Pubdate: Tue, 26 Jul 2016
Source: Jakarta Post (Indonesia)
Copyright: The Jakarta Post
Author: Yohanna Ririhena


Indonesia may have felt proud when its delegation was chosen to 
represent 16 like-minded countries at a UN General Assembly Special 
Session on the world drug problem at the UN headquarters in New York 
last April.

For Indonesia, its selection to read a joint statement on behalf of 
countries that maintain the death penalty showcased trust from others 
in its persistence to keep capital punishment intact. But Indonesian 
representatives to the UN forum received boos from many among the 193 
delegations attending the session. The jeers sent a message of 
derision for defending the death penalty as "an important component 
of drug control policy".

While 140 states, or the majority of UN members, have applied a 
moratorium or abolished the death penalty altogether from their legal 
systems, Indonesia has preserved with pride its tough enforcement of 
the law, particularly against drugrelated crimes.

Under the pretext of a "drug emergency" and based on figures that are 
subject to challenge, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has declared a 
war on drugs. Since Jokowi took office in October 2014, there have 
been two rounds of executions of death-row prisoners, mostly drug 
traffickers, with another round imminent. Executions seem like an 
annual ritual to save the younger generations from drugs.

On the first day after the Idul Fitri holiday, Attorney General 
Muhammad Prasetyo confirmed that a third round of executions before a 
firing squad was only a matter of time. Preparations have been 
underway over the past week for the execution of at least 13 
death-row convicts from Indonesia and other countries, including 
China, which will take place somewhere on Nusakambangan, an island 
south of Central Java that houses maximum security prisons.

The executions, if they happen, will not be the last as another round 
could follow next year with more than 30 convicts having already 
exhausted their legal rights to escape capital punishment.

Regrets and condemnation poured in, including from UN 
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, when Indonesia executed 14 convicts 
last year despite numerous calls for a reprieve. The executions also 
strained diplomatic ties, with close neighbor Australia as well as 
the Netherlands and Brazil recalling their ambassadors after their 
nationals were executed.

International pressure for Indonesia to stop the death penalty has 
not subsided. Jokowi's recent visit to Europe was overshadowed by 
criticism of the practice. German Chancellor Angela Merkel openly 
asked Jokowi to end capital punishment, but he remained resolute that 
executions would solve drug problems.

Indonesia inherited the death penalty from the Dutch colonial period 
and has kept it intact, although the former ruler abolished the harsh 
penalty in 1870 and removed all references to capital punishment from 
its law in 1991.

For a popular leader like Jokowi, the death penalty matters as it is 
the wish of his people. A number of surveys have found that most 
Indonesians support capital punishment, which is perceived as a 
legitimate and effective method to cleanse the country of criminals.

As a champion of democracy and human rights, however, executions will 
not only taint Indonesia's reputation but also undermine its ambition 
to become a major player in Asia and the world.

Indonesia has been pursuing a role as a global player, being 
recognized as the third-largest democracy in the world and the 
biggest predominantly Muslim nation, which has proved that democracy 
and Islam can live together. Indonesia, too, has engaged in numerous 
multilateral negotiations and bound itself to international norms to 
stake a claim as a global power.

Indonesia, for example, ratified the International Covenant on Civil 
and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2005, which signifies its commitment 
to respect for the civil and political rights of individuals, 
including the right to life. The adoption of such an important 
international instrument enables Indonesia to rank among other modern 
states but, rather than increasing its standards, the country 
preserves the cruel punishment that clearly violates human rights principles.

Currently, Indonesia holds a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, 
representing Asia Pacific until 2017. Citizens are proud of the 
honor, but ironically Indonesia ignores the very duty of a council 
member to uphold the highest standard of human rights promotion and 
protection both at home and around the world.

Executions clearly run counter to Indonesia's rise as an emerging 
power, a member of the prestigious Group of 20 (G20), an East Asia 
Summit (EAS) member and the largest member of ASEAN. As a nation of 
critical importance given its size, growing economy and strategic 
relevance to regional security, Indonesia needs to show leadership 
and set a good example, including in the global campaign against the 
death penalty.

What a contradiction that we are working hard to gain global status 
but do not care about our own record at home.

Executions have also failed to curb the rate of drug crimes. After 
last year's executions, we have seen an intensification of arrests of 
people in possession of or trafficking drugs, some of them security 
officers. Suffice to say, executions have provided no deterrence.

We must also bear in mind that miscarriages of justice occur in many 
countries when it comes to the death penalty. Indonesia is not immune 
to that, especially with judicial corruption considered entrenched.

Whatever the reasons behind the executions, Indonesia lacks grounds 
to appeal to other countries to show compassion to 281 Indonesian 
migrant workers currently facing the death penalty overseas. Stop 
capital punishment now and President Jokowi will stand a greater 
chance of saving the lives of many of his people.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom