Sydney, Australia, May 4, 2015 / 09:07 am
The Australian bishops joined their voices to the international condemnation of the Indonesian government's execution of foreign drug traffickers last week.
Two Australian men – Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – were among eight convicted drug traffickers killed by firing squad. The other inmates executed April 29 include four Nigerians, an Indonesian, and a man from Brazil, who was reportedly mentally ill. The Indonesian government said the executions were part of a crackdown on drug trafficking.
“Drug crime is abhorrent. Appropriate penalties must be considered to protect the community, but the imposition of the death penalty is cruel and unnecessary for what it does to those found guilty and for what it does to our society,” wrote Archbishop Denis Hart, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in an April 29 statement.
“The imposition of the death penalty doesn’t achieve what people think it achieves. When it comes to crime and punishment, we must recognize and honor the human dignity of both victims and offenders.”
The execution has sparked international outrage. Australia has withdrawn its ambassador to Indonesia for the first time in history, according to the BBC. Brazil's foreign ministry expressed deep regret that Indonesia did not spare the Brazilian man because of his mental illness. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged an abolishment of the death penalty.
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has been leading a war on drugs since his election in 2014. Widodo has said he will refuse all clemency applications from convicted drug smugglers, according to the BBC.
Chan and Sukumaran were arrested in 2005 as part of the drug smuggling gang the “Bali Nine.” The gang was in possession of nearly 18 pounds of heroin, which they intended to smuggle from Bali to Australia. During their decade in prison, Chan and Sukumaran reportedly expressed remorse for their actions. Sukumaran started teaching art in the prison and Chan was ordained a Christian minister.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said that drug trafficking is an evil that must be stopped. But he stressed that the death penalty is not the solution.
“We are all aware of the terrible damage drugs cause,” Archbishop Fisher wrote in a April 29 statement. “But refusing even to entertain appeals for mercy – even after the pair had demonstrably turned their lives around – seemed to us to damage our neighbour’s reputation for justice.”