Indonesia urged to halt planned executions

The authorities in Indonesia must immediately halt the execution of three men, expected imminently, Amnesty International said.

If the men are executed it would be a major setback in the use of the death penalty, in a country that appeared to be moving away from the brutal practice in recent years.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, Suryadi Swabuana, Jurit bin Abdullah and Ibrahim bin Ujang, are set to be executed this month.

But there are indications they could be carried out as soon as this evening. The three men are now being held in isolation cells in the Nusakambangan island prison in Central Java, where they are due to be executed by firing squad.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception.

In Indonesia’s case, there is no clear indication why the country has decided to resume executions after a four year gap. That period was broken on 14 March this year when Malawian national Adami Wilson, 48, was put to death for drug-trafficking.

This execution – and the three that are imminent – appear to contradict previous statements and actions taken by government officials.

In October last year President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono commuted the death sentence of a drug trafficker. The Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the move was part of a wider push away from the use of the death penalty in Indonesia.

It also runs contrary to Indonesia’s efforts to seek commutations for its nationals on death row overseas, in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

“More executions in Indonesia must be stopped. They call into question many of the human rights reforms and commitments made by the Indonesian government in recent years. Where it seemed that President Yudhoyono, who is due to step down next year, would leave a positive legacy relating to human rights, the opposite now appears to be the case”, said Papang Hidayat, Amnesty International’s Indonesia Researcher.

“These developments in relation of the death penalty also undermine the positive role Indonesia has played in ASEAN in promoting better respect for human rights.”

Suryadi Swabuana was convicted and sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of a family in South Sumatra province. His clemency application was rejected in 2003. Jurit bin Abdullah and Ibrahim bin Ujang were convicted and sentenced to death in 1998 for murder in Musi Banyuasin district, South Sumatra province.

According to their lawyers, Jurit and Ibrahim re-filed clemency applications in 2006 and 2008 respectively, but have not received a reply from the President.

In March, after the execution of Adami Wilson, the Attorney General announced plans to this year execute at least nine other people who are currently under sentence of death.

The authorities did not reveal the names of the nine or their execution dates.

There are at least 130 people under sentence of death in Indonesia.

Death sentences there are carried out by firing squad. The prisoner has the choice of standing or sitting, and can decide whether to have their eyes covered by a blindfold or hood. Firing squads are made up of 12 people, three of whose rifles are loaded with live ammunition, while the other nine are loaded with blanks. The squad fires from a distance of between five and 10 metres.

140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice around the world, 17 in the Asia-Pacific region.