The recent executions of six convicts from Brazil, Vietnam, The Netherlands, Malawi, Nigeria and Indonesia for drug-related crimes caused worldwide outrage towards President Joko Widodo, the leader so many people—in Indonesia and abroad—had pinned their hopes on to improve human rights in Indonesia.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff reached out to Jokowi prior to the executions, pleading to save their citizen Marco Archer, but Jokowi ignored her plea. As a result of the executions, the ambassador to The Netherlands and Brazil were recalled in what seemed like a political statement, showing their discontent with Indonesia’s decision.
On social media, Indonesians have shown their support of the President’s decision, urging foreign governments to “go ahead”, and “see if we care” to the threat of recalling ambassadors. President Jokowi responded to criticism by stating, “The war against the drug mafia should not be half-hearted measures [sic], because drugs have really ruined the good life of the drug users and their families.” President Jokowi has declared that Indonesia is in a state of emergency over drugs, with 4.5 million users requiring rehabilitation. He added that 1.2 million drug users could not be rehabilitated and nearly 50 of them die each day.
Drug trafficking is a serious crime in Indonesia, and we’re all made well aware of it when arriving from a foreign country; announcements made on flights and billboards warn travellers of the death penalty in airport terminals. Many people are arguing that the convicts knew what they were getting themselves into when they got involved in the world of drugs. What many others are having difficulty accepting is that there seems to be an inconsistency within the law.
Capital punishment in Indonesia is carried out for terrorism, murder and drug-related crimes. Last year, Indonesia paid $2.1 million to save Satinah, a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia found guilty of murdering her employer in 2007, yet on home turf Indonesia has shot five foreigners for a crime which most people would agree is far less grave than murder. Human Rights Watch has called this a “double standard”.
In 2007, the Indonesian Constitutional Court recommended legal changes stating that if a prisoner has been on death row for 10 years without execution, and has been of good behaviour, the sentence should be commuted to life in prison or 20 years. In April of this year, two Australian members of the Bali Nine who are now on death row for drug-related crimes, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, will have been in prison for 10 years and have shown themselves to be remorseful and rehabilitated men, even helping other convicts in their prison to change.
In September of 2003 one of the Bali Bombers, Ali Imron, received a verdict of life in prison after showing remorse for his involvement in the terrorist attack that killed 202 people in two nightclubs in Bali. If a man capable of blowing up hundreds of innocent people receives life in prison for showing remorse, how can it be consistent that Sukumaran and Chan be shot to death, especially after showing rehabilitation and serving nearly 10 years in jail already?
This brings us to the question: who decides what one man’s life is worth over another’s?
60 more convicts, including Sukumaran and Chan—and several other foreigners—are in line for further executions. The question is, what message will Jokowi send if he executes these remaining convicts and what retaliation will Indonesia receive from the countries of these foreign convicts? Has he jeopardized his relationship with the international community so early in the game?
Unfortunately for everyone involved, only time will tell.