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The Bali two: deserving of a fair trial and punishment

By Mirko Bagaric - posted Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Condemned, lost and scared. That’s the predicament that the two members of the “Bali Nine” Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan find themselves in after being sentenced to death by an Indonesian court.

As the first Australian-based lawyers scheduled to meet Myuran and Andrew, we were curious as to what we would find behind the walls of LP Kerobokan prison. Shrewd, cunning and merciless is how they have been portrayed.

They are anything but that. They are polite, softly spoken, resourceful and seemingly considerate young men, who have never previously run foul of the criminal law.


They both grew up in the poorer suburbs of Sydney and toiled through secondary school, wanting to lead a better life than their first generation migrant parents.

Like most Aussie men living in this increasingly materialistic world, they have a strong desire to attain the latest status items in the form of cool clothes and fast cars. Caught up in what American sociologist Robert Merton terms “anomie” as a source of delinquency - a discrepancy between means and ends - they pursued illicit means to obtain legitimate ends and are now paying an horrific price.

Unlike some Australians, Myuran and Andrew were never going get far up the materialism food chain, at least not in a hurry. Their parents couldn’t afford to send them to good schools, they had no old school connections to tug on and with only secondary schooling behind them they were never going to crack it for a high flying, good paying job.

Despite this, through hard work and perseverance Andrew managed to work his way up to being a section manager at a sports stadium, while Myuran landed several clerical jobs.

Unfortunately they got short-sighted and tried to make a few bucks in a hurry and materialism-induced tunnel vision inhibited their capacity to properly assess the long-term impact of their conduct. However, as Andrew put it, “We are not Ivan Milat, we would never do anything that we thought would hurt anyone”.

This is a point that has been missed by some people. All legal and ethical systems have a hierarchy of culpability. Intentional harm is at the top, indifference or carelessness is near the bottom. That’s why we punish murderers more than employers who cause the death of workers as a result of unsafe work practices.


For their stuff up, Andrew and Myruan deserve to be punished. They accept that. They’ve never tried to blame others. And their attitude - despite their cultural dislocation and the privations of being foreigners in a Bali jail - is not one of self pity and attempts to make excuses.

They only want two things. The first is a fair trial to ascertain their correct level of wrongdoing. Instead bureaucratic considerations meant that Andrew and Myuran had only three and a half days to respond to the three-month prosecution case that was mounted against them.

Second, their punishment must be commensurate with their level of wrongdoing. To this they are also entitled.

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A version of this was first published in the Herald Sun on April 3, 2006.
Peter G Johnson OAM; Professor Mirko Bagaric and Richard Edney, are the lawyers acting on behalf of five members of the Bali Nine.

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About the Author

Mirko Bagaric, BA LLB(Hons) LLM PhD (Monash), is a Croatian born Australian based author and lawyer who writes on law and moral and political philosophy. He is dean of law at Swinburne University and author of Australian Human Rights Law.

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