How Indonesia executes death row inmates

How Indonesia executes death row inmates
Relatives of Australian death-row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran arrive at Wijayapura port to visit the prison island of Nusa Kambangan in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia, April 28, 2015.

Indonesia is expected to soon execute by firing squad a group of nine convicts, most of them foreigners, for drug offences on the prison island of Nusakambangan in Central Java.

The executions, which will be the second round under President Joko Widodo, have drawn international criticism and sparked diplomatic tensions with Australia, the Philippines, Nigeria and Brazil, which have nationals on death row.

The group also includes a citizen from Indonesia.

Widodo has pledged no clemency for drug offenders, citing a "drug emergency" in the world's fourth-largest country, but has said he was open to abolishing the death penalty in the future.


Prisoners are executed by firing squad, recruited from a special unit of the national police.

Recruits for the firing squad are chosen based on their marksmanship and "physical and spiritual health". They are given counselling before and after executions.

Inmates are moved into isolation cells 72 hours before execution. Families and religious counsellors are allowed visits up to a few hours before execution.

Prisoners are given the choice to stand, kneel or sit before the firing squad, and to be blindfolded. Their hands and feet are tied.

Each prisoner has 12 marksmen aiming rifles at his or her heart. Only three of the 12 have live ammunition in their weapons. Authorities say this is so that the executioner remains unidentified.

Medical personnel are on site to pronounce the prisoner dead after execution.

Bodies are cleaned and handed over to families, who wait outside the prison during the execution.


Nusakambangan Island has had a maximum security prison since the Dutch colonial era.

The prison complex currently holds 1,666 prisoners, including 54 on death row, more than 200 serving life sentences, and 82 on terrorism charges. It has the capacity to hold up to 2,625 prisoners. Around 500 guards are on duty at all times.

The prison has held a number of high-profile prisoners in the past, including writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer and Tommy Suharto, the youngest son of Indonesia's former authoritarian ruler Suharto.

The island also has a small fishing village, a Portuguese fort, beaches and a nature trail.

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