Many of Reprieve Australia’s Executive Committee, including President Julian McMahon, worked on the Bali Duo cases. Below are Julian McMahon’s reflections on the anniversary of the executions.
At about 12:35 am on 29 April 2015 on the island of Nusakambangan, off the south coast of Java, in a little clearing in the jungle, 96 shots rang out in a huge sudden volley. Eight prisoners died, hopefully immediately. Quite a few people on the current board of Reprieve knew two of them personally, and some of us knew the majority of those shot. It was a tragic moment, and the reverberations of that volley of rounds are still being felt in many ways. We know two of those shot very well, but all 14 people executed in Indonesia last year deserve the same attention and care.
Most of all, the families of the shot prisoners suffer. In Australia, it is the families of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Long before the executions, questions of guilt and innocence, acceptance of punishment, reform and rehabilitation, generosity and helping other prisoners had been fully canvassed. But the harsh reality of the senseless brutality of state sanctioned, premeditated killing of prisoners tied to a wooden frame has been with the families ever since that night. Reformed sons, focused on helping others and making the prisons and prisoners better and more useful for society, had been shot.
This is not the occasion to analyse the whole affair. This week we need to remember that the death penalty continues, and last year significantly increased in numbers around the world. Many Australians became acutely aware of the injustices attached to the death penalty as they came to see in real depth the stories of Chan and Sukumaran.
Part of that story is the reflection from the families. Andrew Chan’s widow, Febyanti Herewila, recently wrote to us:
“If you are asking me what is his legacy…what is Andrew’s legacy…of course the first one is to abolish the death penalty. Second chance. People make mistakes especially when you are young like him. Give them a chance. Also Andrew wants the young people from around the world to learn from his life. Whatever decisions you make today it will determine your future. He wants all young people to learn from his life.”
We asked Andrew’s brother Michael for a few words, and he wrote:
“I would like to say that with the Anniversary of Andrew’s death which has been a roller coaster ride for the family to come to terms with the loss, there has not been a day that has gone by that he is not in our thoughts.
We have been blessed by the support from our Friends and Family who have gotten us through these tough periods would have been a lot tougher without them.
It saddens me that 1 year on and we are now talking about a 3rd round of executions in Indonesia. Countries need to look at ways to rehabilitate prisoners instead of executing them. We need to keep talking about this issue so we can abolish the Death Penalty for Good.
I know this was what Andrew wanted and also need to speak up for the rest of the people that are on death row so they can be heard.”
For our part, we will remember the anniversary of the executions each in our own way. May I suggest that on the morning of 29 April 2016, each of us spend some time reflecting on the good that came of the lives of those who were shot, the need for justice to be better served, the need for us all to do what we can to fight against pre meditated state sanctioned killings and the other injustices in our region.
President, Reprieve Australia
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 18: A member of the audience reads a pamplet detailing the plight of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan during the Ampuni (Mercy) Vigils at C3 Church, Toongabbie on February 18, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cole Bennetts/Getty Images)