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Jakarta Post

Death row inmates treated cruelly: AI

  • Hans Nicholas Jong

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, October 16, 2015   /  05:13 pm

Prior to being executed, death row inmates in Indonesia often receive inhumane treatment as they are routinely denied access to lawyers and are coerced into '€œconfessions'€ through severe beatings, a new report by Amnesty International has found.

The report, launched on Thursday in Jakarta, painted a disturbing picture of what death row convicts go through before being executed as the government has scaled up executions significantly.

'€œIt is not a report we wanted to issue but developments in Indonesia this year forced our hand. President Joko ['€œJokowi'€] Widodo took office on the back of promises to prioritize human rights. But what we have seen is the government taking a hugely regressive step back on the death penalty,'€ said Amnesty International Southeast Asia campaigns director Josef Benedict.

Benedict said the Indonesian government had made a mockery of international law by carrying out 14 executions since Jokowi took office.

'€œThe death penalty is always a human rights violation, but the numerous and serious issues with regard to how it is being applied in Indonesia makes its use all the more tragic,'€ Benedict said.

The report looked into 12 individual death-row cases (out of a total of 131 as of December 2014).

'€œIn half of the cases, prisoners claimed that they had been, in some form or another, forced into signing so-called confessions by the authorities while in detention. These often involve violence and claims of torture,'€ said Benedict.

However, the Indonesian authorities have never followed up or investigated these allegations, according to him. '€œFor example, a Pakistani national, who was highlighted in the report, claimed he was badly beaten by police for three days straight, until he was forced to confess. He had to go through stomach and kidney surgery after the beating,'€ he said.

Despite this his confession was used in court and his claims of torture were never investigated.

'€œIn some cases, prisoners have been denied access to lawyers, some for a few days, others for several months. Even when provided with lawyers, there is serious doubt about the quality [of the lawyers provided]. In one extreme case, one defense lawyer even argued for the death penalty to be imposed on his client, even though the prosecution was calling for life imprisonment,'€ said Benedict.

He was referring to the case of Yusman Telaumbanua from Riau, who was arrested together with another man in 2012 for the murder of three men. Based on their lawyers'€™ request, the North Nias district court in North Sumatra eventually sentenced them to death.

Yusman did not appeal the sentence as he was not told by his lawyer that he had the right to do so.

Many of the prisoners mentioned in the report and charged with capital crimes have also been forced to wait several weeks or even months before seeing a lawyer, seriously undermining their ability to make their case in court.

Amnesty International'€™s findings show that in numerous instances Indonesia has violated the rights of foreign death-row prisoners by denying them access to interpreters during or before trial, leading to them sign documents in a language they did not understand, or being refused access to consular services.

'€œFor instance there is Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte. When he was arrested in 2005, he could only speak limited English. He only speaks Portuguese. Therefore, his interpreter was not capable of making Rodrigo understand the questions asked of him,'€ Gularte'€™s lawyer, Putri Kanesia, said on Thursday.

Furthermore, the court decided to ignore the fact that Rodrigo had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, which under international law should have spared him from the death penalty. Rodrigo, along with seven other convicts, was executed by a firing squad on Nusakambangan prison island near Cilacap in Central Java in April this year.

Despite more than 100 people still on death row, the Attorney General'€™s Office (AGO), in charge of putting people to death, has shown no signs of preparing for a new round of executions.

'€œWe hope that there is some rethinking going on in the government,'€ Benedict said.

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