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Indonesia: Legislator Calls for Review of Death Penalty

(July 27, 2016) On July 25, 2016, Benny K. Harman, the Deputy Chief of Indonesia’s House of Representatives’ Commission III, which has responsibility for legal affairs, human rights, and security, spoke about the use of the death penalty in the country. He called for a review of its effectiveness and of the fairness of judicial processes, particularly for those prisoners on death row due to convictions for drug crimes. He said “[t]he President needs to know that being decisive does not mean forgetting human values.” (House Members Divided on Death Penalty, JAKARTA POST (July 25, 2016).)

Another member of Commission III, Muhammad Syafi’i , supported the use of the death penalty, arguing that drug criminals posed a threat to the future generations of Indonesians and therefore should be executed. (Id.) Indonesia’s Attorney General has also supported the imposition of capital punishment. (Constance A. Johnson, Indonesia: Attorney General Affirms Need for Death Penalty, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Feb. 1, 2016).)

Scheduled Executions

Indonesia will soon carry out a third round of executions of drug convicts; previous rounds were carried out in January and April 2015 and included 14 convicts. (Id.; House Members Divided on Death Penalty, supra.) New executions have been scheduled to take place at some time after Idul Fitri, the formal end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan that fell on July 6 this year. The location will be the Nusakambangan prison island, in Central Java Province. (House Members Divided on Death Penalty, supra.) A religious leader from the town in which the prison is located, while not opposed to executions in general, had asked that executions not be carried out during Ramadan. (Agus Maryono, Cleric Calls on Govt Not to Carry Out Executions During Ramadhan, JAKARTA POST (May 30, 2016).)

Among those facing execution is Merri Utami, sentenced to death for carrying 1.1 kilos of heroin; she has been in prison since 2004 and was transferred to Nusakambangan prison on July 24. According to Moyanto, the head of the correctional division facility under the Law and Human Rights Ministry’s Central Java office, the transfer signals that although no date has yet been set, the executions in this round will likely take place in the next week. (Agus Maryono, Death-Row Convict Merri Utami Isolated in Special Cell in Nusakambangan, JAKARTA POST (July 24, 2016).) Utami is the only female inmate at the prison, where 50 of the 1,000 prisoners are facing capital punishment. (Id.)

Legislation on the Death Penalty

Indonesia’s Penal Code lists capital punishment as one of the penalties that can be applied to some crimes and specifies that it is to be carried out by firing squad. (Penal Code, arts. 10-11 (1982, as last amended May 19, 1999), REFWORLD.) It can be imposed for a wide variety of crimes, including the attempt to deprive the Indonesian President of life or liberty (id. art. 104), murder (id. art. 340), and theft when the action results in death or serious injury (id. art. 365 (4)).

Drug crimes are punished under a separate law on narcotics, with punishments including the death penalty. (Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 35 Tahun 2009 Tentang Narkotika, Indonesian Narcotics Bureau website; Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 35 Year 2009 About Narcotics, INDONESIA TRADE RULE BOOK.) Imposition of the death penalty for narcotics offenses has generated international criticism of Indonesia, particularly when foreigners have been convicted of those crimes. (Kelly Buchanan, FALQs: Execution of Drug Offenders in Indonesia, IN CUSTODIA LEGIS (May 27, 2015).)