"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Indonesia: Report reveals endemic judicial flaws in death penalty cases

'The Indonesian Flag', Myuran Sukumaran's final painting on Nusakambangan Island, shortly before he was executed by firing squad.
'The Indonesian Flag', Myuran Sukumaran's final painting on
Nusakambangan Island, shortly before he was executed by firing squad.
Death row prisoners in Indonesia are routinely denied access to lawyers and are coerced into “confessions” through severe beatings, while foreign nationals facing the death penalty had to deal with a judicial system they hardly understand, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

Flawed Justice exposes how the government under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has made a mockery of international law by carrying out 14 executions since taking office, while the lives of scores more prisoners now on death row could be at risk.

“Indonesia’s callous U-turn on executions has already led to the death of 14 people, despite clear evidence of flagrant fair trial violations. The government might claim to be following international law to the letter, but our investigation shows the reality on the ground is very different with endemic flaws in the justice system,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s South East Asia Campaigns Director.

“The death penalty is always a human rights violation, but the numerous and serious issues with regards to how it is being applied in Indonesia makes its use all the more tragic. Authorities must end this senseless killing once and for all and immediately review all death penalty cases with a view to their commutation.”

Despite strong signs that Indonesia had moved away from the death penalty in recent years, the government of President Widodo - which took office in October 2014 - has scaled up executions significantly.

Of the 14 people who have been sent before the firing squad in 2015, 12 were foreigners and all were convicted on drugs charges. The government has vowed to use the death penalty to tackle a national “drugs emergency”, despite there being no evidence that the threat of execution can work as more of a deterrent to crime than a prison sentence. President Widodo has also said he will reject all clemency petitions of death row prisoners on drug charges.

Amnesty International’s investigation into 12 individual death row cases reveals emblematic flaws in the Indonesian justice system, which raises serious questions about the country’s use of the death penalty.

Forced confession

Pawns on a domestic political chessboard
Pawns on a domestic political chessboard
In half of the cases, death row prisoners claimed that they had been coerced into “confessing” to their crimes, including through severe beatings at the hands of police officers in detention. Many claim to have been tortured or ill-treated, yet Indonesian authorities have never followed up to investigate these allegations.

A Pakistani national, Zulfiqar Ali, claims that police kept him in a house for three days after his arrest, where he was kicked, punched and threatened with death until he eventually signed a “confession”. The beating left him in such a bad state that he had to go through kidney and stomach surgery.

Despite Zulfiqar Ali detailing the torture he had endured during his trial, the judge allowed his “confession” to be used as evidence and there was no independent investigation conducted into his allegations.

The findings in Flawed Justice echo those of other national and international human rights organizations, who have found evidence of systematic and widespread torture or other ill-treatment by the Indonesian police with impunity.

Denied access to lawyer

Indonesian death row prisoners are routinely denied access to lawyers, despite this right being guaranteed in both Indonesian and international law.

Many of the prisoners mentioned in the report and charged with capital crimes are forced to wait several weeks or even months before seeing a lawyer, seriously undermining their ability to make their case in court.

There are also serious doubts about the quality of legal representation afforded to those facing drugs charges. In one recent case, the only advice a defendant received from his lawyer was to answer “Yes” to any questions from the investigator. In another case a death sentence was handed down due to a request by defendant’s own lawyer to the judges.

In none of the 12 cases examined in Flawed Justice were prisoners brought before a judge immediately after arrest as required by international law and standards – most had to wait several months before this happened.

Foreign nationals

Twelve out of the 14 people executed in Indonesian in 2015 were foreign nationals, and at least 35 other foreigners are currently on death row in the country.

But Amnesty International’s findings show that in numerous instances Indonesia violates the rights of foreign death row prisoners by denying them interpretation during or before trial, making them sign documents in a language they don’t understand, or refusing access to consular services.

