An abomination


The Indonesian authorities are about to execute – that is, judicially kill – 9 people by firing squad.

Each of these people will be tied to a plank, offered a blindfold and, from a distance of 5 to 10 metres, 12 members of a firing squad will aim at a target over the heart of each of the 9 people.   That’s twelve firing squad members for each of the 9 people – 108 shooters in all.   At the drop of a sword…..

The official script is that each of the shooters has been provided with counselling beforehand and they will be provided with counselling after the event.   And any concern over their participation  in this “event”  can always be assauged by the fact that only 3 of each 12 members of the 9 firing squads have “live ammunition”, so it can never be certain who fired the fatal shots.

Unless, of course, the firing squad fails in killing their “target”.   In this case the commander of the firing squad is to step forward and deliver a coup de grace by way of a pistol shot behind the ear of the target .   How much counselling will that commander get?   How much will he need?   There’s no pretence of hiding behind multiple shooters, most of whom have blank ammunition…

But, all in all, Indonesian authorities have been very solicitious of the feelings of their firing squad members.

Not so with the people to be executed.

An execution – judicial killing – is by its very nature a grossly macabre event.

But Indonesian authorities have done everything they can to turn this event into a grossly macabre spectacle.

There was the media spectacular provided about the transfer of the two Australians – Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – from Bali to the place of execution six weeks ago – Nusakambangan, known as death island.  It came complete with a rehearsal, for the benefit of media , of masked soldiers, armoured vehicles and all the rest.   And when the real transfer took place, media had prime access, down to happy snaps of senior Indonesian military officials posing with the condemned pair.

The last week has been less than edifying and hardly fits with the policy of the Indonesian government that executions should be simple and not be public.

Yeah – so Indonesian authorities have provided media access to coffin makers and to crosses bearing the date of executions – Wednesday 29 April.  There have been media reports and images of a fleet of ambulances to convey the bodies of the executed persons.

Meanwhile, the Australian foreign minister says the Indonesian authorities have failed to provide Australian authorities of any information as to when the executions might take place.

One of the people to be executed is a Filipina, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso.   On making their last visit to her today, her family, including her mother, weren’t protected at all, and were forced  to take what is known, in American talk, as a “perp walk”, all for media impact.

How distressing must that have been?  And why?   For the spectacle?

I’ll personally be avoiding anything at all to do with Indonesia until there’s some evidence that its government embraces something approaching civilised conduct.

Post script:  One small thing is that at least Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso was spared;  it would be unthinkable for the Indonesian government to now execute it.


Reprieve Australia

Reprieve Australia provides legal and humanitarian assistance to people facing the death penalty – delivering justice and saving lives.

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