Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Human rights, death sentencing, freedom of the press - it's all linked.

I am unequivocally opposed to capital punishment. I don't care what the crime is or what the situation is. State sanctioned murder diminishes the humanity of us all.

The two Australian men currently on death row in Indonesia, part of the so-called Bali Nine, will apparently be murdered before the end of the month. The state will take a series of steps which amount to premeditation and will result in Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran being shot by a firing squad.

I also believe that crime is bad and criminals should be punished. They should also be rehabilitated. In the event that their sentence will see them re-entering society, I want them to have the best chance to have options other than crime for their survival outside prison.

I want to be assured that inmates are treated as human beings while they are imprisoned. Poor treatment, institutionalisation and dehumanisation does not help criminals develop empathy for their victims or reduce the risk of recidivism.

This is my moral philosophy and I'm happy to declare it.

Last night's episode of 4 Corners took us inside the campaign to save the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. It struck me that these two men are getting on with their lives and are valuable members of their community within the prison. It's clear that they view their own actions of almost ten years ago as wrong and mistaken and that they are reformed. Their families and wider community outside prison have rallied around and would hold them accountable for future behaviour.

We saw inside Kerobokan Prison last night. We heard that even the head of the prison had pleaded for mercy on behalf of the two men. They're not asking to be released, just to be allowed to live.

I started to think about the Australian Government's representations and what support they may be offering to these men and their families. I wondered about the credibility of a Government arguing against the death penalty when they are running concentration camps, where they incarcerate innocent asylum seekers indefinitely.

Then it struck me that we have seen more of the "notorious" Kerobokan Prison than we have of our own immigration detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. As critical as we can be of a country that carries out the death penalty, Indonesia seems to at least be committed to the concept of freedom of speech and the role of the media as the fourth estate.

I don't understand how the Abbott Government seems to have no central moral philosophy. On one hand they can advocate for a free press in the case of the unjust imprisonment in Egypt of journalist Peter Greste. At the same time, they can be denying the media access to immigration detention centres. UN investigators aren't likely to gain access either. This is all happening against a backdrop of the royal commission investigating institutional abuse where the themes of transparency and independent advocacy to ensure accountability are being shouted daily. They can plead for mercy from the imposition of the death penalty, yet can rob all hope from asylum seekers and leave them in ignorant despair. The stealing of hope is also a kind of death sentence.

It's all so complicated, yet it's also really clear. We either advocate for human rights and all the mechanisms that ensure they are upheld, or we don't. It's not something we can pick and choose about.

I really hope that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran are spared. They seem like they have turned into excellent young men and learned from the stupid, serious mistakes of youth.


What do you think?

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