Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta – The number of death sentences handed down by Indonesian courts last year rose by 46 percent on the previous year, a leading rights group says.
According to Amnesty International Indonesia, 117 death sentences were handed down in 2020, compared with 80 in 2019.
In its latest report on the death penalty released on April 21, Amnesty said 101 out of the 117 death sentences were given in drug cases, while the other 16 were handed to convicted murderers.
The rights group said the increase ran contrary to world figures, which saw a 36 percent decrease in such sentences – from 2,307 in 2019 to 1,477 in 2020.
Condemned prisoners are executed by firing squad in Indonesia.
It "shows a very low appreciation of human life when the world is now focusing on trying to save people from the deadly coronavirus," the report said.
The death penalty, in any situation, is a cruel and inhumane sentence
Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, called the situation "very ironic."
"Here's a situation where a country is trying to help save as many as lives as possible during a pandemic but condemns many more people to die. This harms Indonesia's credibility on the world stage," he said.
"The death penalty, in any situation, is a cruel and inhumane sentence. Moreover, in the current pandemic, there is the added indignity for people facing execution of having limited access to justice, lawyers, family and health care. This is a serious attack on human rights," he said.
According to the rights group, the Covid-19 pandemic has failed to temper the Indonesian government's desire to put people to death.
Amnesty pointed to a case on April 6 where a district court in West Java sentenced 13 people – four foreigners and nine Indonesians – to death for drug-related crimes.
"Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many sentences were given during virtual court hearings," the rights group said, adding that at least 88 out of 128 death sentences were given by virtual courts between March 2, 2020, and April 6 this year.
Meanwhile, Carmelite Father Aegidius Eko Aldianto, executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference's Commission for Justice and Peace, said the Catholic Church expressed regret at the increase in the number of sentences.
"There is nothing much we can do. It depends on the government and legislators as to whether or not they want to abolish death penalty. The Catholic Church can only add its voice against it," he said.