Additionally in 2015, Indonesia put to death one man suffering from a severe mental disability in violation of international law. Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Recommendations

Indonesian President Joko Widodo
Indonesian President Joko Widodo
Given the serious flaws in Indonesia’s justice system, Amnesty International urges authorities to immediately establish an independent body to review all cases where people have been sentenced to death, with a view to commuting the death sentences.

Indonesia must also reform its Criminal Code to match international standards and ensure that all prisoners’ right to a fair trial is respected.

“President Joko Widodo has promised to improve human rights in Indonesia, but putting more than a dozen people before a firing squad shows how hollow these commitments are,” said Josef Benedict.

“Indonesia should set an example on human rights regionally. It is time to take this responsibility seriously - a first step must be to impose a moratorium on executions.”

Background

Twenty-seven people were executed between 1999 and 2014, under Indonesia's first four democratic-era presidents. No executions were carried out between 2009 and 2012.

According to figures obtained from the Law and Human Rights Ministry on 30 April 2015, there were at least 121 people death row. These include 54 people convicted of drug-related crimes, two convicted on terrorism charges and 65 convicted of murder.

As of today, 140 countries are abolitionist in law or practice. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The organization considers the death penalty a violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Source: Amnesty International, October 15, 2015


Amnesty report offers grim view of Joko Widodo's death penalty record

Bali's notorious Kerobokan prison
Bali's notorious Kerobokan prison
Report finds that many foreign death row prisoners in Indonesia were denied access to legal and consular services, and violently coerced into ‘confessions’

In the year since the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, assumed office, 14 prisoners have been executed, 12 of which were foreign nationals, an Amnesty International report has found.

The report, entitled Flawed Justice, was released on Thursday and said half of all prisoners on death row interviewed by Amnesty claimed they had been beaten, tortured and coerced into “confessing” to their crimes.

The report includes claims from a Pakistani national on death row, Zulfiqar Ali, that police kicked, punched and threatened him with death for 3 days, only stopping when he confessed.

Ali’s confession under duress was used as evidence against him, even though there was no independent investigation into his allegations. The beating was so severe he required kidney and stomach surgery.

Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop have responded to the deaths of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran with diplomatic retaliation but rhetorical restraint in an effort to preserve relations with Indonesia

All 14 executions in Indonesia over the past year were for drug-related crimes, the report said.

Amnesty revealed foreign death row prisoners were often denied an interpreter during or before trial, were made to sign documents in a language they did not understand, or were refused access to consular services, which are all breaches of international human rights laws.

In January, the Bali Nine drug smugglers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan learned that they would face execution by firing squad, after their appeals for presidential clemency were rejected.

Lawyers for the pair criticised Widodo for rejecting their subsequent appeals, which contained new evidence about their rehabilitation, before those appeals had even been submitted, read or reviewed. The men were executed in April.

Since assuming office last October, Widodo has taken a hardline stance against drug-related crime, saying all clemency applications from death row prisoners on drug charges will be rejected.

It was a marked shift from his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono , who did carefully consider clemency petitions and who introduced a de facto moratorium on the death penalty between 2008 and 2013.

Josef Benedict, Amnesty south-east Asia campaigns director, said while the death penalty was always a human rights violation, issues around how it was being applied, and haphazard legal processes in Indonesia, made it more tragic.

“Indonesia’s callous U-turn on executions has already led to the death of 14 people, despite clear evidence of flagrant fair trial violations,” Benedict said.

“President Joko Widodo has promised to improve human rights in Indonesia, but putting more than a dozen people before a firing squad shows how hollow these commitments are.”

Greg Barton, a professor of Indonesian studies at Monash University in Victoria, said despite Widodo’s views on drugs-related crime, it was still too early in his presidency to say this stance would prove immovable.

“In Widodo we have actually do, by most measures, have a progressive and democratic president,” Barton said.

“However he is also socially conservative in some respects, which has manifested itself in this seemingly unswerving commitment to the death penalty for drug crime.

