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October 24 2008 | INDONESIA


Firing squad not torture, says High Court

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The Age

Firing squad not torture, says court

INDONESIA'S highest court has ruled that death by firing squad does not amount to torture.

Rejecting an appeal launched by the men facing execution for the bombings in Bali in 2002, the judge observed that there was "no method of execution without pain".

In the Constitutional Court, Judge Mohammad Mahfud denied the application of Mukhlas, Amrozi and Imam Samudra to be killed by the traditional Islamic method of beheading.

"The feeling of pain suffered by those convicted of the death penalty is the logical consequence attached to the process of death," he said.

Alternative methods of execution had "the risk of inaccuracy in the execution which, in the end, will create pain".

New light was shed on Indonesia's method of execution from a witness to the killing earlier this year of 2 Nigerian men found guilty of trafficking heroin.

Father Charlie Burrows, a Catholic priest who has lived in Indonesia for 35 years, said it took 7 minutes for the men to die after they were shot.

As the men moaned, the firing squad's leader was apparently unprepared to take the action stipulated in detailed regulations if life lingers: firing a bullet into the head at point-blank range.

The legal team representing the Bali bombers called Father Burrows as a witness before the Constitutional Court.

While the court yesterday upheld the legality of death by firing squad and, last year, the death penalty itself, it has expressed serious reservations about how it is used in Indonesia.

Yesterday it urged a more humane approach to executions.

In its 2007 verdict, the court observed: "The death penalty is truly frightening. In the death penalty, humans act as if they have taken over the role of God in determining someone's life and death."

The majority of judges in 2007 urged that the death penalty be amended so it is used only in special cases.

Moreover, it recommended that a probation period of 10 years be attached to the death penalty.

If the prisoner exhibits remorse and behaves well, then the death sentence would be commuted to life or 20 years in prison, depending on the circumstances.

It's a proposal that gives heart to the Australians on death row in Bali's Kerobokan Prison for drug smuggling.

Scott Rush's legal team, led by Darwin QC Colin McDonald, is expected to use the arguments when it launches an appeal against his sentence.

Yesterday's verdict had no direct legal bearing on the fate of the Bali bombers, as it could not be made retrospective.

Even so, a ruling in favour of their application would have caused major political and security headaches ahead of their impending deaths.

Indonesian Attorney-General Hendarman Supandji has said he will announce the month of the mens' executions on Friday.

He has stressed that there are no obstacles, and they will occur this year.

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