America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Indonesia: Injustice victims may be executed

Indonesia is running a serious risk of executing innocent persons if it insists on going ahead with the executions of 14 death row convicts, expected on Friday.

More people have stepped forward to urge President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo not to proceed with the executions because of possible miscarriages of justice. Pakistani convict Ali has been suffering from the effects of liver damage since May, allegedly the result of torture committed by security personnel during his detention.

According to Ali's lawyer Saut Edward Rajagukguk, he has been treated unfairly since he was arrested in 2004 at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport for heroin possession.

The government of Pakistan has sought a postponement of the execution and requested a review of his trial. Pakistani Ambassador Aqil Naseem said the government of Pakistan respected the Indonesian legal system, but believed that the legal process against Ali was flawed.

"It didn't provide justice to Zulfiqar. In the case, the prosecutor did not seek the death penalty," Naseem told The Jakarta Post.

National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) commissioner Hafid Abbas has revealed neglected findings by an investigative team of the Law and Human Rights Ministry between 2002 and 2003.

After thorough examination of court rulings, historical background and field checks in Ali's home country, the team concluded that the convict may be innocent.

It also recommended then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to cancel Ali's death sentence and order a further investigation into the case.

"I swear that the work of the team back then was accountable. I am sure that Zulfiqar is innocent," Hafid said.

He added that then law and human rights minister Patrialis Akbar had submitted a thorough confidential report on the findings to Yudhoyono. "I believe the document is still at the State Palace. It's worth re-checking to save Zulfiqar's life. Every life matters," Hafid declared.

Nigerian Eleweke is also among the death row convicts that reportedly received an unfair trial.

Director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), Sidney Jones, has submitted a dossier to the Post, containing chronology and evidence that indicates Eleweke may be innocent.

The dossier outlines police procedural violations, including the lack of a search warrant, a signed confession allegedly obtained through torture, as evidence pointing to Eleweke having no connection to the drugs for the possession of which he was convicted.

Eleweke filed appeals in 2004 and 2006 to the Supreme Court, in which key witnesses and related convicts testified that he had nothing to do with the case and was framed by Charles "Kelly" Kanu, a drug smuggler, because Eleweke implemented a no-drug policy and did not allow drug transactions in the restaurant he owned. The court rejected both of his appeals.

Indonesia's Merri, meanwhile, was arrested by Soekarno-Hatta officials in October 2001 for possession of 1.1 kilograms of heroin.

Tangerang State Court sentenced her to death in 2002, after which she filed a plea to a higher court. But the Tangerang High Court supported the earlier verdict.

In 2003, the Supreme Court also rejected Merri's appeal, and she had been on death row for 13 years before the Attorney General's Office (AGO) finally set her execution date for this week.

As the executions are expected in less than 72 hours, Cilacap Prosecutor's Office gathered legal and family representatives of the convicts and special envoys for document checks. Cilacap Police spokesman Adj. Comr. Bintoro said there would be 1,500 personnel deployed to secure the execution area.

Despite the irregularities in the cases raising questions as to whether the legal processes behind all the convictions were sound, the government has insisted the executions will go ahead.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said that imposing the death penalty was in the hands of the courts. "The government only carries out the courts' sentences, which are final and binding," he said.

Source: Jakarta Post, Agus Maryono, Ganug Nugroho Adi and Andri Hajramurni, July 27, 2016

Indonesia ready to execute 14 this week despite doubts over prisoners' guilt

10 foreign nationals and four Indonesians face firing squad, in spite of claims of forced confessions, torture allegations and ongoing legal appeals; Who are the 14 people who could face the firing squad this week?

Lawyers in Indonesia are racing to lodge last-minute clemency appeals with President Joko Widodo as it appears increasingly certain that 14 prisoners will be executed this weekend.

14 prisoners on death row, including inmates from Nigeria, Pakistan, India and South Africa, and four Indonesians, have been moved to isolation holding cells on Nusa Kambangan.

The prison island off Central Java is the site where 2 rounds of executions were conducted last year: six prisoners were killed in January and eight, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumuran, in April.

Ostensibly hoping to avoid the international outcry that surrounded those executions, the government is yet to formally announce the specifics of the third round, stating only that it is fast approaching.

