Heavily armed police officers surround Myuran Sukumaran, a convicted Australian drug trafficker, who is scheduled to be executed soon. (Antara Photo/Nyoman Budhiana)

Indonesian Bishops, Migrant Activists Reject Death Penalty


FEBRUARY 27, 2015

Jakarta. The death penalty is an inhuman form of punishment and not effective in deterring crime, the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) said on Friday, ahead of the pending execution of 11 drug convicts.

"Apart from moral considerations, we deem the death penalty ineffective and inhuman," Pastor P.C. Siswantoko, the executive secretary of the KWI's Commission for Justice and Peace, said at a discussion on Friday.

The pastor said that to tackle drug-related crime, consistency in the rule of law should be the government's priority.

"Crime, especially the problem of drugs, will not decrease as long as law enforcers are not even-handed in carrying out their duties," Siswantoko said.

He added that the government should also try to make the market for drugs smaller — by developing strategies to prevent youths from falling prey to substance abuse — instead of merely trying to cut supply.

The religious leader also described capital punishment as a violation of human rights that causes immense suffering and amounts to torture of the convict, citing in particular the long wait before execution.

"This is extraordinarily vicious, to make someone wait for death instead of freedom," Siswantoko said, mentioning also the possibility of convicts becoming the subject of political maneuvers or the fatal victims of miscarriages of justice.

A total of 11 drugs convicts, including two Australian ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine gang, are awaiting imminent death by firing squad. A date for their execution has not been publicly announced but Joko as well as other senior state officials have been adamant that the killings would go ahead despite mounting international pressure.

The Australians have been on death row since 2006. Six people, five foreigners and one Indonesian national, were already executed last month.

The pastor said the KWI had asked President Joko Widodo to reconsider his decision to proceed with the executions.

Anis Hidayah, who heads Migrant Care, said at the same discussion on Friday that her advocacy group absolutely rejects the death penalty, citing the right to live and flaws in the Indonesian legal system among the reasons for the group's position.

She added that the president's refusal to grant drug convicts clemency also hampered the work of her organization.

"In the years 2004-14, three Indonesian nationals have been executed abroad. Another 360 could face the death penalty and 17 among those have already been convicted," Anis said. "If Indonesia applies the death penalty, that means negotiations with other countries [to prevent Indonesian migrant workers from being killed] will be more difficult."

"Jokowi shouldn't look at this purely from a legal perspective, but also value the lives of people who are set to be executed, both here and abroad."