under death sentence in Indonesia and although no executions were carried out in 2014, there are reportedly 20 scheduled for 2015.

Those executed on Wednesday 29 April were Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Raheem Agbaje Salami (Nigerian), Zainal Abidin (Indonesian), Martin Anderson, alias Belo (Ghanaian), Rodrigo Gularte (Brazilian), Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise alias Mustafa (Nigerian) and Okwudili Oyatanze (Nigerian).

Method of execution

Death sentences in Indonesia are carried out by firing squad. The prisoner is given the choice of standing or sitting and whether to have their eyes covered, by a blindfold or hood.

Wearing a white shirt, the convict is walked to the execution site by a priest or cleric and given three minutes to calm down.

A doctor places a mark on the shirt above the heart. After the final check is completed 12 executioners – three of whom have rifles loaded with live ammunition – shoot the prisoner at a distance of five to ten metres.

A doctor places a mark on the shirt above the heart. After the final check is completed 12 executioners – three of whom have rifles loaded with live ammunition – shoot the prisoner at a distance of five to ten metres.

If the prisoner is still alive after the first round, the commander will fire a final shot into the prisoner’s head.

Who were Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran?

Australians Andrew Chan, 31, and Myruan Sukumaran, 33, were convicted in Indonesia in 2006 for drug trafficking.

Reformed

During their time in prison, Chan and Sukumaran devoted themselves to helping fellow inmates and giving back to the Indonesian community. In an extremely unusual move, the Governor of Keroboken Prison spoke at their appeal trials, asking that both men be spared execution.

Chan counselled and mentored inmates, while Sukumaran helped rehabilitate fellow inmates by attempting to establish a drug-counselling program and teaching job skills, such as computer literacy and graphic design.

Chan counselled and mentored inmates, while Sukumaran helped rehabilitate fellow inmates by attempting to establish a drug-counselling program and teaching job skills, such as computer literacy and graphic design.

Sukumaran also became an avid artist, with proceeds from his public exhibitions returned to the prison for art supplies and donated to a local drug rehabilitation centre.

Last hope

Chan and Sukumaran had any hopes of a last-minute judicial review dashed with Indonesia’s Attorney General stating that the pair were not eligible for a second judicial review of their case.

On 2 February, the Indonesian Government confirmed that Chan and Sukumaran would be put to death in the next round of executions. On 26 April, Chan, Sukumaran, and the eight other people on death row with them were given 72 hours’ notice of their executions, which took place three days later.

It has been widely reported that all eight prisoners refused blindfolds, meeting their fate staring straight ahead and singing hymns together as the shots rang out.

Amnesty and the death penalty

Amnesty is opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. It is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and it has no place in today’s justice system.

Whatever form it takes – electrocution, hanging, beheading, stoning or lethal injection – the death penalty is an affront to the right to life. And it must end.

Amnesty’s ‘End the death penalty’ campaign

Amnesty has been campaigning on the death penalty since 1977. When we started campaigning only 16 countries had abolished capital punishment, now 140 countries have abolished the practice.

During 2013, only 22 countries – about one in ten of all countries worldwide – carried out executions. That figure has gone down almost by a quarter from a decade ago.

During 2013, only 22 countries – about one in ten of all countries worldwide – carried out executions. That figure has gone down almost by a quarter from a decade ago.

Change does and can happen and while no one can predict the outcome of this most recent campaign against executions in Indonesia, we do know that public support can have a huge impact.

Isn’t the death penalty a deterrent?

The simple truth is that evidence from around the world shows the death penalty has no deterrent effect on crime. Far from making society safer, state-sanctioned killing endorses the use of force and continues the cycle of violence. In fact, in 2004 in the USA the average murder rate for states that used the death penalty was 5.71 per 100,000 of the population as against 4.02 per 100,000 in states that did not use it.

While Amnesty acknowledges the damage caused by the illegal drug trade, there is no clear evidence of a decline in drug-trafficking or other crimes that could be attributed to the threat or use of the death penalty.

Article by Katie Young, Online Editor

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