'Jokowi, don't stay silent.' (Antara Foto/Fanny Octavianus)

Activists to Joko: Speak Up on Beheadings


APRIL 17, 2015

Jakarta. Activists on Friday criticized President Joko Widodo’s silence on the beheading of two migrant workers in Saudi Arabia this week, arguing that his resumption of the death penalty at home was undermining attempts to rescue Indonesian citizens on death row overseas.

Karni Binti Medi Tarsim was beheaded on Thursday, just two days after the execution of another Indonesian migrant worker, Siti Zaenab, who was sentenced to death in 2001 for the 1999 murder of her employer.

Migrant Care coordinator Anis Hidayah criticized Joko for not speaking out in public on the matter, neither condemning the execution nor extend his condolences to the families of the workers.

“President Jokowi, please don’t stay quiet, and stop the back-to-back executions of Indonesian migrant workers,” she said on Friday.

Haris Azhar, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) issued a similar call, asking, “Is the Indonesian government serious about protecting Indonesians [abroad]?”

The government has expressed regret over Saudi Arabia’s decision to execute Karni and Siti, arguing that the Indonesian Embassy there had not been given prior notice on both occasions.

“We have done our best to ensure the judicial process was followed and that she received her rights, but the victim’s family could not forgive what she had done,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Friday of Karni’s execution.

Retno said the Indonesian government had exhausted all avenues in seeking clemency for both Karni and Siti Zaenab.

Representatives from the Indonesian Consulate General in Jeddah met with Karni 33 times from September 2012 until her death. The 37-year-old Central Java native was found guilty of murdering her employer’s 4-year-old child and given the death penalty in January last year.

Both former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and President Joko sent letters to the Saudi king for clemency, leading to the postponement of the execution.

Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the Foreign Ministry’s director of consular and legal affairs, said Indonesian diplomats last met Karni in prison on Wednesday, a day before she was beheaded.

“During the one-and-a-half-hour visit, prison authorities never informed us that Karni would be executed the following day,” he said. “We will file a protest to the Saudi Arabian government. Though we knew [the execution would happen], we were never informed when and where. This goes against common practice in international diplomacy.”

Rights activists called the execution “sad and cruel,” but they also blamed the double standard of Joko's government on the death penalty for costing it any moral leverage it may have had in trying to stay Siti’s execution.

“This is a lesson for the president, the foreign minister, the Attorney General’s Office and other relevant parties not to use double standards, so that our diplomatic approaches to rescue Indonesian migrant workers on death row will be fruitful,” Haris said.

Indonesia is poised to execute 10 convicts, of whom all but one are foreigners.