Anti-death penalty activists protest against the imminent execution of convicted drug-trafficker Merri Utami, who they say is actually a victim of human trafficking. (Antara Photo/R. Rekotomo)

UN Human Rights Chief Calls on Indonesia to Stop Executing Drug-Traffickers


JULY 28, 2016

Jakarta. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has condemned a third round of executions of death row inmates at the notorious Nusakambangan prison island and called on Indonesia to abandon the death penalty altogether.

"The increasing use of the death penalty in Indonesia is terribly worrying. I urge the government to end this unjust practice immediately as it is incompatible with human rights," said Al Hussein in a statement on Wednesday (27/07).

"I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia," Al Hussein said.

At least 14 death row inmates, including ten foreign nationals, have been moved to the island to be executed. Most of them were given the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

The UN Human Rights Committee raised its concerns over the lack of transparency during the inmates' sentencing and stressed that death penalty is not an effective deterrent for serious drug crimes.

"The death penalty is not an effective deterrent relative to other forms of punishment nor does it protect people from drug abuse. The focus of drug-related crime prevention should involve strengthening the justice system and making it more effective," the commissioner said after acknowledging Indonesia's growing problem with drug crimes.

Al Hussein reminded Indonesia of the UN's stand against capital punishment and pointed out that the country must also uphold international human rights law.

"I urge the government of Indonesia to take the important first step of instituting a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and to work with us and other partners on alternative strategies to combat all crimes," Al Hussein said.

International human rights watchdog Amnesty International has also criticized Indonesia's decision to persist with the executions, arguing that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is taking a backward step by continuing with this third round of executions.

"The Jokowi era was supposed to represent a new start for human rights in Indonesia. Sadly, he might now preside over the highest number of executions in the country's democratic era at a time when most of the world has turned its back on this cruel practice," Amnesty International Director of Campaigns for Southeast Asia and Pacific Josef Benedict said in a statement on Wednesday.

In Jakarta, the National Commission on Violence Against Women, or Komnas Perempuan, has appealed to the president to postpone the execution of one of the death-row inmates, Merri Utami, a convicted drug-trafficker, on Tuesday.

"The government must consider clemency for Merri. She is a victim of domestic violence and human trafficking. The state should not execute innocent people," said Komnas Perempuan chairwoman Azriana R.M. during a press briefing on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Cilacap Police have ordered sixteen coffins on Thursday, ahead of the imminent executions.

The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also requested all countries to respect the legal process in Indonesia.

"As Indonesia has always respected the laws in other countries, we hope that they also respect Indonesia's right to exercise its own justice system. It should be stressed that all the legal rights and due process of the law have been accorded to the inmates," said ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir in Jakarta on Thursday, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.