Death stance is hypocritical – Tim Costello

October 11, 2007 at 4:59 pm (Bali Nine, Capital Punishment, Death Penalty, News, Scott Rush, Tim Costello, Uncategorized)

IN January this year I visited the Bali Nine in prison, spending most of my time there with Scott Rush.

Like Van Tuong Nguyen – executed in Singapore last year for drug trafficking – Scott is young, admits he was naive and wrong and reflects deeply on his stupid mistake. A fatal mistake.

I oppose the death penalty. And I believe that such opposition must be consistent and not selective.

For our government to plead for the life of Scott Rush and Van Nguyen but then argue the Bali bombers should die is inconsistent.

To our neighbours it appears the height of white men’s hypocrisy.

For the Opposition to now say “me too” – that Labor would never intervene for an Indonesian terrorist’s life but only an Australian’s life – does not enhance our claim to high principle in universal support of abolishing the death penalty in our region.

Our human rights advocacy seems subject to our interests and nationalism.

Both major parties have previously called for the death penalty to be universally abolished.

Now both the Coalition and Labor will pull their punches if Australian populism demands it.

Both risk entrenching our region’s cynical judgment that Australia does not care for high principle and we will not object to the region continuing to execute its own.

Our political leaders will only express some shrill repugnance when it is an Australian life in front of the firing squad. Of course most of the executions in our region, particularly China, are not for terrorism but minor crimes like theft and fraud.

Most of the world’s executions are in the Asian region, with at least 3861 people sentenced to death in 55 countries in 2006.

Only 25 nations carried out executions in 2006, 91 per cent of them in just six: China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the US.

If the political parties are to be taken seriously then let them advance a qualified opposition for the death penalty that terrorists are the exception.

Let them argue for a special category of heinous crimes that deserve the ultimate punishment.

This would resonate with the Australian public trying to make sense of why thieves and drug mules suffer the same fate as Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, who killed 88 of our fellow citizens.

It would be the escape chute for both parties who want to look tough on terrorism and yet are signed up internationally to total opposition to the death penalty and so dance and weave according to the public’s moods.

Personally, I prefer a global ethic that says the death penalty anywhere is barbaric. It is not a deterrent and the state as executioner suffers disorientation and disrespect.

For Scott Rush and the rest of the Bali Nine, their best chance is universal, not selective, opposition to execution.

Tim Costello is World Vision Australia chief executive

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1 Comment

  1. David Wolf said,

    If I have to explain why the death penalty is wrong then there is really no point in doing so. And, reserving the right to execute those who commit the most heinous of crimes is no different than a wife basher explaining that his wife deserved it. She may well have provoked the man into an uncontrollable rage but the moment he raised his fists it was he who was wrong. It was his actions that became the issue and not hers. Domestic violence is wrong and there are no excuses.

    There are no excuses for murder and there can be no grey areas in this argument. Surely, this is our message to the forces of terrorism that regardless of how justified, no matter how wronged we may believe we are, we do not take life and we do not cross that line. That is why we are different from them.

    If the Bali bombers are executed then in a few short years they will be forgotten. And, all too often, forgotten becomes forgiven and their deaths will be seen as payment for their crimes. The wounds will not be healed and those who believe these men were justified will see their end as glorious. I cannot understand why anyone would want them to join the two who died in the attack to achieve martyrdom. And in a war on terror where the majority of attacks feature suicide bombers, executing them rather than leaving them in prison for the rest of their lives suggests that both Australia and Indonesia have an ulterior motive.

    Indonesia seeks to force our hand to condone the death penalty. Mister Howard said that the Indonesian head of Anti-terror was insensitive when he invited two of the Bali bombers to his home for a ‘party’ on the eve of the anniversary of the Bali bombing. There was no food and no festive air as the bombers sat with arms crossed and scowls on their faces knowing how they were being set up to die. That the only other guests were the media showed that this was blatant manipulation of the Australian public. Do you enjoy being herded like sheep, too stupid to realise the truth of what you were seeing?

    Regardless of the fact that killing the bombers is tactically foolish, the Australian government can hardly object. When it comes time to plead for clemency for the Bali Nine, John Howard cannot claim that he is powerless because it was his government that informed on them and caused this to happen. However, if the Australian public demand the deaths of the Bali bombers, then how can we plead for clemency for the Bali Nine?

    In the end, all that will be remembered is that more people will die in Indonesia and the hands of our government will be bloody.

    DJ Wolf

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