Update: Indonesia temporarily delays killing Australians
An Indonesian firing squad will execute Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran as early as today for involvement with heroin smuggling.
The nation of 250 million people — spread over 900 inhabited islands — has put a campaign of killing drug offenders into high gear in response to successful political attack on the previous president for being “soft on drugs.”
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, a populist who took over last year, ordered the murders of 64 drug offenders in December, many of them foreigners. At least 20 are scheduled to be killed this year.
Six were shot to death January 18, including a Brazilian citizen and a Dutch national. Both those countries withdrew their ambassadors from Jakarta in protest.
Under Widodo’s predecessor, executions of drug offenders stopped for four years, leading opponents to charge to charge the government with being soft on drugs. To show he wasn’t lenient, the previous president had Adami Wilson, 48, a Malawi nation, shot to death for one kilo of heroin.
In an odd twist, foreign nationals are more vulnerable to execution that local drug kingpins, who have political clout that protects them from prosecution, reports Death Penalty News. (The January 18 executions in Indonesia killed five foreigners and one Indonesian.)
Amnesty International condemned the latest Indonesian killing spree.
“It would be a huge set back if the government goes ahead with its plans to execute as many as 20 people during the year,” says Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s research director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
The Australian government has vigorously requested that Chan and Sukumaran not be killed. Also, well-known Australian personalities — from feminist Germaine Greer to conservative radio talk show host Alan Jones — joined together to make a supportive video called, “I Stand for Mercy.” (Shown below.)
U.S. silent on drug offender executions
The United States has been silent on human rights abuses against drug offenders. Under President Obama, the U.S. Drug Enforcement has increased support of Indonesia’s anti-drug effort.
The U.S. State Department’s comprehensive reports on human rights have been silent on killings of drug offenders, as have its annual reports on drug enforcements.
Several thousand drug offenders are believed to be executed by governments every year, although the exact number isn’t known. Iran sometimes frees drug offenders who can memorize the Koran and kills those who can’t.
The U.S. has friendly relations with a number of countries that execute drug offenders, including China, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. The U.S. is not known to have publicly objected to any of these murders.
Drug offenders awaiting execution
In addition to the two Australians, Indonesia plans to murder English grandmother Lindsay Sandiford, 57, (four kilograms of cocaine in luggage). Malaysia is preparing to hang South African Deon Cornelius, 28, (two kilos of meth). And Vietnam sentenced 29 drug offenders to death last year in a mass trial (plus another eight last week).
Some good news: Myanmar commuted all death sentences last year, and Thailand hasn’t executed anyone since 1988, although the punishment remains in the law. (Last year, a Thai court sentenced a 36-year-old bridal shop employee to be hanged for having 40 pounds of marijuana on a bus, but the murder has yet to occur.)
Those who get executed in Asia tend to be low-level drug dealers, mules and foreign nationals who lack the clout of leading drug merchants working in their home countries.
“Drug kingpins are seldom charged, let alone put to death. Rather it is the lowly traffickers and drug users who suffer the most grievous of punishments,” reports Death Penalty News.
Indonesia measures drug offender for coffin