However, it is understood that after the diplomatic strain that followed the executions of 14 inmates last year, nationals from the US and Britain, including Britons Lindsay Sandiford and Gareth Cashmore, and American Frank Amado, will not face the firing squad this round.

Based on visits to prisoners held in isolation cells at Nusa Kambangan on Tuesday, a group of lawyers from the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH) have compiled an unofficial list of those set to be executed.

Ricky Gunawan, the director of LBH and the lawyer for Nigerian national Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke, known as Jeff, was with his client on Tuesday when the inmate was called to sign a letter confirming the court decision on his narcotics case was final and binding.

The letter is essentially legal notice that a prisoner can be executed after 72 hours. "Jeff did not sign the acceptance letter, though," said Gunawan. "He signed a letter of refusal and told the prosecuting officer: 'We are in the process of seeking clemency.'"

Lawyers say there is evidence to suggest that Jefferson is not guilty of the crime for which he was condemned to death - possessing 1.7kg of heroin - including an admission of guilt on his deathbed by the man who allegedly framed him.

Jefferson has previously refused to apply for clemency, arguing that it would equate to an admission of guilt to a crime he did not commit. But in a last-ditch effort, his lawyers lodged an appeal for clemency on Monday morning. Under Indonesian law executions cannot be carried out while a clemency appeal is still pending.

"Legally speaking it should be enough," Gunawan told the Guardian on Wednesday morning. "Whether or not that will happen in practice, we don't know."

A clemency appeal for Merri Utami, 42, an Indonesian woman being held in an isolation cell, was also lodged on Tuesday morning, together with a handwritten appeal to the president.

"I would like to extend my apologies for what I have ever done to this country," she wrote to the president.

"My respected sir, I'm asking for forgiveness and leniency from you so that my sentence can be lightened."

The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) argues that Utami was duped into smuggling 1.1kg of heroin into Indonesia, after becoming involved with a Canadian man who showered her with gifts and then asked her to carry a bag back from their holiday together in Nepal.

Once arrested at Soekarno Hatta airport, Utami was allegedly taken to a hotel where she was beaten and threatened with rape.

News that the next round of executions is just days away has sparked outrage from rights groups, which argue that many of the cases of prisoners on death row in Indonesia are marked by questionable and inhumane practices, including beatings, torture and forced confessions.

Pakistani national Zulfiqar Ali - believed to be among those due to be executed this week - was violently beaten by police until he confessed to possessing 300g of heroin, according to a report by Amnesty International, Flawed Justice: Unfair Trials and the Death Penalty in Indonesia.

Ali later required kidney and stomach surgery for injuries sustained in custody and was denied access to consular services and a lawyer for a month after his arrest in 2004, Amnesty said.

The Pakistani embassy in Jakarta confirmed it had been notified of Ali's imminent execution. The deputy ambassador, Syed Zahid Raza, said: "The embassy of Pakistan has approached all the concerned high officials to convince them it was not a fair trial for Mr Zulfiqar."

According to Amnesty International, at least 165 people are on death row in Indonesia, and more than 40% of those for drug-related crimes. Executions for drug-related crimes are in violation of international law.

The intense resumption of executions under Widodo, and his fight against a purported drug emergency, has come as a shock to many.

"President Widodo's era was supposed to represent a new start for human rights in Indonesia," said Josef Benedict, a deputy director for Southeast Asia at Amnesty International.

"Sadly, he could preside over the highest number of executions in the country's democratic era at a time when most of the world has turned its back on this cruel practice."

There has also been some criticism that Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, is also singling out foreigners to be killed. Ten of the 14 expected to be executed are foreign nationals.

"I think it's quite a clever move," said Gunawan. "The public supports the death penalty, and probably Jokowi knows that if he executes he needs public support. If he chooses foreigners, he is shielded from criticism."

Source: The Guardian, July 27, 2016

Death Penalty for Drug Crimes Violates International Law

Indonesian president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo
Indonesian president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo of Indonesia should urgently commute the death sentences of at least 14 people who face imminent execution for drug trafficking, Human Rights Watch said today. The Indonesian government has not announced a date for the executions, but has warned that "the time is approaching." Jakarta-based diplomats have reported that the attorney general's office informed them that the executions will take place on July 29, 2016.

