Pubdate: Fri, 24 Jun 2016
Source: Jakarta Post (Indonesia)
Copyright: The Jakarta Post
Author: Asmin Fransiska, Giessen, Germany
Note: The writer is a senior lecturer in human rights at Atma Jaya 
Catholic University's School of Law in Jakarta and a PhD researcher 
at Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany.


The World Health Organization defines addiction or dependency as a 
complex health condition that often requires long-term treatment and 
care. Sadly, that is the case with Indonesia's policy on drug crimes.

To address the global problem of drugs, world leaders and activists 
gathered on April 19-21 at the UN General Assembly Special Session on 
Drugs in New York. Most countries represented moved from 
criminalization to decriminalization for personal possession or use. 
Some opted to regulate drug markets for certain types of drugs, 
mostly marijuana. Almost all delegates from the EU, Latin America, UN 
organizations and the special rapporteurs against torture and the 
right to health agreed to abolish the death penalty for drug offenders.

However, Indonesia was steadfast in preserving the death penalty as 
an effective measure to deal with drug problems. This stance marks 
not only a setback in Indonesia's commitment to human rights, but 
also a flawed reasoning to protect the country from drug trafficking.

Indonesian academics are among those appealing for evidence-based 
policymaking and the priority for public health in addressing drug 
problems, as they wrote in the Lancet medical journal last year. 
However, the current government has decided to start a new wave of 
executions of death row convicts, mostly drug traffickers.

The state indeed needs strong efforts in law enforcement and public 
health to reduce the negative consequences of drug trafficking. 
However, claiming that waging a war on drugs through executions is a 
powerful strategy to eliminate drug trafficking is even more 
dangerous. The excessive use of executions only demonstrates the 
country's failure to control drug problems.

National Narcotics Agency (BNN) chief Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso admitted 
the failure, saying that despite the executions, the number of drug 
use cases increased from 4.2 million in June 2015 to 5.9 million in 
November 2015.

The UN has called for the abolition of the death penalty for drug 
offenses due to the lack of a threshold to fulfill the "serious 
crime" category, based on the International Covenant on Civil and 
Political Rights.

 From 1979 to 2008 Indonesia executed at least 60 convicts, mostly 
convicted murderers and terrorists. Since 2014, executions were 
performed on drug convicts based on the drug emergency narrative. 
Death sentences have been on the rise without a guarantee of when and 
how this policy will be evaluated objectively and stopped if the 
policy goes wrong.

The war on drugs is an abstract reason for a state to deal with real 
problems in society where corruption, poverty, racism and 
marginalization of its own people are rampant. Drug trafficking may 
not disappear, but the crimes should be governed in an orderly way.

The disproportionate use of the death penalty requires scrutiny. In 
previous death sentences such as for Mary Jane Veloso of the 
Philippines, Rodrigo Gularte of Brazil and Indonesian Zainal Abidin, 
there was substantive evidence to show that capital punishment 
undermines the rule of law. Drug mules are at the highest risk under 
Indonesia's death penalty policy, rather than the drug kingpins.

Human rights outline principles, standards and guidelines to create a 
clear measure for a state to be able to fulfill its objectives. 
However, human rights are absent in Indonesia's drug policy 
framework. We have lost the capability to assess the real situation 
concerning drug abuse and thus have reacted irresponsibly.

Having assessed the characteristics of dependency, we could assume 
that Indonesia has faced the serious problem of failing to tackle 
drug offenses. The death penalty is seen as a quick fix and we have 
become addicted to it.

A better way to address addiction is proper and appropriate 
treatment. We can begin the treatment by setting sufficient 
guidelines and patiently educating ourselves to become aware of our 
own problems. We need to reform our drug policies and laws and 
transform them into scientific-based and proper evidence-based ones. 
In so doing we can capture the real underlying problems of drug offenses.

The treatment needs to be tested, assessed and renewed regularly in 
order to adequately represent reality.

Above all, respecting human rights is the key to achieving good 
results. Whatever drug policy approach we choose, human rights should 
be the mirror for us to set standards and principles.

Hopefully, we can stop the addiction to the death penalty in the long run.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom