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A Call to Abolish the Death Penalty in 2013

Sumber: THEJAKARTAGLOBE.COM | Tgl terbit: Minggu, 27 Januari 2013

This week we learned that Lindsay Sandiford, a British citizen, was sentenced to death for drug trafficking charges by a Bali court. The prosecution asked for a 15-year sentence. But the judges decided instead to give her the maximum penalty: death.

Just last month, the Attorney General's Office stated that it intended to follow through with the executions of 10 prisoners in 2013.

The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras) is deeply troubled by this turn of events because it is inconsistent with the current government policy aimed at protecting Indonesian citizens abroad.

In recent years, Indonesia has shifted away from the death penalty, in line with the global trend toward abolition. No one has been executed here since 2008, and the number of new death sentences appear to be decreasing annually.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has commuted a total of 19 death sentences out of 126 pleas for clemency during his two terms, including three new commutations in 2012. Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has said that the granting of clemency was part of a broader move away from capital punishment.

This shift was apparent in foreign affairs, as well. Last year, Indonesia changed its vote on the UN Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty from opposition to abstention. Indonesia's delegate stated that public debate on capital punishment in Indonesia was "ongoing, including concerning a possible moratorium."

Yudhoyono's strategic shift reflects the demands of an increasingly globalized society. Some 6.5 million Indonesian citizens are employed abroad as domestic workers and laborers. More than 200 of them are currently facing the death penalty overseas, much to the dismay of their fellow citizens back home.

In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the newly formed Task Force on Migrant Worker Protection (Satgas TKI) have negotiated clemency on behalf of 110 Indonesian citizens in 2012, according to a statement by the ministry last year. Satgas TKI stated that it was instrumental in the commutation of death sentences for 37 workers in Saudi Arabia, 14 in Malaysia, 11 in China and one in Iran.

The Bali court's action this week stands in stark contrast to Indonesia's stated and demonstrated death penalty policy. It diminishes the recent successes of the Satgas TKI and puts millions of Indonesians who work and travel abroad at risk of execution. Sandiford's case has received international publicity, with potentially negative consequences for Indonesia's global image.

The time has come for Indonesia to abolish the death penalty outright. More than two-thirds of the countries in the world have abolished capital punishment. This should be the year that Indonesia joins them.

Indonesia should abolish the death penalty because it is the right thing to do and would show the world that we are committed to the protection of all human rights, including the right to life.

Yet a commitment to human rights does not mean being soft on crime. Justice can still be attained under a model of restorative justice. Restorative justice principles emphasize reparations for the victim and community and rehabilitation for the offender. In lieu of executions, lengthy prison terms can be handed out.

Capital punishment is wrong because our justice system is man-made and fallible. It is well documented that the American death penalty system, for example, is rife with error. In the United States, two out of three death penalty cases are overturned on appeal for mistakes made by lawyers, judges and investigating officials at the original trial.

One hundred and forty-two death- row prisoners have been either exonerated or declared innocent in the United States since 1973, and new cases of exonerations appear daily.

For example, Carlos DeLuna, a man executed in Texas in 1989, is now widely believed to have been innocent. Many fear that other innocent people have been executed over the years as well.

Indonesia is not immune from these same concerns. The case of Sengkon and Karta, both of whom served six years in prison before being exonerated in 1980, is a bitter reminder of how the justice system can fail us.

Countries such as the United States may be willing to execute people who are innocent or who did not receive a fair trial, but Indonesia can and should do better.

We should abolish capital punishment this year, in order to protect our citizens overseas, demonstrate our commitment to human rights and avoid the execution of innocents.

The time has come for Indonesia to lead the way for emerging global powers by abolishing the death penalty once and for all.

Haris Azhar is the coordinator for the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in Jakarta. Andrea Nieves is an American capital defense attorney and Henry Luce Scholar at Kontras.



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