Shot By The Indonesian Firing Squad, They Died With ‘Amazing Grace’ On Their Lips, Justice?

Posted on May 1, 2015

By Devyani Nath:

On 29th April, 2015, breaking news engulfed every television screen, social networking sites, every news mobile app, as eight foreign nationals, convicted for drug-related offences, were executed in Indonesia. They went through a brutal form of death penalty where fatal shots were fired at them by a firing squad, as they sang ‘Amazing Grace’.

firing squad
For representational purposes only.

This recent event in Indonesia has generated a lot of fury on  the international front. Australia, France, Brazil, Philippines had all been trying to bargain a reprieve for their citizens. Only a Frenchman and a Filipino woman were lucky enough to be given temporary reprieve.

The method of mass execution currently being used by Indonesia to punish the guilty has been criticised at various levels. Some say that this has put Indonesia in the same league as Iran and Saudi Arabia, while others are commenting on how harsh the criminal justice system has evolved into.

The important point at this stage is – is this kind of capital punishment required for an offence such as drug trafficking? Upon a simple analysis of the various theories of punishment, this kind of punishment fits into the suit of deterrent theory where a criminal is prosecuted with the purpose to deter the crime. Hence, the prosecutions are often harsh, to show others what their fate will be if they try to tread the same path.

Drug trafficking is a crime that is increasing with every passing second. People carry tonnes of drugs in body suits or in their bags for money. Sometimes they are forced into committing this crime due to financial problems, blackmailing and various such reasons. At times these people are even unaware about the presence of drugs in their bags. Life is easy if they are not caught, but if they are, it’s the beginning of a journey of darkness. Drug trafficking has become such a serious crime because of its international character. Drugs cross borders, making these traffickers liable under foreign laws. In the absence of an extradition treaty, the accused are left to rot in foreign prisons for years before the governments can finally strike a deal. But yet again the important question is- is death penalty justified for drug trafficking?

Out of all the countries in the world, 32 have imposed death penalty as a solution for drug trafficking. With the recent debates over the use of capital punishment for any offence, one important point that has been argued in favour of death penalty and partially against it is that, it must be awarded in the rarest of the rare cases. So, is every kind of drug trafficking a rarest of rare case? Does every drug trafficker deserve a fatal shot while they are tied to a cross shaped metal rod? However heinous this crime, protection of every individual’s right to life is one of the most basic human rights, a natural right. There can be no justification for the violation of the same but for the rarest of the rare situation.

So let us all ponder over a thought- is capital punishment needed in this world? Can offences such as drug trafficking be curtailed by less severe forms of punishment?

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