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Indonesia: 'Theatre of cruelty' condemned as executions go ahead

The execution of eight people in Indonesia today shows complete disregard for due process and human rights, Amnesty International said this evening. The organisation also called for plans to carry out further executions to be scrapped.

Eight people, including Indonesian and foreign nationals, were today put to death by firing squad on Nusakambangan Island, off Java. All of them had been convicted of drug trafficking. The execution of a Filipina national, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, was halted at the last minute by Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Thousands of Amnesty members and other ordinary people all around the world are deeply saddened by this news.

“The world has watched on as this theatre of cruelty played out, with this most tragic of endings. It did not have to come to this. The death penalty is never the answer.”

Amnesty had been campaigning hard for the executions to be halted, and had written to President Widodo this week, calling for clemency.

Among those executed were two Australians -  Myuran Sukumaran  and Andrew Chan - convicted for drug trafficking as part of the ‘Bali Nine’ and sentenced to death by firing squad in 2006. Amnesty’s Australia branch had organised a huge candlelit vigil on Monday, and had spelled out the message ‘Keep Hope Alive’ using more than 15,000 specially donated flowers near Sidney Harbour Bridge.

Last week, Amnesty’s UK office had hosted an exhibition of London-born Sukurmaran’s paintings at its headquarters in London. Myuran Sukumaran, known as “Myu”, painted all the artworks during his ten years on death row. The haunting paintings show the evolution of his artistic skill as well as the emotional torture he had experienced living under a sentence of death for a decade. His London-based cousin, Niranjela Karunatilake, had organised the exhibition, entitled From Death Row - A solo Exhibition by Myuran Sukumaran, to draw attention to his case, and to mark his 34th birthday last Friday.

Death by firing squad

In Indonesia, a condemned prisoner has the “choice” of standing or sitting and whether to have their eyes covered by a blindfold or by a hood. Firing squads are made up of 12 people, three of whose rifles are loaded with live ammunition, while the other nine rifles contain blanks. The squad fires from a distance of between five and ten metres.

Fourteen people have now been put to death in Indonesia in 2015, and the government has announced plans for further executions this year.

Legal concerns

There were a number of concerns over the legal processes for the individuals executed today. At least two ongoing legal appeals from the death row prisoners which had been accepted by the courts. The clemency petitions of all eight prisoners had been summarily considered and rejected, undermining their right to appeal for pardon or commutation of their sentence as provided for under international law.

Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:

 “These executions are utterly reprehensible– they were carried out with complete disregard for internationally recognized safeguards on the use of the death penalty,”

“President Joko Widodo should immediately abandon plans to carry out further executions and impose a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards abolition.

“The death penalty is always a human rights violation, but there are a number of factors that make today’s executions even more distressing. Some of the prisoners were reportedly not provided access to competent lawyers or interpreters during their arrest and initial trial, in violation of their right to a fair trial which is recognized under international and national law.

“One of those executed today, Rodrigo Gularte, had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and international law clearly prohibits the use of the death penalty against those with mental disabilities. It’s also troubling that people convicted of drug trafficking have been executed, even though this does not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” for which the death penalty can be imposed under international law.”

The eight individuals executed today are Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (both Australian, males), Raheem Agbaje Salami (Nigerian, male. Also known as Jamiu Owolabi Abashin), Zainal Abidin (Indonesian, male), Martin Anderson, alias Belo (Ghanaian, male), Rodrigo Gularte (Brazilian, male), Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise (Nigerian, male) and Okwudili Oyatanze (Nigerian, male).


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