Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Howard's hypocrisy on death penalty being exposed in Asia

Writing in the Asia Times, Gary LaMoshi highlights the expedient nature of Howard's shifting stance on the application of the death penalty. As well as the application of double standards when it comes to the Bali bombers it appears to me that his hand wringing is more intense over death sentences handed down to white Australians (there was hardly a peep when the alleged 'principals' of the Bali Nine were sentenced). LaMoshi writes:

"Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says Australia will appeal to Indonesia for clemency on the death sentences because his country opposes the death penalty. That's only partly true.

Australia, which has no death penalty, opposes its application to Australians. But Australia had no objections to the death sentences handed out to three Bali bombers except to delays in assembling the firing squad.

"Let me make it very clear that every effort is being made by this government, in cooperation with the authorities in Indonesia, to ensure ... that those responsible for these horrible deeds are appropriately punished according to the full vigor of Indonesian law," Howard said after an appeal by the Bali bombers in 2004.

As part of its branding of the 2002 Bali blasts that killed 202 people as Australia's September 11, Howard's administration even paid for the victims' family members to attend the trials and cheer when the death penalties were announced....

The problem with Australian public anger over the Bali Nine is that they're blaming the wrong government. Indonesian police nabbed the Nine thanks to a tip from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), fully aware that the suspects would be subject to the death penalty. The AFP also reportedly assisted local investigators in building the case after the arrests, when there could be no doubt that the death penalty was on tap.

After encouraging Indonesia to nab the smugglers, Australian protests about the subsequent penalties give a new South Pacific twist to chutzpah. If the Bali Nine case teaches the Howard government the price of its hypocrisy toward Indonesia and the world, then these young people will not die in vain."

This latter point will be no comfort for the families of the Bali Nine. I think I know where the blame lies.


Anonymous said...

Do you understand that the Australian Government has a legal obligation and moral to apply for clemecy for Australian citizens in foreign countries? Why do we need to blame a government anyway? The Bali nine were aware of the potential consequences in what they were doing and it should not be our government (or our tax money) that has to try and rescue peole who commit crimes in countries that carry the death penalty. What message does it send to potential drug smugglers if they think that the Australian Government will bail them out of the death penalty? These people are giving Australians a bad name and can put stress on out realitionship with these other countries.

Mark Thomson said...

I am not defending the Bali Nine for smuggling drugs. I am criticising the Australian Government for adopting a selective approach to advocating the abolishment of the death penalty. I think the AFP should be condemned for facilitating the arrest of the Bali Nine in Indonesia, knowing full well their offences would likely attract death sentences. Australia is a signatory to international covenants against the death penalty. If Australia's stance is to be seen as something more than political posturing our government should provide leadership in advocating the abolishment of the death penalty in our region, and not stoop to being a glorified cheer squad for state sanctioned murder when it suits the populist politics of the day.