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Rise in Indonesia executions bucks global trend: Amnesty

Indonesian president Joko Widodo
Indonesia has sharply increased executions, bucking a global trend of fewer death sentences being carried out, Amnesty International experts said, as Jakarta prepares to execute nine foreign drug convicts.

Amnesty said that the number of executions carried out globally went down to 607 in 2014 -- a reduction of 22 % from 2013 -- even though capital sentences handed out increased 28 % to 2,466.

In Indonesia, no convicts were executed in 2014 but 6 have been so far this year and the government has promised to bring that total to 20 -- an unprecedented level for the country in recent years.

This number of executions would bring Indonesia to the 2014 level of countries like Yemen (22), Sudan (23) or the United States (35), although far below the hundreds killed every year in China and Iran.

An Amnesty report showed there were 5 executions in Indonesia in 2013, then none 2009-2012 and 10 in 2008.

Indonesia is not alone in justifying the death sentences as part of a crackdown on crime.

The rapid rise in death sentences in 2014 was mainly caused by Egypt and Nigeria where hundreds of Islamists have been convicted in terror cases.

Below are comments made by 2 Amnesty experts in interviews with AFP:

- Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues, Amnesty International

"We've seen a reduction thankfully in executions globally... The long-term trend in the world is definitely towards abolition even though each year we see some negative developments that cause us concern," she said.

"We have very significant concerns in Egypt because of the mass death sentences which have followed extremely unfair trials and in Nigeria we're concerned about the way the military courts have imposed death sentences."

"There is a trend of countries using the death penalty and saying it's to combat terrorism, it's to combat violent crime. There is no evidence that the death penalty is any more of a deterrent to violent crime or terrorism than other forms of punishment like imprisonment."

"It becomes an excuse, a justification for imposing death sentences."

"The death penalty isn't the solution to these problems, the death penalty isn't justice."

- Papang Hidayat, Indonesia researcher, Amnesty International

"I think the Indonesian government will continue with the 2nd wave of executions because they don't want to lose face in front of the population. A majority of Indonesians are in favour of the death penalty and execution, particularly in drug cases."

"I think the international outcry is playing an important role and will prevent them carrying out all 20 executions this year.... I think the reaction of the international community made President Widodo a bit surprised. They thought the death penalty was a small issue that could not hamper the bilateral relationship with any country."

"To execute more than 10 in a year would not be usual."

"If Indonesia executes 10 people, it means that the number would be 16. It puts Indonesia between the top 10 and top 15 countries in terms of executions. It's very uncommon in Indonesia."

"They want to be seen as strong on law enforcement but more educated people are now joining the anti death-penalty movement, which is getting larger."

"There was a very good manoeuvre made by the Australians when they sent a famous Islamic cleric to Jakarta to meet his Indonesian counterparts and he shared his view that according to Islamic teaching the death penalty should be abolished. It received a positive reception -- unlike if Amnesty condemned through a press release or report. They would consider us a Western organisation trying to interfere with Indonesian values."

Source: Amnesty International, April 25, 2015

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