Mercy for all?

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The Indonesian government has executed four people overnight, the first round of executions since the deaths of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran last year.

Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke and Michael Titus Igweh from Nigeria, along with Seck Osmane from Senegal and Freddy Budiman from Indonesia, were killed by firing squad in the early hours of Friday. The executions took place despite allegations of torture, forced confessions and unfair trials.

A group of 14 people were originally scheduled to face the firing squad. It is not clear why the other 10 inmates received a temporary reprieve.

Since the last round of executions, the number of drug users in Indonesia has risen from 4.2 million in June 2015 to 5.9 million in November 2015 according to Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency chief Budi Waseso. This contradicts Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s claim that a ‘war on drugs’ will deter crime.

The executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran, along with six other men, generated widespread media coverage, vigils and international condemnation. The latest round of executions received considerably less attention in the Australian media, despite the advocacy of organisations such as Amnesty International who actively campaigned for an eleventh hour reprieve.

The Australian government has also been less vocal. On Monday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop relayed Australia’s opposition to the death penalty to her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi at an ASEAN meeting. However, the government has remained silent on the overnight executions. This is in contrast to their response to last year’s executions, when the Australian government withdrew its Indonesian ambassador in protest.

The Uniting Church opposes the death penalty and regards it as a cruel and inhumane punishment which denies the ability of an offender to reform. In a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade last year, UnitingJustice Australia raised concerns about the Australian government’s selective approach towards advocating against the death penalty.

“The Australian government should be more consistent and clear in public comments about international death penalty cases. There should be no discrimination based on nationality or the crime committed,” the statement said.

The Uniting Church believes all human lives are precious in the eyes of God. A foreigner facing the firing squad deserves the same dignity and mercy as an Australian citizen on death row.

But the more subdued response in Australia towards the latest executions suggests we may be selective in who we show compassion for. Are we guilty of having an unconscious bias that renders us less sympathetic towards people who are not Australian?

Image sourced from Stefan Armbruster via Twitter.

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