The death penalty has no place in the world

Shattered and disappointed by the news that eight individuals convicted of drug-related crimes have been executed in Indonesia tonight, despite global calls for clemency. It’s a devastating blow to all of us who hoped that mercy (and common sense) would prevail. 

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso was granted a last-minute reprieve. But Rodrigo Gularte, Martin Anderson (aka Belo), Raheem Agbaje Salami, Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Okwudili Oyatanze, Zainal Abidin bin Mgs Mahmud Badarudin, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran lost their lives brutally and needlessly. 

Brutally, because the death penalty is always cruel, barbaric and inhumane. It has no place in a civilised society.

Needlessly, because these executions will not do anything to deter drug trafficking in Indonesia or reduce supply and demand. There is plenty of evidence that prohibition and strict law enforcement have little to no effect on the drug trade. If Indonesia wants to tackle its drug problems effectively, it needs to return to evidence-based policies that place public health over criminal law enforcement.

What’s more, the stories of the prisoners' rehabilitation shows the amazing capacity of people to be reformed in prison. Andrew and Myuran were among those who were shining examples of people working through their mistakes and becoming productive members of society. They were success stories of Indonesia’s prison system. And yet, they are dead now.

Instead, tonight's killings will have a significant negative impact on Indonesia’s standing in the world. They will certainly hamper the country’s chances to secure clemency for Indonesians facing the death penalty abroad, as has happened just two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia.

I hope some good will come out of these tragic events, as more and more people realise inhumane death penalty laws must end globally, now. As people unite behind the #IStandForMercy hashtag, public disgust for the death penalty grows and hope increases that an end to the death penalty is in sight.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: “The only difference between saints and sinners is that every saint has a past while every sinner (should have) a future.”

Everyone deserves a second chance. Let’s do away with the death penalty once and for all. 

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