The Boston Marathon bomber should not be put to death and Australia must vocally oppose the sentence brought down against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for his role in killing four people and the wounding of hundreds of others in 2013, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran’s lawyer Veronica Haccou said yesterday.
Ms Haccou said execution must never be tolerated, no matter how terrible the crime. Just hours before her clients’ executions last month she vowed to fight the death penalty, no matter what the circumstances, because of its barbaric and inhumane nature.
‘Whatever the justification for the death penalty, it is nothing but premeditated, state-sanctioned murder,’ Ms Haccou said.
‘What are we teaching the younger generation by executing people? Killing people is wrong… It is so wrong that we kill people to prove our point? That is not justice, it is vengeance. We as society do not benefit in participating, or being complicit, in such acts of violence,’ she said.
Ms Haccou, who detailed her harrowing ordeal as a mother, herself, forced to see traumatised mothers peeled off their children, said execution was something no condemned person, or family of such a person, should ever be forced to go through no matter what the circumstances.
She said it was always a situation of people with power abusing such power as no one had the right to take the life of another. And in the case of her clients, there had been so many inconsistencies by the Indonesian judicial system that it bordered on the bizarre.
‘Such behaviour by the president, who even admitted to failing to read my clients’ cases before rejecting clemency, is frankly beyond belief, when he knew he was sending them to their deaths. He had said previously that he “shouldn’t be expected to read everything”. Well, when it is about human lives, that should be the least he could do.
‘The inconsistencies were quite perplexing. None of it made any sense. Towards the end, President Widodo kept saying it was no longer his decision but a matter of law, despite his power to grant clemency. Yet, while choosing to reject my clients’ clemency applications, he granted pardons to three murderers.’
Ms Haccou said such contradiction was not the purview solely of Indonesia and was a potential in all death penalty cases, where cruel and inhumane suffering was meted out to the young and innocent as well as those found guilty of a criminal offence.
Ms Haccou, barrister Julian McMahon and Consul-General Majell Hind had been up for 24 hours before Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran were executed, trying to do whatever they could to help the men, their families and seven others slated to die alongside them.
‘To witness these mothers, families and two young boys visiting their loved ones for what, in most cases, was the last time, was difficult to bear,’ Ms Haccou said.
‘Seeing the two little boys of Mary Jane (Veloso) was particularly hard. Every single female guard in the prison had tears in her eyes. Many of the others were visibly distressed and apologised for what they were forced to do,’ she said.
Ms Haccou said she was so proud of her reformed clients who were overheard bolstering the courage of those being led to death with them, through song, before all were shot dead. It had proved the men were genuine in their concern for others because, at the end, no ulterior motive (as suggested by some skeptics in regards to their charitable work) could have been operating when choosing to relieve the suffering of those dying alongside them.
‘I only hope they heard of Mary Jane’s last minute reprieve. They were such thoughtful boys to the very end and held no malice towards the Indonesian people, who they had come to love and help through the use of their own money and resources. Their loss was such a waste to these people as well.’
Ms Haccou said reform was always possible, even in the case of the Boston bomber, and mistakes, politics and retribution often played too much of a role in the death penalty being imposed.
‘It feels to me like justice is just a game. Indonesia kept claiming the right to its sovereignty, yet continues to work hard to save its own citizens on death row abroad, including those on drugs offences. In February, the attorney-general was quoting an SMS Morgan poll saying most Australians were in favour of the executions, anyway. He said, ‘It is one of the things that pushes us to feel we are not making a mistake’.
These were good strong men who deserved to live and had something to contribute to society. They have asked me to continue this fight against the death penalty and I will. Nothing ever condones the use of the death penalty. Nothing is ever achieved by such actions.’
Ms Haccou said she intended to speak out on the subject whenever she was given the opportunity and said the Australian Government must remain consistent with opposition to the penalty in all situations without exception.