“Once he settles into the role and feels more self assured, we may see more of his progressive elements influence his policy in this area. There are members of his inner circle who he trusts and listens to who are more progressive.”

Death-row inmates Myuran Sukumaran (l) and Andrew Chan (r)
Death-row inmates Myuran Sukumaran (l) and Andrew Chan (r) are transferred
under heavy guard from Kerobokan to Nusakambangan penal island.
Widodo’s policies around economic reform to help the poor, his disdain for pomp and ceremony, and his intolerance of corruption indicated he was someone who at times favoured a progressive and moral approach, Barton said.

“He went into office without a strong majority, and wanted to be seen as strong and as sticking to his convictions on drugs, and that is where we see his social conservatism at his worst. It’s his greatest blind spot.

“He may though still be capable of realising that capital punishment is not the great panacea he thought it would be.”

According to figures obtained from the Law and Human Rights Ministry, there were 121 people known to be on death row in Indonesia in April, including 54 people convicted of drug-related crimes, 2 convicted on terrorism charges and 65 convicted of murder.

There have been no executions in Indonesia since April, when Chan and Sukumaran were executed along with Nigerian men Okwuduli Oyatanze, Martin Anderson, Raheem Agbaje Salami and Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise; Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte; and Indonesian Zainal Abidin. Gularte had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Australia withdrew its ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, in protest, and he resumed his position there in June.

Matthew Goldberg is the president of Reprieve Australia, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the international abolition of the death penalty.

He fought for Chan and Sukumaran as part of the Mercy campaign, and said Reprieve was continuing to support lawyers in Indonesia trying to keep their clients from execution.

“We believe that their dedication to a transparent and fair system of justice will prompt reform and the eventual abolition of the death penalty,” he said.

Source: The Guardian, October 15, 2015


'Death-row inmates in Indonesia tortured'

Amnesty International says suspects facing the death penalty in Indonesia are often tortured.

Suspects facing the death penalty in Indonesia are often subjected to torture and sometimes denied access to lawyers and interpreters, Amnesty International says in a report.

Some of those who have been sentenced to death said police had beaten them in detention to make them confess, and judges accepted the confession as evidence, said Amnesty in the report titled Flawed Justice: Unfair Trials and the Death Penalty in Indonesia.

In some cases, defendants were denied interpretation during or before trial and were made to sign documents in a language they did not understand, the report said.

Indonesian police officers
The death penalty is always a human rights violation, but the numerous and serious issues with regards to how it is being applied in Indonesia makes its use all the more tragic," Amnesty said on Thursday.

Authorities must end this senseless killing once and for all and immediately review all death penalty cases with a view to their commutation," it said.

Amnesty said its investigation into 12 individual death penalty cases revealed "emblematic flaws in Indonesia's justice system", with half of the prisoners claiming they had been coerced into confessing to their crimes.

Indonesia executed 14 convicted drug traffickers, including Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan and 10 other foreigners, this year despite international appeals for mercy.

The government said no dates have been set for further executions, as it focuses on tackling an economic slowdown.

Poengky Indarti, executive director of the human rights group Imparsial, described the Amnesty report as "accurate".

"Indonesia's legal system is prone to corruption and collusion and under such a system innocent people could be easily victimised," she said.
She said the death penalty served as a "cover to make the government look decisive and strong".

"Most of those executed were just drug mules because the kingpins are protected by corrupt members of law enforcement."

The national police strongly denied the allegations that investigators tortured suspects and denied them interpreters or lawyers.

"We do things according to the proper procedures," national police spokesman Agus Rianto said.

"Don't just believe what people outside say," he said, adding that police could be sued if they engaged in torture or other forms of ill treatment.

"The fact that they were convicted showed that there were no legal violations were committed in the investigation process," he said.

At least 121 people are currently on death row in Indonesia, including 35 foreigners mostly convicted of drug-related crimes, according to the Justice Ministry.

Source: ntnews.com.au, October 15, 2015

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