Indonesia’s Looming Executions Trigger International Anger

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Indonesia Court
Jakarta State Administrative Court chief judge Ujang Abdullah rejects the appeals of Australian drug smugglers on death row Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran during a hearing in Jakarta on April 6, 2015. Photographer: Romeo Gacad/AFP via Getty Images

Indonesia is facing an international backlash as it prepares to execute 10 convicted drug smugglers by firing squad as early as Tuesday, 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, Tony Spontana, spokesman for the Indonesian attorney general’s office, said by text message. 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.

“While this is deeply distressing news, it is still not too late for the the president to step back from this process and show mercy,” Michael O’Connell, a lawyer for the Australian duo from Crockett Chambers in Melbourne, said by e-mail Saturday. “We continue to seek that he show the same mercy that he himself seeks in cases where Indonesian nationals face the death penalty.”

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.

French Warning

“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.

Indonesia should refrain from carrying out the executions as international law stated 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.

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 an e-mailed statement Saturday.

“I again respectfully call on the President of Indonesia to reconsider his refusal to grant clemency,” Bishop said. Chan and Sukumaran had been “rehabilitated in a most remarkable way over the past 10 years and are genuinely remorseful for their serious crimes,” she said.

O’Connell said he would travel on Sunday from Sydney to Jakarta, where lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran will make further representations on their behalf.

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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