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Article Indonesia: Death Sentences Carried Out for Narcotics Crimes

(Feb. 2, 2015) On January 18, 2015, five foreign nationals and one Indonesian were executed for drug crimes in Indonesia; the foreigners were from Brazil, Malawi, Nigeria, the Netherlands, and Vietnam. Thirty-four non-Indonesians from 15 different countries remain on death row for narcotics offenses. There has been protest about this use of capital punishment, and both Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their diplomats due to the execution of their citizens. (Ina Parlina, RI Resolute on Death Policy, JAKARTA POST (Jan. 20, 2015); Indonesia: Diplomatic Appeals Won’t Stop Drug Executions, ABC NEWS (Jan. 19, 2015).)

Brazil has imposed the death penalty only for “exceptional crimes such as crimes under military law or crimes committed in exceptional circumstances,” since 1979, and the Netherlands abolished capital punishment entirely in 1986. (Abolitionist and Retentionist Countries, Death Penalty Information Center website (last visited Jan. 20, 2015).)

According to Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi, the government will remain firm on its right to impose harsh punishments for narcotics crimes, due to the country’s widespread problem of narcotics abuse. (Parlina, supra.) Indonesia’s Penal Code lists capital punishment as one of the penalties that can be imposed for some crimes. (Indonesian Penal Code (May 10, 1999), art. 10, REFWORLD.) Drug-related crimes are punished under several separate laws, including the Law on Narcotics of 1997, which does impose the death penalty in some cases. (Undang-undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 22 Tahun 1997 Tentang Narkotika [Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 22, 1997, Concerning Narcotics] (Sept. 1, 1997), House of Representatives website.)

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has sent a letter to Indonesia with a request for clemency for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, two Australian citizens now awaiting execution for drug trafficking in Indonesia. The two were part of the “Bali Nine” case in 2005 in which a plan to smuggle a large quantity of heroin from Indonesia to Australia was stopped by Indonesian police. (Parlina, supra.) Bishop indicated that a recall of the Australian ambassador was possible if Chan and Sukumaran are executed. Indonesia’s Foreign Minister expressed the hope that diplomatic relations between the two countries would not be harmed and stated that she “replied to the letter and explained that Indonesian policy was about law enforcement against serious drug crimes.” (Id.)

In the last ten years, Indonesia has given 64 people death sentences for drug trafficking; of these individuals, seven have already been executed. (Id.) Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo rejected requests for clemency for the six executed this month, including direct appeals from the Brazilian and Dutch governments. (Indonesia: Diplomatic Appeals Won’t Stop Drug Executions, supra.) The Attorney General, M. Prasetyo, has said there will be a review of whether or not the sentences of those remaining on death row were legally binding. Once that is determined and legal appeals have been exhausted, the sentences will be carried out. (Parlina, supra.)

In a statement mentioning Indonesia, as well as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized the use of the death penalty for drug crimes, noting that “[a]ccording to international human rights jurisprudence, capital punishment can only be applied to the crime of murder or intentional killing.” (Press Release, Ravina Shamdasani [SE Asia Spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights], Press Briefing Notes on ISIL/Iraq and Death Penalty in SE Asia (Jan. 20, 2015).)

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