Human Lives Are Not Ours to Take



By the end of February, two Australian men are going to die. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have been in Kerobokan prison in Bali since 2005 for attempting to transport drugs from Bali to Australia. They and the seven other young Australians who were with them are now part of our national consciousness. Whether or not these kids knew they could be executed for their crime when they amateurishly strapped the drugs to their bodies, they have now had ten years in prison to think about the outcomes of that one decision. They have felt the consequences in ways we can only imagine.

The arrest of these nine young people in Bali has had serious implications for us as Australians. When the Australian authorities handed nine of our citizens to the Indonesian authorities instead of trying to stop them before they left for Indonesia, as they could have done, or waiting to arrest them when they arrived home, as they also could have done, Australia was effectively saying, “we are willing to hand our young people over to other countries to potentially face the death penalty”. If it was your child, or your brother or sister who was about to make that mistake, would you want it to be the last mistake they would ever be free to make? Are they the kinds of decisions we elected our government to make on our behalf? Are we, as Australians, comfortable with our fellow Australian citizens being executed in other countries for attempting to traffic drugs? Is that justice?

AIVL is the national organisation representing people with a history of drug use. We work to improve and advocate for the health and human rights of people who use drugs in Australia, and around the world. We have a particularly close relationship with networks of people who use drugs in Indonesia. AIVL Executive Officer, Annie Madden, says “We all have a stake in the death penalty, whether Australian citizens are being put to death or not. The death penalty has been shown to have no deterrent effect on drug related crimes, yet it is increasingly being used around the world.” The United Nations Human Rights Committee and the UN expert on unlawful killings have particularly condemned the use of the death penalty in drug cases.

The decision made by President Joko Widodo in December 2014 to allow no clemency for people convicted of drug offences, a decision that has been put to its most final and shocking effect, is one that is already having consequences in other countries. Our friends, the Indonesian Network of People who Use Drugs, PKNI, have a simple message, “Jokowi, stop the executions. The choice between life and death is not our decision to make”.

Since Indonesia began to ramp up executions of drug offenders, some prominent Australian’s have spoken out. On February 12, Tanya Plibersek, MP spoke movingly in Federal Parliament of the life she and her husband have built because decades ago her husband, Michael Coutts-Trotter was allowed to serve his sentence before being released. He was convicted of a very similar crime to the Bali 9, that of drug trafficking as he returned to Australia from Thailand but Michael was convicted in Australia. After serving his sentence, he has gone on to become a high level public servant, a father of three, an advocate for better drug policy, and what most of us would call a valuable member of society. Andrew Leigh, MP, also spoke to Parliament that day quoting Bryan Stephenson, a US lawyer and opponent of the death penalty. He reminded us that we are, all of us, “better than the worst thing we have ever done”.

The death penalty is an act that allows no retribution, and no opportunity to make amends. It is the end, not just for the person charged with the crime, but also for their families and their friends. There will be no chance for them to use their experience to help others. If we believe in rehabilitation, we should oppose the death penalty for ANYONE who has been convicted of a drug related crime.  If we oppose the use of the death penalty, we should be fighting for the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, and every other person waiting to be executed in a prison in Indonesia or anywhere in the world.

For further comment please contact: 
Ele Morrison – AIVL International Program Manager on mobile: 0433940433 or email:
Annie Madden – AIVL Executive Officer on mobile: 0414628136 or email:

Candle Light Vigil To Oppose The Death Penalty in Canberra

Artist: John Carey

AIVL is holding a candlelight vigil to oppose the deaths of Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran, and the use of the death penalty in Indonesia.

The vigil will be held in Union Court, the Australian National University, Canberra from 7.30pm on Wednesday 18 February 2015 following the launch of the book by Bryan Stephenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Redemption and Justice.


Download the Media Release: Human Lives Are Not Ours To Take: The Death Penalty Is Not Justice – Stop The Executions in Indonesia

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