THE BLOG

The Firing Squad in Indonesia

05/05/2015 15:14 BST | Updated 01/05/2016 10:12 BST

I went to the European Parliament chamber last week for a 'debate' about the death penalty in Indonesia following executions of Australians for drugs smuggling. A woman from my European Parliamentary constituency, Lindsay Sandiford, is on death row in Indonesia facing charges. Naturally, I wished to contribute to the debate.

I didn't want to talk about the issue of the death penalty itself, for two reasons:

1. It's not our business to tell Indonesia to abolish the death penalty

UKIP Leader Nigel Farage MEP is strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances; his deputy Paul Nuttall MEP is in favour of the death penalty for certain types of murder. Different views and opinions occur naturally in a democratic society.

The UK may have views on elements of the Indonesian justice system, of course, and we may wish to point those out through diplomatic channels but we should also recognise that it's a sovereign self-governing nation.

2. It's probably counterproductive to tell Indonesia to abolish the death penalty

If they think that we're opposing the death penalty in and of itself, on a point of principle, then they're probably less likely to listen to the specific reasoned arguments that can be put forward in Lindsay Sandiford's case.

I intended to speak of those reasoned arguments in the European Parliament. It is fundamentally, morally wrong that she should be sentenced to death after having co-operated with police - and being told that such co-operation would lead to a prison sentence not a death sentence. But it's also hugely counterproductive to Indonesia's fight against the drugs trade. If those caught feel that they can't trust an offer of leniency in exchange for identifying drug kingpins, what will happen? They will have no incentive whatsoever to assist in the capture of those who make millions from the drugs trade. I planned to make these arguments in the European Parliament, to urge President Joko Widodo of Indonesia to consider clemency in this case because it is in his interests to do so. Such an argument is likely to prove more persuasive than an argument on a moral basis.

Sadly, the 'debate' on Indonesia was shut down. The opportunity to speak was limited, with no chance to ask questions or respond to other speakers. I stood up on a point of order, asking for clarification and quoted the relevant rule: it says that they 'shall' call upon other speakers not 'may' and therefore doesn't provide the scope for debate to be limited. No answer was given on this point at all; they said they must 'follow the rules', which was my point anyway, just carried on regardless.

I am writing to the Indonesian Ambassador about the Lindsay Sandiford case.