Some time soon in Indonesia, five men will be taken before dawn from their isolation cells to secret locations. White aprons will be hung carefully around their necks, with red targets positioned over their chests. They will be offered blindfolds, and asked if they would like to stand, sit or lie down.
Then their hearts will be riddled with judicially sanctioned bullets until they are dead.
Indonesia's method of execution has not changed since a decree signed by its first president in 1964. The enthusiasm with which it is applied has waxed and waned over the 50 years since, but from his early talk, the seventh President, Joko Widodo, seems likely to be one of the more bloodthirsty. First in the crosshairs will be drug traffickers.
"I will reject the clemency applications submitted by 64 convicts who are sentenced to death in drugs cases," the President told a university audience on Wednesday on the eve of International Human Rights Day. These 64 official killings were necessary, he said, because Indonesia was in "a state of emergency on drugs" with people dying daily.
His ministers have occupied contradictory positions on this point, but the latest, and apparently most firmly held, is that five men will be executed by the end of the month. After that, according to the Attorney-General's spokesman, will come 20 more who have applied to the President directly for clemency but whose applications would be rejected "in the near future".
Although no names have yet been mentioned, and no timetable issued, two young Australians, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, of the Bali Nine, have applied for clemency and appear to be among the 20. (Contrary to erroneous reports in Australia, they are not among the first five.)
The President's approach suggests a blunt-force, mass rejection of clemency without the individual attention he is required to give under his constitution, and without taking note of Sukumaran's and Chan's rehabilitation. It has surprised, stressed and horrified their legal team.
The President's approach suggests a blunt-force, mass rejection of clemency without the individual attention he is required to give under his constitution, and without taking note of Sukumaran's and Chan's rehabilitation. It has surprised, stressed and horrified their legal team. "This is really a setback for Indonesian human rights," said their Indonesian lawyer, Todung Mulya Lubis.
It has also shocked people around the world who believed the fresh-faced, non-military President would behave more like a western liberal than an old-style Indonesian strongman. After all, in the decade in office of his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, only 24 people were executed – 10 of them in one year, 2008, to bookend the Bali bombers.
Dr Lubis, who was a legal and human rights adviser on Mr Joko's "team success" during the election campaign, believes the new President's tough stance comes not just from the hardline advisers now surrounding him, but from Mr Joko personally. "Jokowi would like to be seen by the world as firm, strong ... in going after drug dealers."
As for human rights: "It's not on his agenda, though he keeps saying it's on his agenda. His concern is to get as much investment as he can." In Mr Joko's cabinet, and in the Indonesian political system generally, killing drug dealers has no electoral downside. Quite the reverse. Although the main human rights bodies, Komnas Ham and KontraS, have opposed the executions, no single politician has spoken up to object.
The anti-drugs police agency, BNN, is an enthusiastic propagandist for the death penalty, saying it could not do its job without it. And the Indonesian law regards drug trafficking as an "extraordinary crime", along with terrorism, corruption, and, strangely enough, illegal logging. The last public polls on the subject showed in 2006 that 76 per cent of people supported executing drug traffickers – significantly higher than those calling for murderers to be shot – and that figure may since have risen alongside the rise in drug use.
Talk to Indonesians about drugs and they use words such as "rampant" and "scourge" and "killing our youth". The head of outreach at polling company Indikator, Kennedy Muslim, says an irrationally strong anti-drug rhetoric is related to "Islamic religiosity".
But he said a powerful political aversion to granting clemency to drug dealers – particularly foreign ones – could also be traced partly to Schapelle Corby's release earlier this year. As Corby was released on parole, followed by her family's reckless paid-interview debacle, the public outcry grew intense against the "marijuana queen" and also against Dr Yudhoyono.
It was as though Corby exercising her legal right to parole was a question of Indonesian national pride, and proved the President had 'kowtowed' to Australia. Popular morning TV presenter Najwa Shihab editorialised that returning Corby to Kerobokan prison was "the only way to shake the impression that Indonesia is under ... the armpit of Australia and unable to uphold the sovereignty of our own laws".
Nine months later, there is no bright note for Corby's one-time prison-mates, Sukumaran and Chan. As drug traffickers and foreigners they – as well as their families, their legal team and their supporters – are guaranteed a sombre Christmas and an anxious New Year.
INDNESIA'S TIMELINE OF MIXED MESSAGES:
October 14, 2013 ... Joko Widodo: Corruption is the "biggest enemy". "It is up to the people – shot, hanged, it's up to law enforcers. I think we should be firm". Joko Widodo: Corruption is the "biggest enemy". "It is up to the people – shot, hanged, it's up to law enforcers. I think we should be firm".
October 31, 2014 ... Jakarta metropolitan police narcotics investigation unit director Eko Daniyanto: "Recently, two inmates had their appeals rejected, so around December 27 they will be executed on Karya Island." Police announce a review of death-row drug inmates. The head of the national anti-narcotics agency (BNN), Commissioner-General Anang Iskandar, says about 66 cases are finalised but the convicts have not yet been shot. "I have urged them to promptly carry out the executions," he says.
November 13, 2014 ... Attorney-General's office: Two death-row inmates will be executed "soon".
November 19, 2014 ... Indonesia's delegate to the United Nations abstains from a vote calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. This is considered hopeful: in many previous years, Indonesia has voted against such a moratorium. The delegate is quoted saying "public debate is ongoing" on the issue, "including concerning a possible moratorium".
November 20, 2014 ... Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi meets two Indonesian brothers released from death row in Malaysia.
November 25, 2014 ... The Attorney-General says Indonesia will not carry out executions in a hurry, and will ensure all appeals are exhausted. "But once the appeals are exhausted, we will execute."
November 28, 2014 ... The Attorney-General's office says five people will be executed by the end of the year, two of them Nigerians. "Their rights have all been exhausted, so it now comes to the technical aspect [of when and where]," Deputy Attorney-General Basuni Masyarif says. Attorney-General H. M. Prasetyo says President Joko Widodo does not plan to abolish capital punishment and would provide no clemency drug traffickers.
December 2, 2014 ... The Attorney-General's office confirms that, under Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, three death-row inmates were given clemency.
December 9, 2014 ... In a speech at a university, Mr Joko says: "I will reject the clemency applications submitted by 64 convicts who are sentenced to death in drugs cases."