Bali's notorious Kerobokan penitentiary granted 'Christmas' sentense remissions to as many as 82 inmates. (Antara Photo/Nyoman Budhiana)
For Some Inmates on Indonesia's Death Row, a Small Reprieve
FEBRUARY 17, 2015
Jakarta. Indonesia’s Attorney General’s Office has decided to put off the execution of 11 inmates on death row, including two Australian drug traffickers, following Australia’s intensifying opposition against the plan.
Four Indonesians and seven foreign nationals, including Myuran Sukumaran, 31, and Andrew Chan, 33, the Australian leaders of the so-called Bali Nine drug ring, have had their executions delayed.
“This is a response to Australia’s and the [Sukumaran and Chan] families’ demand for more time,” AGO spokesman Tony Spontana told state news agency Antara in Jakarta on Tuesday.
The AGO will not move the 11 inmates to the Nusakambangan island prison off Central Java — where five of the last six condemned inmates were gunned down on Jan. 18 — until three days before the rescheduled executions.
However, it is not clear when the executions will take place.
“The execution team has checked Nusakambangan and found technical difficulties,” Tony said, without elaborating.
“We’re now looking for the right time. The executions will be conducted simultaneously.”
After President Joko Widodo rejected their clemency pleas in December last year, Chan and Sukumaran are now among 11 convicts on death row in Indonesia who face the firing squad this year, following the execution of six prisoners last month.
Eight of the 11 convicts are on death row for drug offenses, and the rest for murder.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday vowed that Australia would pursue all legal options to save its two citizens from execution in Indonesia, amid reports the judges in Chan and Sukumaran’s trials demanded bribes to pass down lighter sentences.
“I don’t want to peddle false hope but I do want everyone to understand … we are straining every fiber to help these people in a difficult position,” Abbott told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the six judges who handed down the death penalties in 2006 were accused by the pair’s lawyers of offering lighter sentences in exchange for money. The allegation is contained in a letter from the lawyers to Indonesia’s Judicial Commission claiming a breach of ethics.
On Monday, the lawyers said the pair had filed a lawsuit against the Indonesian president for denying them clemency, hoping that the move would buy them more time with the AGO.
The lawsuit, filed with the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN Jakarta), challenges Joko’s decision to issue two decrees, on Dec. 30 last year and on Jan. 17 this year, denying clemency for Sukumaran and Chan, respectively, despite arguments that the pair, who have been in prison in Bali since 2005, have reformed.
“Without wanting to disrupt the president’s prerogative [to granting clemency], we submitted the lawsuit only due to the lack of clarity of reasons behind the president’s decision to not grant pardon,” said Todung Mulya Lubis, a lawyer for the pair.
He added that Chan and Sukumaran had shown significant and positive changes throughout the 10 years they had spent in Denpasar’s Kerobokan Penitentiary. The pair are regarded as model inmates and hold regular classes to teach other inmates new skills.
“The decree only said that there was not enough reason to grant pardon on the consideration part,” Todung said.
“It is unclear and it leads to a sense of injustice toward Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.
“[With this lawsuit] as evidence of the ongoing legal process, we ask the attorney general not to move or execute the two. The legal process should be respected,” Todung added.
Despite the announcement of the delay, Indonesian authorities have continued to defend the planned executions and the country’s recent adoption of a tough stance on drug traffickers.
The Indonesian permanent representative to the United Nations, Desra Percaya, criticized a statement from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week against the planned executions.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban had spoken with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi last Thursday “to express his concern at the recent application of capital punishment in Indonesia.”
“The United Nations opposes the death penalty under all circumstances,” Dujarric said in a statement. “The secretary general appeals to the Indonesian authorities that the executions of the remaining prisoners on death row for drug-related offenses not be carried out.”
In response to Dujarric’s statement, Desra argued that the death penalty in Indonesia was not against international law or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that discussions over capital punishment in UN forums were still ongoing and had yet to reach any consensus.
