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Jakarta Post

15 foreigners among 48 handed death penalty in Indonesia last year: Amnesty

  • Agnes Anya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, April 11, 2019   /   11:10 am
15 foreigners among 48 handed death penalty in Indonesia last year: Amnesty Activists from a migrant workers community hold a candlelit prayer meeting displaying posters of condemned Filipina Mary Jane Veloso in front of the State Palace in Jakarta in 2016, demanding the government abolish the death penalty. (TEMPO/Imam Sukamto)

Indonesia sentenced to death 48 people last year, including 15 foreigners convicted of drug crimes, according to the latest global report on capital punishment by human rights organization Amnesty International.

In its annual report released on Wednesday, Amnesty explained that of the 48 death sentences, 39 were in drug-related cases, eight were for murder and one for terrorism.

In 2017, 10 foreigners were among 47 individuals sentenced to death.

At least 308 convicts were on death row by the end of last year, awaiting their execution without a clear date.

Despite its stance on capital punishment, Indonesia has positioned itself as a human rights pioneer in Southeast Asia. But in 2018, the country observed a moratorium on executions for the second year in a row after the government under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo executed 18 inmates convicted of drug-related offenses, including foreigners, in three batches between 2015 and 2016.

Nonetheless, Amnesty’s records show that Indonesia has not taken any steps toward abolishing the death penalty, much to the frustration of activists who point out that Indonesia is an initiator of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). The country is currently also seeking a fifth term on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

“As a pioneer of human rights in Southeast Asia, Indonesia actually has a wider chance to progress from the moratorium [to abolition],” said Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid. “It is ironic that Indonesia has yet to take any formal steps to abolish the death penalty when the global trends show positive progress. Neighboring Malaysia has even announced an initiative to reform the punishment.”

Amnesty’s report shows a global decrease in executions from 2017 to 2018, down by 31 percent, from 993 to 690 executions – the lowest number in the past decade. The number of death sentences globally also slightly dropped from 2,591 in 2017 to 2,531 in 2018.

Known proponents of capital punishment have even started to abandon it last year. For instance, Gambia declared a moratorium on executions, while Burkina Faso abolished capital punishment for general crimes and Malaysia announced a death penalty reform after previously decided to halt executions.

Usman said that eliminating the death penalty could level up Indonesia's diplomatic efforts to save roughly 188 Indonesian citizens on death row abroad.

“Well, how can Indonesia convince other countries to save its citizens from capital punishment if Indonesia maintains a legal basis to practice inhumane punishments at home?"

Usman urged the House of Representatives to push the government into scrapping the death sentence in the Criminal Code (KUHP).

Lawmaker Charles Honoris of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), who attended the report's launch, said that capital punishment was ineffective in curbing crimes, particularly drug offenses, given that the number of drug-related cases continued to increase in the past few years.

However, he shifted the responsibility to the government and the President, saying that the House was divided over the issue, with few lawmakers daring to openly voice their support for abolishing capital punishment. Therefore, the political will of the President was “key to starting the process of repealing the death penalty”.

The government softened its stance in the past few years by recategorizing the death penalty in the Criminal Code revision bill as an "alternative punishment" that could be commuted to life imprisonment if the convict showed good behavior. However, the draft’s deliberation has progressed at a snail's pace. (ipa)