Six Are Executed for Drugs, as Indonesia Says ‘Because We Can’

JANUARY 19, 2015

Jakarta. Firing squads executed six prisoners convicted of drug trafficking early Sunday morning, drawing intense criticism of Indonesia from the international community and local human rights activists.

The dead include one Indonesian and five foreign nationals from Nigeria, Malawi, Vietnam, the Netherlands and Brazil.

Five inmates were executed at the Nusakambangan Prison, located on an island near the southern coastal town of Cilacap, Central Java, and one at Boyolali Prison, also in Central Java. Cilacap Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Ulung Sampurna Jaya confirmed that the five inmates were shot dead between 12.15 a.m. and 12:40 a.m. on Sunday.

“Four bodies were taken off the island while one was buried there,” he said.

The four are Ang Kim Soei, 62, a Dutch citizen, Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira, 53, a Brazilian citizen, Daniel Enemua, 38, from Malawi and Rani Andriani aka Melisa Aprilia, 38, an Indonesian citizen.

Namaona Denis, 38, also from Malawi, was buried in the island’s cemetery. The bodies of Ang and Cardoso were cremated and sent to Malaysia and Brazil, respectively. Rani’s body was sent to Ciranjang in West Java to be buried beside her mother, while Denis’s body was sent to Jakarta.

In Boyolali, authorities confirmed that Tran Thi Bich Hanh, 37, a Vietnamese citizen, has been executed.

Tran asked Suprobowati, the chief warden of Semarang Penitentiary, not to be cuffed during the execution. “She said ‘I am ready, ma’am, but please release me from the cuffs.’ She also asked to be cremated after the execution,” Suprobowati said.

The warden added that Tran’s family had been informed of her impending execution, but that she had refused to permit them to be present during the execution.

Tran was arrested by customs officers at Solo’s Adi Soemarmo International Airport in June 2011 for smuggling little over a kilogram of crystal methamphetamine from Malaysia. Authorities said the drugs had a street value of Rp 2.3 billion ($180,000). She was found guilty in Boyolali District Court and sentenced to death on Nov. 22, 2011. Tran then awaited her death at LP Bulu, a women’s prison in Semarang.

Indonesia had a de facto moratorium on executions for several years from 2008 but resumed capital punishment again in 2013. There were no executions last year.

International condemnation

Brazil and the Netherlands have both recalled their ambassadors from Jakarta, the second-most serious signal of displeasure a state can send without breaking relations or expelling a foreign power’s diplomats.

A spokesman for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was “distressed and outraged” after Indonesia ignored her last-ditch pleas and put to death Moreira, who was convicted of smuggling cocaine into Indonesia in 2004.

“Using the death penalty, which is increasingly rejected by the international community, seriously affects relations between our countries,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said the Netherlands had also recalled its ambassador over the execution of Dutchman Ang Kiem Soei.

All six deaths are “terribly sad,” Koenders said. “My heart goes out to their families, for whom this marks a dramatic end to years of uncertainty. The Netherlands remains opposed to the death penalty.”

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte had been in contact with President Joko Widodo about the pending execution, he said, and the government had done “all in its power” to halt it.

Human rights activists and foreign officials also condemned the killings.

“These executions must be stopped immediately,” said Rupert Abbott of Amnesty International. “The death penalty is a human rights violation and it is shocking that the Indonesian authorities ... put to death six people this Sunday.”

“Indonesia’s new administration took office on the back of promises to improve the respect for human rights, but ... these executions is a regressive move,” he added.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Indonesia has shown “hypocrisy on the right to life” by staging the executions at a time when the government is actively seeking to protect Indonesian nationals facing the death penalty overseas.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, released a statement on Thursday condemning the executions, as “deeply regrettable.”

“The EU is opposed to capital punishment in all cases, without exception, and has consistently called for its universal abolition,” Mogherini said in the statement. “The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.”

‘Please understand’

Joko defended the executions in a Facebook post on Sunday: “The war against the drug mafia should not be half-hearted measures, because drugs have really ruined the good life of the drug users and their families. The country must be present and fight with drug syndicates head-on.”

Indonesia’s attorney general has called on the international community to respect Indonesia’s laws.

“We can understand the reaction coming from the world and countries that had their citizens shot,” Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo told a press conference on Sunday. “However, every country has to respect the law applied in our country.”

Prasetyo said Indonesia was opposed to drug trafficking and that drug-related crimes would be punished.

“I think they can understand that the death sentence is something that is in effect in Indonesia. They will understand our concern,” he said.

Prasetyo said his office is moving forward with a second phase of executions that may tally as many as 20 dead each year.

“There shouldn’t be any unfinished legal processes. Once [the legal process] is done completely, we’ll prepare the executions as soon as possible,” he told Jpnn.com.

Political support

Indonesian politicians have been quick to voice their support for the executions.

Tantowi Yahya, a senior lawmaker from Golkar Party, said Indonesia is within its right to execute prisoners in accordance with its own laws.

“It’s our right as an sovereign and independent country. The Netherlands and Brazil have also the right to recall their ambassadors,” he said. “I believe executions for drug trafficking are also done in many other countries, such as China, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.”

Tantowi underscored the danger of illicit drugs, which he said were related to 40 deaths in Indonesia every day.

Islamic cleric AM Romly similarly expressed hope that the executions will deter traffickers: “Hopefully ... they will know that they will be shot to death,” Romly said on Sunday, as quoted by Bisnis.com.

Additional reporting from Agence France-Presse

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