Double standards: Indonesia is upset that another country executed their citizen.

A woman was executed in Saudi Arabia this week. The decision has angered human rights advocates – but in an example of gross hypocrisy, it has also angered the woman’s home country of Indonesia.

Siti Zainab was beheaded on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia after being convicted of stabbing and beating her employer to death in 1999.

Siti Zainab. Pic courtesy of Amnesty International.

Nainab’s story is deeply tragic. Advocates argue that she was a maid who killed her cruel and abusive boss in self defence. Amnesty International claim that Zainab was mentally ill and for that reason alone it was against international law to end her life. But Saudi Arabia was undeterred and executed her on Tuesday.

Zainab’s execution didn’t just anger human rights advocates. It has also upset the Indonesian Government who have called in the Saudi ambassador to explain why their citizen was executed.

The Indonesian Government’s outrage is certainly an appropriate action of a country whose citizens are imprisoned and sentenced to death overseas – but in light of Indonesia’s repeated insistence on executing foreign citizens themselves, their objections seem hollow and deeply hypercritical.

It’s cold comfort for Bali Nine duo Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and their families who are enduring a nightmarish wait for the firing squad on “Execution Island” that Indonesia is prepared to stump up for their own citizens, but continue to refuse mercy to Andrew and Myu.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran who are awaiting the firing squad on “Execution Island”.

Indonesia has successfully won reprieve for nearly 200 of their citizens facing execution for drug offences overseas. And the Indonesian foreign ministry said recently that it was currently seeking to prevent the execution of at least 229 Indonesian citizens overseas. The country reportedly paid millions of dollars to stop the execution of an Indonesian maid, Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad, who was facing the death for murder in Saudi Arabia.


More: Indonesia saved 200 of their own from death row – but still says no to the Bali Nine.

The double standards here are staggering.

As far as Indonesia is concerned, executing Indonesian citizens overseas is not ok – but foreign citizens sentenced to death in Indonesia cannot expect to escape the firing squad.

Indonesian President, Joko Widodo in unfazed by his country’s apparent hypocrisy: “That’s my obligation as a president, as a head of state … To protect my citizens who are facing the death penalty but on the other hand we have to respect other countries that apply capital punishment.

Except that as a country, Indonesia doesn’t “respect other countries that apply capital punishment”. They do whatever it takes to free their citizens including paying millions of dollars. Unless that’s what they are expecting from Australia?

More: Why won’t Australia save the Bali Nine?

Indonesia needs to stop being sanctimonious and quit the empty talk – if their citizens deserve mercy, then so do the citizens of other countries (or indeed the citizens of Indonesian who are awaiting execution in their own country).

Indonesia needs to stop being blind to its own hypocrisy and grant mercy to prisoners on death row – and extend to other countries the same rights that they themselves expect (or are prepared to buy).

It’s an unacceptable double standard – and the international community needs to let Indonesia know it.