Events in Indonesia over the last few years have resulted in an increase of focus and criticism on the laws regarding drug related crimes in the country. There have been calls from various international organisations and prominent leaders for Indonesia to address the inconsistencies and severity in the sentencing that has come up in the most recent cases in Bali. It has also created a hotly contested death penalty debate that has gone worldwide.
The drug scene in Indonesia is one of great contradictions; Bali drug laws have one of the strictest policies with regards to drug possession and trafficking in the world, but it also has one of the highest cases of drug and alcohol abuse too. Indonesia’s size and proximity to the Golden Triangle, which is one of the biggest trafficking rings in the world and lies on the border of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, make it an extremely difficult terrain to successfully manage the transportation of drugs in and out of its island borders.
Bali’s Drug Laws
Bali drug laws are harsh and the sentencing for Group 1 drugs is particularly severe. If caught in possession, an offender can get a 4 to 12-year prison sentence. In cases of possession exceeding a certain weight, the offender can be handed a life imprisonment sentence. Trafficking of these drugs can lead to a 5 to 15 year prison sentence, and if the drugs exceed a certain weight, the guilty party can receive the death penalty, as was the case with two of the infamous Bali 9.
Discrepancies and Inconsistencies in Bali Drug Laws and Sentencing
In the last couple of years, there have been a number of cases where the offenders have been served harsh sentences including the death penalty, where others have gotten away with lighter sentencing. The disparities in Bali’s Drug Laws have been brought into focus by the cases below:
The Bali 9
The inconsistencies in Bali’s drug laws were most recently highlighted by the highly publicised case of the Bali 9. The Bali 9 was a group of 9 Australians that were arrested in 2005 for attempting to smuggle 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of heroin from Bali into Australia. Seven out of the nine Australians were given life sentences and two were sentenced to death. In April 2015, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by firing squad on the island of Nusakambangan along with 6 other men of varying nationalities. The only female in the Bali 9 group, Renae Lawrence had her sentence reduced to 20 years imprisonment.
Filipina Mary Jane Veloso
Seven inmates were set to be executed along with Sukumaran and Chan of the Bali 9, but at the last moment, the life of a Philippines citizen, Filipina Mary Jane Veloso, was spared. Although there was no formal statement given by the court about their decision, it is thought that there were developments in her case that may have had an effect on proceedings. It was also claimed that Vesolo may have been a victim of human trafficking and was unaware of the 2.6kgs of heroin that was in the bag she was handed.
Further inconsistencies were brought to light by the sentencing of Russian woman, Aleksandra Magnaeva, who was convicted of smuggling 2.1 kilograms of crystal methamphetamines into Bali. She was handed a 16.5-year jail sentence, not execution, because the court found that she showed remorse for her crimes.
Bayu Anggit Permana
In the most recent case, a prison guard on the same island where the Bali 9 duo were executed, was caught trafficking more than 350 grams of methamphetamines. The guard claims that an inmate at one of the prisons on the island gave him the drugs. Bayu Anggit Permana was sentenced to 12 years in prison just weeks after the execution of Chan and Sukumaran took place.
The disparities in the cases above showcased the unreliability and inconsistency within Bali’s drug laws, and they have been at the forefront of a widespread death penalty debate.
The Death Penalty Debate
The recent debacle of discordance within the Bali drug laws has fanned the flames on the already heated debate on the death penalty. Many prominent political and international figures have spoken out against the use of the death penalty as a form of punishment, included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
The Australian government also added its voice to the fray and even removed the country’s ambassador in Indonesia after the execution of the Chan and Sukuruman. However, the Australian government has also been highly criticized about its decision to allow the Bali 9 to be arrested in Indonesia and not on Australian soil, knowing full well what the consequences would be in accordance with Bali’s drug laws.
If the death penalty is used in a country, the question remains in where it should be used and who has the right to choose who lives and who dies? In the case of Bali’s drug laws, how were they able to decide that Sukuruman and Chan should be the only ones who received the death penalty? It was reported that during their decade in prison they had completely reformed and become model inmates who helped to counsel and comfort other inmates that had substance abuse disorders. How then, did they differ from Aleksandra Magnaeva if they too showed remorse for their actions? Why were they not given a reprieve?
Bali’s drug laws were also called into serious question with the light sentencing of the prison guard Bayu Anggit Permana. Surely his position as a guard in a prison, where most inmates have been convicted of drug offences, should have made him more aware of the risks and consequences of trafficking? Should he not have been handed a sentence as harsh as many of the inmates he was meant to be guarding?
The death penalty will continue to be a hotly debated topic for many years to come, and whether you oppose it or agree with the penalty, it is clear to see that there needs to be some sort of change to address the inconsistencies and discrepancies that are found worldwide in the sentencing of inmates onto death row.