Protestors calling on the government to step in to save Zaini Misrin, an Indonesian migrant worker who was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia, during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Embassy in Central Jakarta on March 20, 2018. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Indonesia Protests Saudi Execution of Migrant Worker Without Prior Notification


OCTOBER 31, 2018

Jakarta. Indonesia has filed an official protest with Saudi Arabia after the kingdom executed domestic worker Tuti Tursilawati without first informing her family or consular staff.

Tuti was convicted of murdering her employer who workers' rights group Migrant Care said was trying to rape her at the time.


"Upon receiving the news, I immediately contacted the Saudi Foreign Minister to express my concern and protest the execution carried out without prior notification. I also called the Indonesian ambassador in Saudi Arabia and asked him to meet me in Bali," Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told the press on the sidelines of the 2018 Our Ocean Conference in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Tuesday.

In a meeting with her Saudi counterpart, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, in Jakarta last week, Retno raised the issue during a discussion on the protection of Indonesian migrant workers.

Al-Jubeir promised to improve the protection of the more than 600,000 Indonesian migrant workers living in the kingdom, most of whom are domestic workers.

"I welcome the commitment made by the Saudi government to continue improving protections for Indonesian migrant workers," Retno said on Tuesday last week.

The Saudi government executed Tuti, a migrant worker from Majalengka, West Java, in the southwestern city of Ta'if in Mecca Province on Monday.

She killed her employer, Suud Malhaq Al Utaibi, in 2009 before fleeing the city with 37,970 riyals ($10,000) in cash and a wristwatch, only to be captured and raped by nine men who promised to take her to Mecca.

After her arrest in Ta'if a week later, she confessed to killing her employer, but claimed that it was in self-defense after he allegedly attempted to rape her. She also claimed that he repeatedly abused her.

Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, director of citizen protection and legal aid at Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has acknowledged that Saudi Arabia was not legally required to notify the Indonesian authorities.

However, Indonesia still sent a diplomatic note to Riyadh, protesting the action.

"It is very unfortunate that the Saudi government executed Tuti without even notifying our representatives in the embassy in Riyadh and consulate general in Jeddah," Iqbal told reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The government had been trying to secure a commutation of Tuti's death sentence over the past eight years.

Iqbal said the government had made three appeals, even changing Tuti's lawyers and requesting the replacement of a panel of judges, but that the Saudi court still decided to execute her.

The government's efforts included two letters President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo sent to the Saudi government and several other measures.

Iqbal said he went to Majalengka to personally deliver the news of the execution to Tuti's family and that they have accepted her death.

According to foreign ministry data, the Saudi government has sentenced 103 Indonesian migrant workers to death between 2011 and 2018. Five of them have been executed, 85 were freed, and the remainder are still on death row.

Civil Rights Groups Urge Government to Act

Local and international civil rights groups urged meanwhile the government to make concrete efforts to protect Indonesian migrant workers in the Middle East.

Boby, a representative of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union, said Saudi Arabia has poor working conditions for migrant workers, with no transparency and a lack of direct intervention by the government.

"For example, an Indonesian government representative is not allowed to directly visit a migrant worker's place of employment; they need assistance from the Saudi authorities just to enter an employer's house. There is a lack of transparency. That is why migrant workers are prone to exploitation and abuse," he said.

Boby said he expects the Indonesian government to include several clauses in an international convention on migrant worker protection in the upcoming memorandum of understanding between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said the government must take proactive steps to protest the Saudi government as the kingdom has violated diplomatic ethics between the two countries for the umpteenth time.

"President Joko Widodo has the authority to summon the Saudi ambassador in Indonesia to ask for clarification and deliver an official protest," Usman said.

He added that Amnesty International opposes the imposition of the death penalty for any crime and in any way or method, as it is deemed a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment that violates the human right to life, guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

"We also urged the Indonesian government to impose a moratorium on the death penalty as the first step to abolishing it for all types of crimes," Usman said.

He said it is not right if Indonesia urges other countries to spare its citizens, while at home such punishment still applies.

He cited Malaysia as an example where the government is abolishing the death penalty.

"Indonesia should follow in the footsteps of neighboring Malaysia, which recently announced that it would abolish the death penalty for all types of crimes, months after imposing a moratorium on capital punishment," Usman said.

Additional reporting by Sheany in Nusa Dua, Bali.