No to the death penalty, no to hypocrisy

After midnight on November 9, Imam Samudra, Amrozi Nurhasyim and Mukhlas Nurhasyim were executed by firing squad on the Indonesian prison island of Nusakambangan.

The three were sentenced to death by an Indonesian court for their role in the bombing of nightspots in Bali on October 12, 2002, that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

The Bali bombings were a terrible atrocity, however state-sponsored murder is a barbaric and dehumanising practice.

Claire Hatton, whose husband was killed in the bombings, quoted Mahatma Gandhi's statement,"The trouble with an eye for an eye is that it makes us all blind", according to the November 10 Sydney Morning Herald.

Former Adelaide magistrate, Brian Deegan, whose son was also killed in the bombings, is a staunch opponent of the death penalty who felt "sickened" by the executions, the November 9 Courier Mail reported.

The Australian media, by and large, welcomed the killings, while the Australian government has been highly hypocritical. On the one hand, it has announced it will push for a global moratorium on the death penalty, on the other it refused to intervene to request Indonesia stay the killings — thus losing any high moral ground.

It also undermines calls for Indonesia to not carry out the death sentences handed down to three Australian citizens for drug smuggling.

The Bali bombings were also used by the then-Howard government as a justification for participating in the US-led war drive under the pretext of fighting the "war on terror". The war on Afghanistan was already well underway, while the war on Iraq was being prepared.

No-one has bothered to count the number of Afghans dead, but it is in the many thousands. An October 2006 study by the British medical journal The Lancet estimated that nearly 1 million Iraqis had died as a result of the foreign invasion and occupation.

George Bush, John Howard, Tony Blair and other world leaders responsible for this carnage are war criminals whose crimes dwarf those of the three men shot.

It isn't simply that the death penalty is a barbaric practice that should be condemned to history's dustbin, ithe hypocrisy associated with these killings is also deplorable.

In a 1990 speech, US intellectual Noam Chomsky pointed out that if the principles of the Nuremberg tribunal that tried the Nazi leaders were applied, "then every post-war American president would have been hanged".

It is precisely such hypocrisy that helps fuel anger at the Western world. The three claimed the bombings were punishment for the war on Afghanistan.

Such anger at the great inequality between the Western and Third worlds — and the bloodshed and oppression fostered by the West while mouthing the words "democracy" — can be taken advantage of and misdirected into acts of vengeance against the entire Western world.

Executing the perpetrators of such atrocities not only fails to solve the problem, it runs the risk of exacerbating it, and turning those responsible into martyrs.

The actions of Samudra, Amrozi and Mukhlas were terrible crimes. However, nothing was achieved by the executions, except the provision of yet another opportunity for the government and media of a Western country, Australia, to flaunt its hypocrisy.

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.