The death penalty is our positive law. So said Indonesian President Joko Widodo in defence of his country’s decision to execute drug smugglers.

Widodo was responding to Australia’s human rights commissioner, Gillian Triggs, who suggested foreign aid to Indonesia and other countries in the Asia Pacific region should hinge on the country’s human rights records.

“My duty as president of Indonesia is to carry out the law and I’m sure other countries will understand this,” said Widodo. “Every day 50 young Indonesians die. In one year that is 18,000 dead. I hope they understand about that.”

As reported by The Guardian, Australia withdrew the ambassador to Indonesia for “consultations” after the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran last month along with six others: Nigerians Raheem Salami, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Okwudili Oyatanze and Martin Anderson; Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte and Indonesian Zainal Abidin.

Widodo refused to grant the pair clemency and has insisted the sovereignty of Indonesia must be respected by Australia.

Triggs has criticised the executions saying the death penalty was becoming an “increasingly cruel and out-of-place” practice.

“That the execution of those trafficking in drugs is contrary to international law is strongly arguable,” Triggs wrote in a column for Fairfax Media, Australasia’s leading media company.