Tran Hanh Thibich of Vietnam was sentenced to death after being found guilty of drug trafficking in November. (Antara Photo/Andika Betha)

Activists Condemn Upcoming Executions in Indonesia


JANUARY 06, 2015

Jakarta. Human rights groups in Indonesia have condemned on Monday the issuance of a Supreme Court letter instructing all judiciaries to reject case reviews filed by inmates on death row, calling the letter “unconstitutional.”

The letter, issued by the court last Wednesday, came at the time when the Attorney General’s Office plans to execute five inmates, identities of whom remained unknown.

The five were originally scheduled to be executed by firing squad before the end of 2014 but it was postponed, after some reportedly petitioned to have their cases reviewed.

According to media reports, the letter was also issued after Supreme Court  Chief Justice Hatta Ali, met with Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo and Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal and Security Affairs Tedjo Edhy Purdijanto last week.

The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial) said the letter had violated a 2013 Constitutional Court ruling.

The ruling allows all inmates to file an infinite number of case reviews, provided that they have new evidence, which can overturn their conviction or make their sentences more lenient.

“We call on the Supreme Court to repeal the instruction letter. If followed, then all judges will make unconstitutional rulings,” Imparsial executive director Poengky

Indarti said.

Hendardi, chairman of rights group the Setara Institute, called the letter “a tragedy in our legal system,” saying that it comes at a time when other countries have moved away from using capital punishment.

“Show me evidence that the death penalty has been effective in reducing crimes. Most countries have stopped using [capital punishment] because it has been ineffective in reducing crimes,” he said.

The death penalty is the maximum sentence for several crimes like terrorism, drug trafficking, murder and treason.

“A second case review can save a person’s life. [The government] is taking this away,” he said.

Meanwhile Anggara, chairman of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, called the letter “an intervention to the judges’ independence, which is barred by the 1945 Constitution.”

“If the Supreme Court does not revoke this letter, the ICJR will take legal steps to have it revoked,” he said.

However, Supreme Court Judge Gayus Lumbuun said the letter contained mere “recommendations” and that it was not a binding regulation or instruction.

President Joko Widodo has stated that he will not issue clemency to prisoners on death row, particularly those convicted for drug-related offenses.

Indonesia resumed the execution of death row inmates in 2013, under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Joko’s decision to follow the legacy has been met with massive outcry from human rights groups.

Meanwhile, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) agreed that there should be a limit to how many case reviews an inmate can lodge.

“A case review should be made just once, so there is a certainty of law and [convicts] will not file for one unless they’re absolutely sure they can overturn their convictions,” KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto said.

Bambang said providing convicts with unlimited opportunities for case reviews violates the rights of victims who want to see those found guilty punished accordingly.

Constitutional law expert Margarito Kamis said the Attorney’s General Office could go forward with executing those on death row after they failed on their second case review.

Such moves, he said, will not violate the 2013 Constitutional Court ruling, which only states that “case reviews can be lodged more than once.”

“Two case reviews are enough. If the [court] rejects the review, the prosecutors’ office can execute them,” he said. “There is no excuse for the government to delay a ruling from being implemented.”

But several criminal law experts have said case reviews allow those falsely convicted by the court to utilize advancements in forensic science previously not available by the time of their conviction.