Indonesian executions on the rise as election looms
Rei Firdha Amalia, in charge of international advocacy and death penalty campaigning at KontraS, answered Worldcoalition.org’s questions.
What is KontraS’s reaction to the four recent executions in Indonesia?
KontraS deplored and condemned the executions of five defendants in 2013. We consistently oppose the government’s policy of continued execution in 2013, after the end of a moratorium on capital punishment since 2008.
After Ademi Wilson (February 2013), the government executed three others defendants in June for murder: Suryadi Swabhuana, Jurit bin Abdullah and Ibrahim bin Ujang, all Indonesians from South Sumatra. Recently, on November 17, the government executed Pakistani national Muhammad Abdul Hafeez in a drug case.
KontraS has consistently rejected capital punishment as cruel and inhuman. The death penalty violates international human rights standards: most importantly, the right to life.
The application of the death penalty in Indonesia is also contrary to the development of civilized nations of the modern world. Abolition of capital punishment through legal and political mechanisms would raise the dignity of Indonesia in the eyes of the international community.
Executions are inconsistent with the current policy aimed at protecting Indonesian citizens from capital punishment abroad.
For example, the government has taken action to try and save Wilfrida Soik, a migrant worker from Indonesia sentenced to death in Malaysia after she was accused of killing her employer.
The government wants to show that it is upholding the law. But these executions are merely hypocritical legal decisions. The death penalty tends to target convicts from developing countries or countries that have very little political impact on Indonesia.
The recent executions indicate the Attorney General’s Offices desire to go through with more. The only way to end the death penalty in Indonesia is therefore to abolish it outright.
Why are the executions secret?
Since the death penalty is debatable, we believe that the government keeps some executions secret because they do not want to raise concerns from both national and international society.
The government is not ready for, and wants to avoid, criticism and protests against those executions. Secrecy is the best way to make the death penalty process run smoothly.
Why has the country decided to end its four-year moratorium on executions? Does this have anything to do with the upcoming elections in 2014?
Notably, 2008 was the year before the Presidential elections. It is no coincidence that defendants from relatively prominent cases, in particular the Bali bombers, were sent before the firing squad in November 2008, not long before voters hit the polls on July 8, 2009.
Current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was re-elected to a second term that year. The next presidential elections will take place in 2014.
The close relation between executions and politics rely on public support for the death penalty. Society still supports executions and the ruling party is seeking positive reactions from the public to get re-elected next year.
What action is KontraS taking in response?
In order to support the abolition of death penalty, KontraS has been actively advocating in capital cases. KontraS is particularly involved in the defense of Ruben Pata Sambo, a death row convict wrongly accused of killing a family in South Sulawesi in a miscarriage of justice.
In June, KontraS met with Attorney General Basrief Arief, who agreed to postpone the execution of Ruben and his son because of many anomalies of the case.
KontraS also campaigns against to turn the Indonesian people’s mind away from supporting the death penalty. For example, on October 9, 2013, we conducted discussions for university students in Bandung to change their mindset on the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty.
There is still a strong opinion in Indonesia that the death penalty is an effective way to deter future crime, despite evidence to the contrary.
Photo: display in an Indonesian airport’s arrivals hall