"President Jokowi should acknowledge the death penalty's barbarity and avoid a potential diplomatic firestorm by sparing the lives of the 14 or more people facing imminent execution," said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. "Jokowi should also ban the death penalty for drug crimes, which international law prohibits, rather than giving the go-ahead for more multiple executions."

Authorities have already transferred several death row prisoners, including Indonesian national Merry Utami and Pakistani national Zulfiqar Ali, to Nusa Kambangan island, where the executions are slated to occur. Pakistan's government is seeking to dissuade Indonesia from executing Ali, who has been on death row since 2005 for drug smuggling, alleging that Ali's "trial was not fair."

Foreign embassy personnel and media reports have confirmed that the death row prisoners also include 4 Nigerians, 1 Zimbabwean, and several Indonesian nationals. The Nigerians are Eugene Ape, Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke, Michael Titus Igweh, and Obinna Nwajagu, who were all arrested for drug trafficking in 2002 or 2003.

The government has not released an official list of prisoners facing the death penalty in the coming days. Indonesia's security chief, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, told reporters on May 13 that he wants these executions to occur without a "soap opera," a reference to Brazil's and Australia's highly publicized but unsuccessful efforts to prevent the execution of their citizens in Indonesia's most recent mass executions in April 2015.

Indonesia ended a 4-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in March 2013. President Widodo has sought to justify the use of the death penalty on the basis that drug traffickers on death row had "destroyed the future of the nation." In December 2014 he told students that the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers was an "important shock therapy" for anyone who violates Indonesia's drug laws.

The alleged deterrent effect of the death penalty has been repeatedly debunked. Most recently, on March 4, 2015, the United Nations assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, stated that there was "no evidence that the death penalty deters any crime." Even with respect to murder, an Oxford University analysis concluded that capital punishment does not deter "murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment."

According to the most recent statistics issued by the minister of law and human rights, Yasonna Laoly, 133 people were on death row in Indonesia as of January 2015. They included 57 convicted of drug trafficking, 2 for terrorist offenses, and the remaining 74 for murder or robbery.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty. Indonesia's use of the death penalty is contrary to international human rights law, statements of UN human rights experts, and various UN bodies. Human rights law upholds every human being's "inherent right to life" and limits the death penalty to "the most serious crimes," typically crimes resulting in death or serious bodily harm. Indonesia should join the many countries already committed to the UN General Assembly's December 18, 2007 resolution calling for a moratorium on executions, a move by UN member countries toward abolition of the death penalty.

In a March 2010 report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime called for an end to the death penalty and specifically urged member countries to prohibit use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses, while urging countries to take an overall "human rights-based approach to drug and crime control." In its 2014 annual report, the International Narcotics Control Board, the agency charged with monitoring compliance with UN drug control conventions, encouraged countries to abolish the death penalty for drug offenses. The UN Human Rights Committee and the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions have concluded that the death penalty for drug offenses fails to meet the condition of "most serious crime." In September 2015 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reaffirmed that "persons convicted of drug-related offences ... should not be subject to the death penalty."

"President Jokowi should recognize the well-documented failure of the death penalty as a crime deterrent and allow Indonesia to join the growing number of countries that have abolished capital punishment," Kine said. "Jokowi would demonstrate leadership and respect for human rights by granting clemency to convicted drug traffickers on death row and restoring Indonesia's unofficial moratorium on the death penalty."

Source: Human Rights Watch, July 27, 2016

⚑ | Report an error, an omission; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; send a submission; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.

Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running!

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

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Texas: With a man's execution days away, his victims react with fury or forgiveness

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejects clemency for Chris Young

Texas executes Christopher Young

Ohio executes Robert Van Hook

The Aum Shinrikyo Executions: Why Now?

Execution date pushed back for Texas 7 escapee after paperwork error on death warrant

Indonesia: Gay couple publicly whipped after vigilante mob drags them out of beauty salon

20 Minutes to Death: Record of the Last Execution in France

Fentanyl And The Death Penalty

Saudi Arabia executes seven people in one day