Pubdate: Sun, 13 Jul 2008
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2008 The New York Times Company
Author: Peter Gelling


JAKARTA, Indonesia -- This country has resumed executions for serious 
drug crimes after a four-year hiatus, and Indonesia's attorney 
general has warned drug offenders on death row that their executions 
may now be accelerated.

The resumption follows a decision last year by Indonesia's 
Constitutional Court that upheld the death penalty for serious drug offenses.

Two Nigerians convicted of drug trafficking were the first to be 
executed for drug crimes after the long break. The two, Samuel 
Iwachekwu Okoye and Hansen Anthony Nwaliosa, were put to death on June 26.

All executions in Indonesia are by firing squad. Prisoners are taken 
to a field to stand in front of 12 men who each fire one shot aimed 
at the chest. If that barrage does not kill the prisoner, a commander 
stands ready to fire a point-blank shot to the head.

Although Indonesia is known for some of the world's strictest 
penalties for drug offenses, Kathryn Duff, a representative of 
Amnesty International, said the country was "not typically an 
enthusiastic executioner."

Indeed, Indonesia had suspended executions for drug offenders while 
the court was considering the constitutional case and had not put 
drug offenders to death for two years before that while prisoners 
pursued judicial reviews and clemency, said A. H. Ritonga, a deputy 
attorney general.

Mr. Ritonga said the statement last month by the attorney general, 
Hendarman Supandji, about speeding up executions did not necessarily 
mean all 58 prisoners on death row for drug-related crimes would be 
executed soon. "Death row inmates will only be executed according to 
the law, after their appeals are exhausted," Mr. Ritonga said, adding 
that they can also apply for clemency.

The president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has publicly said, however, 
that he would not pardon drug offenders.

Using the death penalty for drug offenses had been challenged by 
three Australians sentenced to death for trying to smuggle heroin off 
the resort island of Bali, and by two Indonesians. Last October, the 
Constitutional Court ruled that a constitutional amendment upholding 
the right to life did not apply to capital punishment. The court 
added that the right to life had to be balanced against the rights of 
the victims of drug trafficking.

Indonesia executed the two Nigerians on the International Day Against 
Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, as a message to those trafficking 
drugs through the country.

Indonesia is fighting an epidemic of drug abuse. Its population of 
238 million includes an estimated 18 million addicts, according to 
the Ministry of Health.

There are 112 felons on death row. Seven have exhausted appeals and 
may be executed soon; they include three prisoners convicted in the 
2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, according to the attorney 
general's office. Eighteen other prisoners have appealed for clemency.

Indonesia executed only three prisoners in 2006, the year before the 
death penalty challenge was filed. By comparison, according to 
Amnesty International, China is estimated to have executed at least 
1,000 prisoners that year; Iran executed 177; and Pakistan, 82. In 
the United States, there were 53 executions.

Still, President Yudhoyono has been a staunch supporter of the death 
penalty since taking office in October 2004, rarely granting clemency.

He went ahead with the executions of three men who had been convicted 
in connection with attacks by a Christian militia on Muslims, despite 
concerns from international human rights groups that not all the 
evidence had been presented during their trial.

So far, Mr. Yudhoyono, a former general, also has not bowed to 
pressure from Australia to commute the death sentence of the three 
Australians imprisoned for trying to smuggle heroin.

The three are entitled to seek one more judicial review and, should 
that fail, to appeal for clemency. 
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