16 August 2008

Beheading the Bali Bombers

The Bali Bombers; Amrozi, Samudra, and Mukhlas, have instructed their lawyers to lodge an appeal with the Constitutional Court. The basis of this appeal is that execution by firing squad is a cruel and inhumane form of execution. The arguments in support of this rely on the botched execution of Muhammad Tubagus Yusuf Maulana (Usep) on 10 March 2008. Usep was executed by firing squad and did not die for 10 minutes. The question here is whether the firing squad is inhumane or whether those tasked with the duty of executing Usep were just poor shots?

The Constitutional Court decision is likely to be handed-down fairly quickly as the government intends to execute the three before 1 September. The fasting month of Ramadan is scheduled to start on 1 September and it is unlikely that the government would execute them on the first day of Ramadan. So, if the executions do not happen before 1 September then they are likely to be postponed until at least early October.

The team of lawyers representing the three also seem to be basing their arguments on the fact that beheading is permitted in Sharia Law. This is indeed true, however, Indonesian criminal law is not based solely on Islamic or Sharia Law and beheading is not the recognized form of execution for those on death row. Therefore, this argument to all intents and purposes is moot. The lawyers that form the Muslim Defenders Team (Tim Pembela Muslim / TPM) are better off arguing hard on the unconstitutionality of the form of execution rather than the right of Muslims to be executed by beheading. Once again this right is not explicitly recognized in Indonesian law.

Interestingly, if the Constitutional Court is true to form in this respect, even if they were to decide in favour of the application, the decision must only apply from the date of the decision and cannot apply retrospectively. Therefore, because the firing squad was constitutional at the time the sentences were handed-down, then these three can still be executed in this manner. However, going forward the government would be required to put into place an alternative form of execution. This would probably be lethal injection. The former Attorney General, Abdul Rahman Saleh, alluded to such a change before stepping down from the position to take up an Ambassadorial post.

One of the lawyers from the TPM has allegedly suggested that France still permits the beheading of prisoners. However, my understanding is that the French abolished the death penalty in 1981 and I have not heard of it being revived of late as an acceptable form of punishment. I guess I will have to do some more research on this unless one of my readers points me to a source.

The end result is that "dead is dead". Nevertheless, I do not see why these individuals should get any special treatment in comparison to other death row inmates. Their crimes were abhorrent and the punishment, irrespective of whether I agree with it or not, has been handed-down. As soon as the government and the courts entertain regulating punishments on religious beliefs then to ensure fairness then all religions must be able to dictate the forms of punishments that are acceptable. I am not sure that this is the way that Indonesia wants to go.

I have posted on the Bali Bombers before, but once again, the moment of truth is forever getting closer. These three murders will soon be meeting their maker, and my guess is that there will be no 72 virgins waiting for them but with a bit of luck an eternity of pain and suffering similar to that which they inflicted on the victims of their murderous deeds. I still feel that they should have been sentenced to rot in jail for the terms of their natural lives.

The photo attached here includes the following information: Aitape, New Guinea. 24 October 1943. A photograph found on the body of a dead Japanese soldier showing NX143314 Sergeant (Sgt) Leonard G. Siffleet of "M" Special Unit, wearing a blindfold and with his arms tied, about to be beheaded with a sword by Yasuno Chikao. The execution was ordered by Vice Admiral Kamada, the commander of the Japanese Naval Forces at Aitape. Sgt Siffleet was captured with Private (Pte) Pattiwahl and Pte Reharin, Ambonese members of the Netherlands East Indies Forces, whilst engaged in reconnaissance behind the Japanese lines. Yasuno Chikao died before the end of the war.

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