DEBATING THE FATE OF THE BALI BOMBERS
[Jakarta, 29 May 2023] The question of whether a new Indonesian president should consider converting the life-without-parole sentences of four Bali bombers to fixed terms reflects a global debate about retributive as opposed to restorative justice. For many, the heinousness of their crimes in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people means that they should be given their “just deserts” and kept in prison until they die. For others, they should be given the opportunity to return to society if they are seen to pose a negligible risk to others and if their post-release activities can be designed to benefit the communities they harmed. All have been in prison for more than 20 years, a length of time that many countries consider tantamount to life.
“Retribution vs Rehabilitation: The Treatment of the Bali Bombers”, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), explores some of the issues surrounding the arrested Bali bombers after the controversial early release of Umar Patek, one of the core team of operatives, in December 2022. It explores different roles in planning and carrying out the attack, incidents of recidivism, and where applicable, post-release activities.
The report looks in particular at the four men serving life sentences: Ali Imron, Utomo Pamungkas alias Mubarok, Sarjiyo alias Sawad and Abdul Ghoni alias Umair or Umar Wayan. All have appealed to have their sentences converted to fixed terms, and since the highest fixed term is 20 years, this means that if granted, all would be eligible for immediate release. The decision is ultimately up to the president.
“There is little prospect of their release under President Jokowi,“ says Syafiq Hasyim, research director of IPAC. “After elections in 2024, however, a new president could see the cases differently.”
Restorative justice advocates argue that finding an alternative to harsh punishment is not just letting people who have committed terrible acts go free. It is rather that such alternatives might serve to deter crime – in this case, further acts of terrorism – if rehabilitated prisoners are given the opportunity to share some of their lessons learned with a wider audience than just other inmates. That argument may carry little weight, however, with the families of the hundreds killed and wounded in the Bali bombings.