HRW: Indonesia's death penalty for drug-related convictions 'deplorable'

HRW: Indonesia's death penalty for drug-related convictions 'deplorable'
An ambulance transports the body of Dutch national Ang Kiem Soei from Nusa Kambangan prison, where five of six prisoners were executed, at Wijayapura quay, Cilacap, Central Java, January 18, 2015.

The application of the death penalty for inmates convicted on drug trafficking charges is intolerable as international human rights law has limited the use of the death penalty to only "the most serious crimes", typically crimes resulting in death or grievous bodily harm, a New York-based rights group has said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted that the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee and the UN expert on unlawful killings have condemned using the death penalty in drug cases. The UN high commissioner for human rights and the director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime have likewise expressed grave concerns about the application of the death penalty for drug offences, it said.

"All this makes Indonesia's application of the death penalty for drug-related convictions particularly odious," HRW's deputy director for Asia division, Phelim Kine, said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Six death row inmates convicted on drug trafficking charges, namely Ang Kin Soei (who was Dutch), Daniel Enemuo (Nigerian), Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira (Brazilian), Namaona Denis (Nigerian), Rani Andriani alias Melisia Aprilia (Indonesian) and Tran Thi Bich Hanh (Vietnamese), were executed by firing squad early on Sunday.

According to Kine, the government's decision to execute the six convicts contradicted its moves to save Indonesian citizens being threatened with the death penalty in other countries.

Citing an example, he said, the Indonesian government was working hard to prevent Saudi Arabia from executing Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad, a domestic worker who has been on death row since 2010 for allegedly murdering and robbing her Saudi employer's wife.

The Indonesian government has launched a formal appeal to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to pardon Satinah. The paying to the victim's family of a legally recognised "blood debt" equivalent to US$1.9 million (S$2.52 million) in late 2014 paved the way for that possible pardon, so Satinah may be spared execution.

Kine said Moreira, one of the six executed convicts, had been no less deserving of the Indonesian government's mercy than Satinah.

The Brazilian citizen, who was on death row in Indonesia since 2003 for drug smuggling, was less fortunate, however. According to Moreira's lawyer, the government had denied requests by the Brazilian government to extradite Moreira in order to allow him to serve a prison sentence in Brazil.

Kine said the Indonesian government's pursuit of clemency for Satinah in Saudi Arabia while ignoring its own continued use of the death penalty was more than just about hypocrisy over the right to life.

"It's an expression of recently elected President Joko Widodo's avowed support for the death penalty as an 'important shock therapy' for drug-law violators," he said.

Last month, the President denied petitions for clemency submitted by five of the ultimately executed convicts saying that the drug traffickers on death row had destroyed the future of the nation.

Sunday's executions were the first since the use of the death penalty on March 15, 2013, when Adami Wilson, a 48-year-old Malawian national convicted in 2004 of smuggling one kilogram of heroin into Indonesia, was killed by firing squad, a sentence that marked the end of a four-year unofficial moratorium on capital punishment.

"The President has an opportunity to demonstrate wise leadership by recognising the well-documented failure of the death penalty as a crime deterrent and joining the growing number of countries that have abolished capital punishment," said Kine.

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