I have blogged previously about the death penalty. It is only fair to state at the outset that I am fundamentally opposed to it. The BBC are reporting that despite a chorus of international pleas for clemency the Indonesian authorities have executed eight drugs smugglers.
They included two Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (the ring leaders of the so called Bali nine) who were arrested 10 years ago as part of an operation involving the Australian police. The Australian government have been accused of a degree of hypocrisy regarding Messers. Chan and Sukumaran in that the men were clearly guilty of a major drug smuggling operation and that their deaths will not be allowed to sour relations in the medium to long term. In addition the others condemned and now killed (not from western countries) received considerably less attention. The BBC also notes the other people due to be executed around the world at about the same time.
Chan and Sukumaran had to a significant degree turned their lives around in gaol with Chan becoming a preacher and Sukumaran a painter. Both did seem to have made a significant attempt at rehabilitation (though cynics would probably suggest that is unsurprising considering the fate that awaited them). Clearly they had committed serious crimes but whether execution is the appropriate penalty for drug dealing is an interesting question even leaving aside support for the death penalty for murder. Interestingly a number of Far Eastern states have the death penalty for drug smuggling as well as murder. In addition they and most of the other death penalty countries do not seem to agonise about the method of execution unlike the USA. Clive Stafford Smith the originally British lawyer who is a leading anti death penalty advocate in the USA has suggested that the emotional distress of death row is far worse than whatever method of execution is used.
The Guardian has a haunting report about the thoughts of one of the police officers who has to perform the executions. He seems to find securing the prisoners much worse than actually shooting them (he appears to have done both). Interestingly and unsurprisingly the psychological distress caused to executioners is a frequent theme which is probably not discussed frequently enough. It seems quite different to the distress caused by killing people in military or active crime fighting situations.
Chan and Sukumaran’s case had been vocally supported by the Australian public and death penalty opponents worldwide. Amnesty UK featured their case prominently this week on both their website and Facebook pages, as did Amnesty Ireland’s Facebook page. As a final thought unfortunately Amnesty Northern Ireland had, at the time of writing, nothing on either their website or Facebook page which is scandalous.