Bali bombers to face firing squad

Three men convicted of involvement in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, which killed 202 people and injured a further 209, are to be executed in early November. The announcement was made by a spokesman for the Indonesian Attorney General’s office on 24 October.

Amrozi bin H Nurhasyim, his brother Ali Ghufron and Imam Samudera, were sentenced to death by the Denpasar District Court in 2003. They were convicted for their part in three bombs which exploded in two nightclubs on the Indonesian island on 12 October 2002. The majority of the dead and injured were tourists.

Some time in November, officials from the Indonesian government will take the three men from their cells in Nusakambangan prison, to a field, where they will be blindfolded, placed before a firing squad and shot through the heart.

In the past few months Indonesia has moved away from the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty and has stepped up the number of executions. Up until June 2008, Indonesia had executed just 11 people in the last decade. The execution of the Bali bombers will bring the number of executions in the last six months to 10. At least a further 107 people are believed to be on death row.

The rise in the number of executions flies in the face of the UN General Assembly Resolution 62/149 of 18 December 2007, which calls for a moratorium on executions. The death sentences of Amrozi, Ghufron and Samudera also violate Article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ratified by Indonesia in 2006) as well as the Indonesian Constitution – both of which ban the retroactive application of criminal laws. The three were tried and sentenced to death under the Law on Combating Criminal Acts of Terrorism, brought into force after the 2002 bombings. Nevertheless the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected the three men’s appeal on these grounds in 2007.

Heads of state of abolitionist countries within the region, including Timor-Leste and New Zealand (which lost citizens in the bombings), have publically stated their opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances, specifically including the case of the Bali bombers. Other states in the region yet to take such a principled stand include Australia, which has abolished the death penalty.

While the Bali attacks were a horrific atrocity, Amnesty International firmly believes that to continue the cycle of violence through state sanctioned killing will not bring redress for the victims, and furthermore answers the violation of human rights with further violations.

The organization says that there is no reliable evidence that the death penalty deters future criminal acts, and in this particular case, the executions may only serve to perpetuate such atrocities. There is a serious risk that the executions will turn the bombers from murderers to martyrs, whose memories will be used to increase support and recruitment to their cause. As the executions approach, the three men themselves have made very public calls for their supporters to seek retribution for their deaths.

Amnesty International says that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state. It is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment that violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner. The organization calls on Indonesia to draw a line under its policy of escalating executions and to establish an immediate moratorium with a view to abolition. The sentences of people awaiting execution on death row should be commuted without exception.