Vice Squad
Saturday, August 07, 2004
Indonesian Justice

From today's Chicago Tribune (registration required):
An appeals court overturned the convictions of four Indonesian security officers implicated in 1999 violence in East Timor, a major blow to efforts to punish top brass over the bloodshed that killed as many as 1,500 people...

The verdicts mean that 16 of the 18 suspects tried in the violence have now been acquitted. The only two who have been found guilty--Guterres ["notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres," whose own ten-year jail term was cut in half] and the tiny country's ex-governor--were ethnic East Timorese civilians.
On the other hand, a man convicted of attempting to smuggle 13 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia was executed by a firing squad on Thursday. (He did not have the heroin on him -- he was implicated by two other men who were caught with the heroin.) His execution might be the start of a cascade, as there are twenty or more other prisoners placed on Indonesia's death row for drug charges. The point of anti-drug laws, of course, is humanitarian, to offer people healthier lives. Vietnam is not shirking its role in the humanitarian effort, by upholding four death sentences handed out for smuggling less than 8 kilos of heroin.

Heroin used to be sold over-the-counter in the United States and in many other parts of the world; possession of heroin in the US was not made illegal until 1924. Fortunately, we have become more enlightened since then, and have given fuller rein to our humanitarian impulses.

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