Why the death penalty has no place in the modern world

chansukumaran

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, as my life has been insanely busy between work and being fortunate enough to travel for my writing research. My last post was on mercy which in the end was not granted to Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan. They were both shot through the heart by firing squad on a Balinese island last month. I heard the news while I was travelling in Greece and although I’d prepared for it, the sadness and injustice of it all lingered over the rest of my journey. I could get into the reasons as to why these men were so terribly let down by the legal systems of both Australia and Indonesia, but Australian journalist Waleed Aly does this so much more eloquently than I ever could.

What most surprised me during it all was the level of anger shown by Australian’s and Indonesian’s who supported the killings. Their reasons ran a familiar thread. That Sukumaran and Chan were convicted drug dealers. That they knew what they had gotten themselves into. That the laws of Indonesia must be respected and that because of people like Chan and Sukumaran, people die from drugs. On social media those supporting the pair and their clemency bids, were aggressively targeted; accused of being ‘soft’ or ‘bleeding hearts’ (the irony of the last one doesn’t escape me), unfriended and bullied. Myuran Sukumaran’s good friend artist Ben Quilty received threats for his loyal and unyielding support. This same man who worked as a war artist for the Australian army in Afghanistan and who emphatically painted soldiers, “diggers” suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome. When did our society decide violence was ok, and how did we get like this?

It also made me wonder if those who condemned these men with such vitriol, had ever watched another human being shot, or hung, or beheaded or poisoned, all preferred methods of death in countries that still have the death penalty. I mention this because after five years of researching war my eyes are well and truly versed in the reality of such violence, and it horrifies me. It also horrifies me that calls for compassion and mercy can be met with such hate. I don’t condone drug dealing but I feel that the problem is a social one, and that our ignorance of this fact makes the problem far worse. I will always oppose the death penalty because regardless of the offence, it has no place in a peaceful and progressive society.

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