JP Editorial: Selective Death Penalty
Oct 22, 2012 01:37 PDT
JP Editorial: Selective Death Penalty
October 22, 2012
The Jakarta Post
Pressure has lately been mounting on the government to put an end to
the practice of capital punishment in Indonesia. Capturing the
momentum of the annual celebration of the World Day against the Death
Penalty on Oct. 10, a coalition of human rights groups here renewed
their call for the abolition of the death penalty, describing it as a
human rights violation that provides little in the way of deterrence.
The issue then came to the general public’s attention after Law and
Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsudin revealed on Oct. 16 that
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had granted clemency to 19 drug
convicts between 2004 and 2011. Ten are minors, one is blind, while
the other eight are adults. Of the adults, five are Indonesians and
the rest are foreigners.
What is controversial are the reasons behind the President’s
decision to grant such clemency. While it is perfectly understandable
that clemency be given to the 10 children and the blind man, the
leniency shown to the five adult Indonesians and the three foreigners
is legally debatable, at least within the context of the Indonesian
legal system. Even stranger is that two of the five adult Indonesians
who were granted clemency had not been given death sentences.
The core of the issue is the fact that Indonesia officially recognizes
the death penalty for heinous crimes, such as premeditated murder,
terrorism, drug dealing and gross human rights violations. Data from
the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras)
reveal that as of Oct. 9 this year, there were 148 convicts on death
row for murder, drug trafficking and terrorism.
On the other hand, the state’s recognition of capital punishment at
home presents serious problems for Indonesia, particularly its
government, as data from the Law and Human Rights Ministry shows that
197 Indonesian nationals are on death row abroad; 120 for drug-related
crimes. Deputy Law and Human Rights Minister Denny Indrayana has
claimed that by commuting the death sentences of some drug convicts,
the Indonesian government hoped foreign governments would reciprocate
and that the decision could help improve the country’s reputation,
especially in the eyes of countries like Saudi Arabia, China and
Malaysia, where dozens of Indonesian nationals face execution.
Currently, 155 countries have abolished the death penalty or have
conducted no executions in the past 10 years, while Indonesia is among
58 countries that keep the death penalty on their books.
The general public is apparently divided over the issue. Surveys in
various media have found that around 75 percent of respondents support
the imposition of the death penalty. This sentiment is also shared by
the Supreme Court — the country’s highest judicial tribunal.
Spokesman for the Supreme Court Djoko Sarwoko said: “It does not
mean that Indonesia will follow the global trend. Indonesia has its
own legal mechanism and it cannot simply follow others.”
Despite the controversy, the death penalty, however, should not be
abolished from the country’s legal system as imposition of a capital
sentence does not mean that a person sentenced to death has no
recourse to appeal.
Within our legal system, a person who is sentenced to death in a
district court can challenge the verdict and go through a number of
legal channels, including filing an appeal with the High Court and the
Supreme Court, with the option of seeking a review of the case at the
Supreme Court, and as a last resort the convict can ask for clemency
from the President.
There is a room for everyone, including those sentenced to death, to
seek justice and fairness — even in a system which imposes capital
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