“Indonesia respects the UN secretary general’s efforts to communicate directly with the Indonesian government, but regret his stance that is based on a narrow and one-sided view [on the matter],” Desra said on Tuesday.
“His stance may potentially reduce his integrity as the UN secretary general in carrying out his mandate, especially concerning discussions on capital punishment that are still ongoing in the UN.”
On the diplomatic side, the case of the two Australian men threatens to strain already fragile relations between Australia and Indonesia.
Indonesia’s tourism minister on Monday said the archipelago would withdraw its offer of visa-free travel for Australian tourists after the neighboring country failed to reciprocate, although this is also believed to have something to do with Australia’s refusal to back down from its resistance against Jakarta’s execution plans.
Australia was among five countries — including Japan, China, South Korea and Russia — that were offered a visa waiver by the Indonesian government late last year as a means to boost tourism numbers.
A social media campaign in Australia has called for a boycott of Indonesia’s Bali Island, a popular destination among Australian tourists.
The movement has received encouragement from Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who told 3AW radio last week that: “I think the Australian people will demonstrate their deep disapproval of this action, including by making decisions about where they wish to holiday.”
The campaign has triggered a counter-campaign by Indonesian social media users, and former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr on Tuesday warned Australians against boycotting Bali and urged Abbott to think carefully about any retaliatory action against Indonesia, according to the Australian news site news.com.au.
Carr told an ABC program on Tuesday evening that any retaliatory action was likely to produce a “nationalistic backlash” in Indonesia, which could have long-term consequences.
Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, in defense of the AGO’s execution plans, says this should not lead to another diplomatic row. Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said that should bilateral ties between the two countries get disrupted because of the issue, Australia would suffer more.
“Indonesia doesn’t want this issue to be brought into the area of diplomatic relations because it is Australia’s economic interests that are at stake. Australia will probably suffer even more than us,” Arrmanatha said in Jakarta on Tuesday.
He cited Australian exports to Indonesia that are worth $5 billion annually, including more than $1 billion of wheat and $500 million worth of cattle, and how Australian universities benefited from 17,000 Indonesian students currently studying in the country.
“They must consider this thoroughly. If it’s true PM Abbot is threatening our bilateral relations, Indonesia won’t be the only one who suffers; it’ll be both sides.”
Arrmanatha added he believed the media in both countries had blown the issue out of proportion.
“We see this as a possible overreaction by the media. We don’t want the media to contribute to damaging bilateral relations between Indonesia and Australia,” he said.
Meanwhile, a poll by Australia’s Lowy Institute shows a majority of Australians do not agree with Indonesia’s plan to execute Chan and Sukumaran — contradicting the result of a previous survey conducted by another Australian pollster, Roy Morgan Research.
Sydney-based Lowy said in a press statement on Monday that 62 percent of the 1,211 Australian adult respondents interviewed in the survey said the Indonesian government should not proceed with the planned executions of the two Australian nationals.
Those who say the executions should proceed amount only to 31 percent, or fewer than one in three respondents.
Most of the respondents are also opposed to capital punishment for drug trafficking in general, with those who disagree amounting to 69 percent and those who support the death penalty numbering only 26 percent.
“As the date for the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran appears to draw closer, Australian public and political opposition is crystallizing,” said Lowy executive director Michael Fullilove.
“This Lowy Institute poll is a strong expression of Australian public opinion against the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, as well as public opposition to the death penalty for drug trafficking in general.”
The “nationally representative” poll was conducted from last Friday to Sunday, involving randomly selected respondents aged 18 years and older, Lowy said.
The result of the poll contrasts with that of Melbourne-based Roy Morgan’s, conducted from Jan. 23 to 27.
The Roy Morgan survey, involving 2,123 respondents from six Australian states, suggested that a slight majority of Australians agreed with Chan and Sukumaran’s executions. As many as 52 percent of respondents said Australians sentenced to death over drug trafficking in other countries should be executed.
Furthermore, the poll found 62 percent of respondents said the Australian government should not do more to stop the execution of Chan and Sukumaran.