Abolishing the death penalty. We can’t pick and choose

It’s November 2008. In the darkness of the Indonesian night three men are driven from their prison on Nusakambangan Island in Central Java 10 minutes away to an isolated area within an abandoned prison called Nirbaya, which is also on the island. Three separate firing squad await them. All are shot at the same time about 12:15am, before a medical team declared them dead.

Did we have candlelight vigils? Did we have media campaigns to save them? Did we have #IStandForMercy hastag for them? No.

Probably because these men were not Australians. In fact They were Imam Samudra, Amrozi,, and Mukhlas, Indonesians that killed Australians hideously in the Bali bombing.

Now we can put many arguments. These men coldly killed many people in a calculated manner. They didn’t rehabilitate but they were unrepentant and maintained their zealous jihadist ideology to the end. But I do wonder how many of those that now advocate for the end of the death penalty, just shrugged their shoulders then.

I remember when I got involved with Amnesty International in the early 80’s. AI was more of a direct prisoner of conscience organisation then than a more advocacy one as it is now. However it implemented then to be against capital punishment. The argument (which I agree with) is that torture is unacceptable whoever is subjected to it, and the death penalty is a form of torture.

However many AI members disagreed. I can remember reading letters in the AI Newsletter arguing that a Human Rights organisation should not advocate for murderers and rapists. That AI should place its efforts in innocent people who were imprisoned for their beliefs and (as the definition stated) ‘acted or advocated acts of violence’.

And here is what we have. If we support the abolition of the death penalty, while rightly we are against the killing of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, we should also be against the execution of the Bali bombers. The same as being against the execution those who do unspeakable crimes, such as sexually assaulting and killing children for example.

If we support the end of the death penalty, we have to support it for all. We can’t pick and choose

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