Monday, June 16, 2008

A Message to Indonesia

Until March 2008 I had no issue at all with your country. Quite the contrary: until that date my company sourced a significant amount of its external development work from Indonesia. This has since been stopped, of course.

The fact is though that I am not the first, and won't be the last, to form an extremely negative impression of Indonesia as a result of your cruel, unjust and disproportionate treatment of Schapelle Corby. I, and a growing number if others in the future, will not visit your country, invest in it, or purchase services/products from it. In addition to the economics, the reputation and status of your country is also seriously damaged and impaired.

From this point of view, surely even on your own criteria (whatever they are), the continued imprisonment of Schapelle defies logic (and I know for a fact that many of your own citizens agree with me). Even ignoring the 'trial' itself, which any objective international observer would find serious problems with, a wholly disproportionate sentence of 20 years... it beggers belief. Even more so when those found guilty of far more serious crimes in Indonesia receive just a fraction of that sentence. Surely you can see why this is such an issue, and one which won't go away?

So why don't you address it? You must see how Indonesia looks to people, and how impartial observers change their opinion of your country when the case is brought to their attention? Why don't you resolve the issue, and release her?

I have tried long and hard to try to understand what reasons you could possibly have for keeping Schapelle in captivity. All I can imagine is some sort of grotesquely misplaced national pride. But can't you see how it REALLY makes you look? Any nation which imprisons a young woman to demonstrate its own strength is not seen as strong, but as cowardly and disgusting. Can you not see that reality? Can you not see that changing position shows strength and not weakness?

I guess not. I can only assume that what we are dealing with is indeed a rather pathetic set of people, who wish to hide their vile nature by hurting those who cannot defend themselves. And trust me, many many others will reach the same conclusion.

Regarding Indonesia, a colleague from Manchester University suggested recently that in many respects the case and sentence were acts of state terrorism.

Terrorism? Well... most of the people in my locale who are aware of the Schapelle Corby case would be no more likely to visit Indonesia now than Afghanistan, Iran or any war zone state. And no, it isn't only through natural revulsion at what they have done and are doing to Schapelle, but a wider perception of how this translates to that regime's innate position and hostility to western culture and the free world.

The definition of state terrorism lacks consensus, but a number of aspects are widely accepted. UN Resolution 1566, for example, specified the following: "criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act."

Let's consider this for a moment. "Criminal acts"? This implies the breaching of a law or perhaps of a UN convention. Both these are clearly evident with respect to the judicial mistreatment of Schapelle Corby. The assessment on Schapelle.Net demonstrates systematic breaches of the Indonesian Code of Criminal Procedure and the UN International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. Hence, the case itself could be viewed as constituting a whose series of 'criminal acts'.

Now consider "against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages". Schapelle Corby is a civilian. Her imprisonment was demonstrably unlawful... thus she is being held unlawfully. Place this in the context of the Indonesian President making dark statements during the trial regarding "drug smugglers" and it becomes clear that the term 'hostage' is not misplaced.

And of course "the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons" is overtly covered because the 'group of persons' are clearly the "group of persons" who consume cannabis (for example) and may be tempted to cross borders in possession. Essentially, WHOEVER the message was actually meant for (and there was a message, so it was clearly meant for someone) Schapelle was being used to intimidate a group of persons (or "a section of the public" as defined over here in the UK by our legislation).

On the Indonesian Government's own commentary, we have a young woman undergoing severe mental torture to influence a group of unrelated persons. Perhaps the correct term for this is indeed terrorism.

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