To Those Defending the Bali Nine: do you Really Stand for Mercy?

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were drug traffickers. They were caught red-handed at a Denpasar airport with seven of their mates, 4 million dollars of heroin strapped to their bodies. Their plan was to bring that vile substance into Australia. To sell it. To contribute to the addiction and demise of thousands of Australian addicts. To make Australia a shittier place.

For ten years these two individuals have inhabited Kerobokan Prison in Indonesia, and, in stark contrast to their preceding years, dedicated that time to the betterment of their community. They instituted initiatives aimed at educating fellow inmates so they could develop practical skills on the outside; they counselled inmates and outsiders alike against the perils of drug use; they’ve rehabilitated and reformed. Hell, they even got to hang out with Temper Trap.

But they’re still going to be shot in the head.

And that makes some Australians really effing angry.

“Stand up for mercy” we are told by a host of celebrities on a viral social media petition, which has already garnered 65,000 signatures. Because ‘its never too late to change your world’ and ‘your past does not have to dictate your future’. They implore Indonesian President Joko Widodo to let the two men live. To realise that no one is ‘perfect’. To let the men remain in prison – for life – because it would be wrong to kill them. Because human life is sacred and we can change history and all that after-school special shit.

‘There has been enough death’ added the Vice Chancellor of Australian Catholic University in an article this week; fervently encouraging readers to make a stand for these poor guys. To do anything less would be ISIS-esque he implies, contrasting the events in Martin Place and France – where ‘nothing could be done’ – with what he perceives to be an entirely preventable tragedy. Clemency is a legal alternative, he correctly points out. So the Indonesian president should yield. And two lives – Australian lives – should be spared. Because murder – even for serious crimes – is unacceptable.

Even old mate Tony has gotten on board, albeit with a little less urgency. Following the path of his prime ministerial predecessors by personally appealing to the Indonesian government – though not jeopardising their diplomatic relationship – to spare Chan and Sukumaran. He even spoke personally to families of the two men. Well ain’t that an honour.

Now let me be very clear, I oppose the death penalty absolutely. It is barbaric; carries with it unjustifiable risks (just see American statistics on how often they get it wrong) and displaces what many regard as the penultimate goal of imprisonment: rehabilitation. I support the stand for mercy campaign.

But I also support consistency.

If you ‘stand for mercy’, then you can’t be selective. Its not a one way street. Our nation’s leaders, a host of political commentators and the majority of the voting populace support the outrageous treatment of asylum seekers – up to 97% of which have been held to be genuine refugees by the government’s own data. 

This has included offshore processing on Manus Island and Nauru where allegation of rape and mistreatment are rampant; where there has been an explosion of mental illness, self harm and attempted suicides; where inadequate medical supplies have led to at least one, ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE death; where hunger strikes led to two more; where miscarriages are the norm.

abbott cartoon

This has included the withdrawal of proper legal services or procedural right to appeal a refugee determination; the offloading – at massive taxpayer expense – of refugees to the poverty stricken Papa New Guinea; the detention of children.

This has included handing refugees back to the Sri Lankan military. Where they will be tortured and killed in ways far less “merciful” then Chan and Sukumaran will be. 

So let me ask you – do you really stand for mercy?

The deterrent principle underlies both Indonesia’s drug laws and Australia’s Immigration policy.

In the former’s case, the death penalty is imposed on individuals who traffic narcotics – illicit drugs that cause hundreds of thousands of deaths per year world-wide – for monetary gain. Their crimes are not disputed, and they are provided open and accessible trials; opportunities for appeal (one of which saved another member of the Bali 9, Scott Rush, from the firing squad); rehabilitation programs and a chance for presidential clemency. The imposing government is accountable, which is demonstrated by the fact that we know all of the above and the morning news team can’t stop dissecting it.

Contrast that with the latter, where torture, rape and death are imposed on innocent men, women and children fleeing torture, rape and death. They have committed no crime, and are kept in offshore detention facilities where journalists are actively prevented from travelling, or never make it there on account of on-the-spot-extra-judicial determinations. They are denied the right to tell their stories. The government is neither accountable to the people nor adhering to international law and has been condemned as such for breaching international legal principles of non-refoulement, the UN Refugee Convention and UN Convention against Torture.


If you support mercy for Chan and Sukumaran, you cannot intelligibly deny it to the thousands upon thousands of refugees languishing in offshore detention camps, whose fate is dictated by our government. The decisions of our leaders must be underpinned by our consent or, at the very least our apathy. You’re opinion, and your actions, matter.

Show that you’re legitimate. Support mercy for all people – not just Australian citizens. Pressure your local MPs – Labor and Liberal alike – to oppose Morrison’s (and now Dutton’s) draconian border laws and support humane treatment and resettlement in accordance with international law. Correct friends and colleagues who refer to these people as ‘illegals’ or ‘boat people’. Write letters, attend rallies, volunteer at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (CLICK HERE). Tweet #standuptoprotect.

Because ‘your past does not have to dictate your future’.

Because ‘there is always another way’.

Because ‘I stand for mercy.’

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