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New Indonesian Attorney-General flags resumption of death penalty

Sydney Morning Herald - October 28, 2019

James Massola and Amilia Rosa, Jakarta – Indonesia's global reputation will be severely damaged if an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty ends and executions restart, human rights groups have warned.

On Friday, President Joko Widodo's new Attorney-General Sanitiar Burhanuddin said – just three days after being appointed – executions would "certainly" resume in Indonesia though he did not specify if they would re-start this year or next year.

"There are some cases that have not been inkracht. Certainly we will [carry out] the executions," Burhanuddin told state newsagency Antara, adding the Attorney-General's office was collating information on the legal status of all death row inmates and would ensure all legal avenues for appeal were allowed.

People who are sentenced to death in Indonesia can appeal to the High Court, then to the Supreme Court to overturn their sentence. If those appeals fail, the Supreme Court issues an inkracht, which is a final ruling by the court.

After that there are two extra-ordinary avenues for legal appeal, through a case review and then a direct appeal to the president for clemency.

There are no Australians currently on death row in Indonesia but there are foreigners from several nations among those on death row.

The memory of the execution of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran on April 29, 2015 – a matter of months after Joko became President – remains vivid in Australia. The executions severely damaged bilateral relations.

The comments from Burhanuddin come less than two weeks after Indonesia was elected to the United Nation's Human Rights council and have appalled rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Indonesia has observed an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty since it last carried out executions in 2016.

According to Amnesty International, at the end of 2018 Indonesia had 308 people on death row awaiting execution and another 66 people have so far been sentenced to death in 2019.

Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said that if executions do resume, it would undermine the country's reputation around the world.

"Indonesia has just been appointed to the UN Human Rights Council. Such policy plans for executions will clearly undermine it. Indonesia's relationship with countries whose citizens are on death row will also be affected. [And] diplomacy to free many Indonesian workers on death rows overseas will also be at high risk," he said.

"This highlights the slow de-consolidation of Indonesia's democracy. Usually, abandoning the death penalty is the new policy for a newly elected government, such as we have seen in Malaysia. But Indonesia is moving in the wrong direction."

He suggested the move to resume executions may have been led "by the anti-narcotics agency and the conservative faction within the police who want a hardline approach towards what they perceived to be serious crimes: narcotics. [I mean] 'serious crime' in the populist policy sense."

Human Rights Watch Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono said Burhanuddin appeared not to have learned from "criticism of the first Jokowi government, when it executed death row prisoners".

"This will not only damage diplomatic ties with many European countries but also consume so much energy internally," he said.

"Burhanuddin should simply sit and read the many studies on the death penalty in Indonesia. The conclusion is easy: keep the de facto moratorium."

Amnesty's most recent report on the use of the death penalty around the world revealed Vietnam executed more than 85 people in 2018, more than any other country in south-east Asia, and had more than 600 people on death row. Thailand killed one person and had an estimated 551 people facing the death penalty.

Malaysia has 1275 people on death row but it has been debating the abolition of the penalty, while Indonesia had more than 300 people on death row. Neither country executed anyone in 2018.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/new-indonesian-attorney-general-flags-resumption-of-death-penalty-20191028-p534rf.html