Death Penalty and the Brazilian Case

by Tulio Konstantinovitch

While most Americans and Europeans were still worried about the killing in France inside the magazine Charlie Hebdo on January the 7th, another political assassination was happening on the other side of the world. This was the execution of a Brazilian man, Marcos Archer Cardoso Moreira, 53, who has been imprisoned in Indonesia for 12 years due to illegal drug trafficking.

He was sent to jail in 2003 when he arrived in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, with 13.4 kg of coke hidden inside a hang glider which he owned because  he was a former instructor. He attempted to smuggle the drugs into the country because he was still paying for medical expenses due to an accident in 1997 in Bali.

Although drug trafficking is a serious action and resoundingly should lead to a consequence, is execution the right measure in this situation? Also, shouldn’t personal circumstances be taken to court, so a fairer decision is made?

In the United States, out of the 50 states, only in New Hampshire and Florida can someone be killed due to drug trafficking. In the UK, the law forbids execution in all cases, including murder, and the same is in Brazil. According to the article 5 in the 1988 Constitution (the last one implemented):

Everyone is equal before the law, without distinction of any kind, guaranteeing to Brazilians and foreigners residing in the country the inviolable right to life, liberty, equality, security and property. In the clause XLVII – there will be no penalties with a) death, except in cases of declared war, pursuant to art. 84, XIX; b) of perpetuity; c) forced labour; d) of banishment; e) cruel.

His execution brought a serious debate regarding human protection and international law. The idea of sovereignty was strictly respected until the Cold War, but after that the international community saw a need of preventing and containing mass killing, genocide and ethnic cleansing. However, shouldn’t other countries intervene in regard of death penalty? To what extent is the maxima eye for an eye in the lex talionis  acceptable in the 21th century?

Indeed, other cases of being sentenced to death penalty due to drug trafficking have happened in Indonesia. In 2012, Lindsay June Sandiford, a former legal secretary from Yorkshire, was sentenced to death after caught in Bali, Indonesia, due to drug smuggling. Even though she has  not been executed yet, based on the Brazilian case that this will be her ultimate destiny.

Dilma Rousseff’s (the president of Brazil) appeals (2005 and 2012) to the president of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono secured Moreira’s survival. With the new president elected in 2014, Joko Widodo, a new appeal turned to be ineffective and Widodo showed to the international community that the law that plays in his country is sovereign, and international demands are ineffective.


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