Indonesian Firing-Squad Executions Loom as Tensions Build

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Execution Protests
A person holds a poster depicting death row drug smuggler Mary Jane Veloso, during a protest at Wijaya Pura port in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia, on April 26, 2015. Photographer: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

International condemnation of Indonesia’s plan to execute convicted drug smugglers by firing squad as early as Tuesday is increasing, with Australia issuing a last-ditch appeal for clemency for two of its citizens.

The Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were on Saturday given a 72-hour notice period before their execution, according to Tony Spontana, spokesman for the Indonesian attorney general’s office. French President Francois Hollande has said there will be “consequences” if one of its citizens is put to death.

President Joko Widodo’s resumption of executions for drug smugglers after a hiatus under his predecessor has increased international focus on Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the world’s fourth-most populous nation. Australia, which has a history of spats with its northern neighbor, has warned the deaths may damage ties and hasn’t ruled out sanctions or diplomatic action.

“It’s heartening that there’s more international protests emerging about these executions and it demonstrates how damaging this mass execution will be for Indonesia’s reputation,” Michael O’Connell, a lawyer for the Australian duo at Crockett Chambers in Melbourne, said Sunday. “That damage has been grossly underestimated by the Indonesian politicians who want to proceed with this.”

Death Penalty

Indonesia should refrain from executing the 10 convicted drug smugglers as international law states the death penalty should only be used for the most serious crimes, with drug-related crimes not in that category, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement on Saturday.

While Spontana didn’t comment on other foreign prisoners on death row, Philippines national Mary Jane Veloso was also given the notice period, according to the BBC; a French citizen among the group hasn’t, according to that country’s foreign ministry.

“If he’s executed, there will be consequences, with France and with Europe,” Hollande, who’s due to meet with Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Paris on Monday, said on Saturday, according to Agence France-Presse. “We are working with other countries, Australia and Brazil, to multiply our actions and make sure there won’t be any execution.”

Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors after Indonesia executed their citizens in January. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff declined to accept the credentials of the nation’s new envoy, leading Indonesia to recall its ambassador.

Clemency Bids

President Widodo, known as Jokowi, has rejected Australia’s proposal for a prisoner swap and more than 50 appeals for clemency for Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 34. The pair are among the so-called Bali Nine, arrested on the Indonesian island in 2005 for attempting to smuggle 8 kilograms (17 pounds) of heroin out of the country.

Australian consular officials had been informed that the executions would “be scheduled imminently” at Nusa Kambangan prison in central Java, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement on Saturday.

“I want to reassure Australians that even at this late hour, we are continuing to make the strongest possible representations to the Indonesian government that this is not in the best interests of Indonesia,” Abbott told reporters in France.

Trade Implications

Australia hasn’t definitively stated whether it will recall its ambassador to Jakarta or impose other sanctions due to the executions. Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who is attempting to sign a free-trade agreement with Indonesia, shelved a trade delegation to the nation due to the increased tensions.

Two-way merchandise trade between the nations reached A$12.1 billion ($9.47 billion) in the year ended June 30, 2014.

Sections of Indonesia’s domestic media are also voicing their objections.

“A day that no rational, compassionate human being could ever wish for appears to be at hand: the day that 10 fellow human beings, nine of them foreign nationals, are gunned down in a hail of bullets because the Indonesian government wants to make a barbarous point,” the Jakarta Globe said in an editorial posted on its website April 24.

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