Legal Magazine

Death Penalty Case Sparks Legal Debate in Brazil

Posted on the 24 February 2015 by Angelicolaw @AngelicoLaw

The drug laws in Indonesia are among the strictest in the world. Now Indonesia’s drug enforcement actions within its own borders are rippling across the world to Brazil with the execution of Brazilian national Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira as punishment for a drug offense.

Moreira’s crime was attempting to bring cocaine into Indonesia. He was arrested at the Jakarta airport in 2003 after police reportedly found cocaine hidden in the metal tubes of a hang glider. Indonesian courts convicted Moreira in 2004.

While the penalty for drug trafficking is death, Indonesia has had an unofficial moratorium on executions for several years. That moratorium ended in 2013, when Indonesia resumed executions, according to a BBC report. Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo said that the penalty would hopefully have “a deterrent effect” on crime. Indonesia executes criminals by firing squad, a method used by the country since 1964.

There is no death penalty in Brazil, which has not had capital punishment since it became a republic in 1889. The execution of Moreira came over the strong objections of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who lobbied for clemency from her Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo. Rousseff said she respected Indonesia’s sovereignty and its judicial system. But she appealed for that system to spare Moreira’s life for humanitarian reasons. With the execution date approaching, the Brazilian government suggested a last-minute alternative, requesting that Moreira be extradited to Brazil, where he could serve out his sentence, Moreira’s attorney told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Rousseff’s office said that while Widodo told Rousseff he understood her concerns, he could not commute Moreira’s sentence because he had been convicted under the legal process of Indonesian law. He added that Moreira was given all legal protections due to him under Indonesian law.

The respect of a country’s sovereignty dictates that one country not interfere in the affairs of another. But diplomacy requires that both parties communicate with each other in the effort to reach a mutually agreeable outcome. Moreira was one of six drug offenders executed in January, five of them foreign nationals. Those executions underscore the different perspectives countries have on what constitutes the rule of law and just punishment. It is also an example of legal actions taken in one country having ramifications on diplomatic relations. Following the execution, Rousseff recalled Brazil’s ambassador to Indonesia. The Netherlands also took that step, a response to the execution of Dutch citizen Ang Kiem Soe.

The death of Moreira is not the end of the matter. Another Brazilian national convicted of drug trafficking, Rodrigo Muxfeldt Gularte, remains on Indonesia’s death row.

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