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Indonesia courts continue to issue death sentences despite no executions

Jakarta Post - May 31, 2024

Yvette Tanamal, Jakarta – Despite its seven-year streak in not executing any death row inmates, Indonesia last year issued 114 death sentences, a report by Amnesty International has found.

Eighty-six percent of last year's death sentences were for drug-related offenses, the report found.

These findings have remained consistent with data from previous years, which revealed that judges had meted out more than 110 death sentences every year since 2020 and that an overwhelming majority of death row inmates have been sentenced for drug-related crimes.

"The last execution in Indonesia was in July 2016. Yet the judges in the country continue to hand down the death penalty on a frequent basis," said a statement released by Amnesty International's Indonesia office on Wednesday.

Indonesia drew condemnation from the global community when it executed 18 death row inmates including foreigners, between 2015 and 2016, following President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's declaration of a war on drugs at the beginning of his administration.

Many analysts cited the global backlash as the primary reason for Indonesia putting the execution of death row convicts on hold since 2017.

Indonesia is categorized by Amnesty International as a "retentionist" country with regard to its capital punishment law, meaning that it issues the death sentence for ordinary crimes like drug-related offenses.

Amnesty Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said Indonesia should abolish capital punishment.

"Many studies have shown that the death penalty does not prevent crime, including drug offenses," Usman said.

"Instead of issuing the death sentence, it is recommended that Indonesia fix its justice system, to ensure that every criminal be given just punishments according to their offenses," he added.

In a different survey conducted by the Law and Human Rights Ministry in 2015, 80 percent of respondents said that they supported capital punishment, a finding that has been used by the ministry to justify its long-standing position on the death sentence.

According to the Amnesty report, at least 2,428 new death sentences across 52 countries worldwide were handed down last year, compared with at least 2,016 in 52 countries in 2022. This includes the 948 new death sentences imposed in the Asia Pacific region last year.

Worldwide, at least 1,153 executions were recorded in the same year, with China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and the United States placing in the top-five nations. But the report stressed that the number of people executed in China specifically remained unclear, due to Beijing's "secretive" nature.

These numbers, the report said, constituted "the highest number of executions" in a year ever recorded by the organization since 2015, but that only 16 countries contributed to the executions, "the lowest number of nations executing their death-row prisoners" in the past decade.

"Even though we saw a backsliding in 2023, especially in Middle Eastern countries, the number of countries carrying out executions have become increasingly isolated," said Amnesty International Agnes Callamard in a release.

In Southeast Asia specifically, only two countries, Singapore and Vietnam, actually executed death-row inmates last year, despite other nations including Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos sentencing people to death during the same period.

Source: https://asianews.network/indonesia-courts-continue-to-issue-death-sentences-despite-no-executions