As Mark Forbes reports in this morning’s Age,
Indonesia takes Australia’s quiescence in the hanging of Nguyen Tuong
Van as a precedent for the death sentences pronounced yesterday on two
young Australians in Bali. Foreign minister Hasan Wirayuda is quoted
saying “Like the case of the Australian citizen in Singapore, I think
after a while there will be a good understanding”.

It is important, therefore, to focus on the big difference between this
and Nguyen’s case. In the latter, the only complaint to make against
the Australian government was that it did not exert itself strenuously
enough to save Nguyen’s life. Our culpability, if any, was a matter of
omission rather than commission.

Bali is quite different; the nine Australians were effectively handed
over to Indonesia by the Australian Federal Police. So the Indonesian
government has much more reason than just passive assent to think that
Australia approves of the fate of Chan and Sukumaran: we are already
complicit in it, and if they die then the AFP, despite its protests,
will have blood on its hands.

Mirko Bagaric puts it very well in today’s Australian:

Sure, the AFP’s actions were lawful, but that cannot excuse
it from accepting moral culpability for the predicament of the two
Australians. After all, capital punishment has no redeeming features.
It is brutal and futile. The practice is so repugnant that Australia
refuses to extradite foreigners to their country of origin if they face
the risk of execution …

The federal Government should enact legislation to prohibit the AFP
from providing information to overseas authorities where this may
result in a person (Australian or otherwise) being executed.

But that is for the future: there is a more urgent task. In addition to
direct representations to Indonesia, Australia must disavow the AFP’s
acts, because nothing less will convince Indonesia that our
representations are sincere. Only the dismissal of AFP chief Mick
Keelty, who even yesterday was blandly remarking that “we have done our job”, would show that Australia was serious about trying to protect its citizens’ lives.

Peter Fray

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