Indonesia : what strategy to stop executions ?

13 January 2015

In Indonesia, authorities released the names of the six condemned people who are at imminent risk of execution. The public prosecutor declared that executions would take place before the end of January. It was an expected announcement. Elected last October, the Indonesian president Joko Widodo became a fierce defender of the death penalty in the name of, the fight against drug trafficking. In December, he already announced that five prisoners would be shot before the end of 2014.

As a researcher at The Commission for The Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Puri Kencana Putri tells us more.

Why the five executions did not take place as planned, before the 30st of December ?

It is more related with the national emergency situation than the AireAsia plane crash, on the 28th of December. We recently found out that the reason behind the halt execution from the government side was related to the Indo's Supreme Court’s request to have the final review of the cases through JR mechanism. The Supreme Court has eventually rejected all the requests.

On the other hand,there is a significant process when we talk about Indonesia's judicial reviews. Indonesian Constitutional Court removedthe principle of one-time judicial review under Indonesia Criminal Procedures Code (KUHAP): Art. 268 point 3. As a result, the inmates sentenced to death can submit a new judicial review application when the first one has failed.

However, in the case of the death penalty verdict, Indonesia Supreme Court seems to be opposed to the possibility of having a second round ofJR. But it is absolutely contrary to the decision taken by the Constitutional Court.

Who are the six inmates who ar supposed to be executed by the end of the month ?

Their names were made ​​public : Gunawan Santoso, Joni Tan , Agus Hadi, Pujo Lestari , Denis Namaona and Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira. The Attorney General said that a firing squad has been set up on the island of Nusakambangan in Central Java province for the implementation of these six men.

Why the Indonesian government took such a decision ? What is the political context to understand Joko Widodo's position ?

Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, is a media darling and have a huge support throughout Indonesia because of his national morale and thoughts on how to enhance Indonesia’s image on an international level. Those give such a strong impact on how Jokowi could maintain its popularity by creating a political packaging issue on narcotics and other serious crimes. Indeed, taking a serious concern on drugs related crimes will bring support, especially from many of the Indonesian politicians and vocal supporters for the death penalty of drugs and other serious crimes. I believe that the official rejection from the executive arena, will bring a different atmosphere, considering its role on the national morale. In particular when Jokowi stated that majority of the death row inmates had "destroyed the future of our nation". His point will strengthen such a sentiment of "important shock therapy" to the drug dealers, traffickers, and of course users.

Indonesia's nationalism is not a new discourse. Any political leader has a tendency to use the national morale, rather than using human rights discourse in order to make them more respectable. However, this logic is very different if we have seen Jokowi's step to promote many basic rights on economic, social, and cultural rights frameworks, especially regarding the access to medical care. Actually, he recently granted an official clemency to release a human rights defender from the bars, Eva Bande. His human rights political policy is typical: choosing the most lighter rights issue, in order to gain popular support as much as he can.

Do you think that executions will be multiplied in 2015 ?

When we see the magnitude of political statements made Jokowi, it is highly likely that the Government will use this law strategy on the death penalty more robustly in 2015.

Why did Indonesia start to execute prisoners in 2013 after having stopped for years ?

Apparently, maintaining government popularity in front of its public with nationalism sentiment is more efficient and will bring better benefits than using human rights trend to uphold an old government’s moratorium promise on the death penalty. With this logic, it is difficult to bring all the potential rule of law process to cut the narcotics trade system with the rule of law mechanism, and in particular to incorporate all actors to find the root cause of narcotics trade system in SEA region.

What are the main arguments which can be used to put the government under pressure and convince him to stop the executions ?

We must urgently rethink the implementation of a new strategy in order to change the government’s method to respect the rule of law through inhumanmethods. International supervision, critical engagement, and some of diplomat lobbies will hopefully, halt, at least, the execution process in 2015. Yet, Jokowi must know the idea of human rights cannot be discriminated, by picking up one particular subject in order to get millions of Indonesian supports. Constant international lobby regarding human rights content needs to be taken seriously.. This work is even more important now with all the Indonesians migrant workers affected the same punishment (such as death penalty)in their host countries, like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.

Camille Sarret