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Indonesia: Attorney General Affirms Need for Death Penalty

(Feb. 1, 2016) Speaking on January 20, 2016, Indonesia’s Attorney General, H.M. Prasetyo, affirmed the need for capital punishment. He was speaking in response to a question from the Indonesian legislature’s House Commission III, which oversees law and human rights issues. Prasetyo stated that executions are needed as “shock therapy against serious crime.”  (Erika Anindita, Death Penalty Still Needed: Attorney General, JAKARTA POST (Jan. 21, 2016).) Prasetyo’s words echo those of Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, who used the phrase “shock therapy” in January 2015 to describe the role of capital punishment in fighting drug crimes. (Phelim Kine, Dispatches: Indonesia’s Death Penalty Double Standard, Human Rights Watch website (Jan. 15, 2015).)

Prasetyo stated that he is “confident that the death penalty is a kind of therapy. It is an unpleasant action, but we must do it.” He further stressed that foreign criticism is irrelevant. (Anindita, supra.) The opposite view was expressed by Ifdhal Kasim, who is a former chair of the National Commission for Human Rights, at a forum last year. (Id.) The Commission is a government-established body that is described on its website as an independent institution on an equal level with other state agencies designed to assess, research, extend, and monitor human rights, as well as to mediate issues concerning those rights. (Profil Komnas HAM, National Commission on Human Rights website (last visited Jan. 25, 2016) (in Indonesian).)

The use of capital punishment was suspended last November, at a time when the government was focusing on Indonesia’s economy. Prasetyo argued that the suspension was unnecessary because “[t]he death penalty has no connection with the economy.” (Anindita, supra.)

In January and April 2015, Indonesia executed 14 people in two separate groups. The April group included two Australians convicted of smuggling, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Their executions led to tension in the relationship between Indonesia and Australia, and the recall of the Australian ambassador to Jakarta. (Id.; Kelly Buchanan, FALQs: Execution of Drug Offenders in Indonesia, IN CUSTODIA LEGIS (May 27, 2015).)

Death Penalty in Indonesia

The Indonesian Penal Code establishes capital punishment as one of the available penalties for crimes (art. 10) and sets firing squad as the method (art. 11). It lists a number of crimes for which the death penalty might be imposed, depending on the circumstances. These include murder, a variety of offenses against the state such as attempts on the life of the President or Vice-President, and crimes like theft when they result in serious injury or death. (Indonesian Penal Code (1982, as amended by Law 27, 1999), arts. 10, 11, 104, 123-127, 340, & 365, REFWORLD.)  The death penalty is also prescribed under other laws on specific types of crimes, including narcotics offenses, corruption, and terrorism.  (See Buchanan, supra.)

While for a time the province of Aceh, which implements Shari’a law, had stoning as a method of execution; since 2013 the province has dropped that method. In the country as a whole, five people were executed in 2013, none in 2014, and 14 in 2015. (Death Penalty Database: Indonesia, Cornell Law School website (last updated Jan. 19, 2016); Nurdin Hasan, Aceh Government Removes Stoning Sentence from Draft Bylaw, JAKARTA GLOBE (Mar. 12, 2013).)