Australian lawyer Julian McMohan, right, delivers a statement to reporters after meeting with two Australians on death row, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, in Kerobokan Prison in Denpasar, Bali on Jan. 23, 2015. (Antara Photo/Nyoman Budhiana)

Human Rights Watch to Jokowi Amid Execution Revival: Make Rights Matter

JANUARY 31, 2015

Jakarta. Human Rights Watch has lamented President Joko Widodo’s insistence on reviving executions of condemned inmates, calling it a “cruel” position to take with no proven deterrent effect.

“HRW is seriously disappointed with the executions carried out by Joko’s government,” HRW Asia director Phelim Kine said in Jakarta on Friday.

“It is cruel, it is irreversible,” he added.

Kine was speaking at the local launch of the organization’s “World Report 2015,” which highlighted the promise of greater respect for human rights that was part of Joko’s campaign platform in his election win in 2014. It did not, however, address the execution in the early hours of Jan. 18 of five foreigners and one Indonesian convicted of drug trafficking.

Kine said Indonesia should follow the example set by other countries that had abolished the death penalty, and questioned the government’s argument that executing traffickers would serve as a “deterrent” to other would-be traffickers.

The group asked Joko, who has vowed not to grant clemency to drug offenders on death row, to reconsider his stance.

The Attorney General’s Office said earlier this week that seven more foreigners and four Indonesians, most of them on death row for drug offenses, would face the firing squad soon.

HRW Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono said several local and international rights groups had spoken with Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, urging him to abolish the death penalty.

Harsono said the groups presented numerous studies that capital punishment was both wrong and ineffective in deterring crimes.

“Joko is somebody who works based on facts and evidence. By doing this, we believe that the government can ensure a moratorium on death penalty,” Kine said.

The group urged Joko to start making the protection of human rights a priority, saying that the challenges inherited from his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, were immense.

HRW said sectarian attacks and impunity by the security forces had worsened over the years.

Last year, Joko explicitly promised to investigate past instances of gross human rights violations, including the disappearance of pro-democracy activists in 1998 and the 1965-66 anti-communist purge.

Joko also indicated in July that he would seek to end the government stranglehold on foreign media access to Papua.

He had not done any of this so far.

HRW said Joko should also address the impunity enjoyed by hard-line groups, which have launched attacks against religious minority groups, tolerance and LGBT rights activists and advocates, freely and without fear of prosecution.