Monday, August 24, 2015

Dozens of Indonesian nationals on death row for drugs

The National Narcotics Agency (BNN) has said that there are currently 129 Indonesian nationals facing the death penalty for their role in drug smuggling.

“The majority of them are migrant workers who were tricked into becoming couriers by international drug syndicates and most of them are women,” BNN chief Anang Iskandar said as quoted by Antara news agency on Sunday.
The BNN has appealed to Indonesian citizens, especially migrant workers in Hong Kong and Macau, to remain alert over the danger of drug syndicates in the countries in which they work.
“They should not be easily duped. They should be careful when someone wants to entrust something to them. Also be very careful with strangers,” he said.
Anang earlier warned women in the country to be careful when dating foreigners, suggesting they could be tricked into becoming drug mules.
He said that many Indonesian women were languishing in prisons abroad because they were “easily tricked into drug-trafficking”.
On Sunday, Anang also called on Indonesian nationals who use drugs abroad to immediately stop and seek help from an Indonesian representative office. The office, he said, could recommend them to a rehab center.
“We are cooperating with a number of countries on a bilateral and multilateral basis to prevent and eradicate drug abuse, and to unravel international drug networks that use Indonesian citizens as mules or consider Indonesia a part of their smuggling route,” he said.
Anang also said that the demand for drugs in Indonesia remained very high, making the country one of the main destinations for drug smuggling.
The BNN estimates that there are more than 4.2 million active drug users in the country.
“If one of them consumes 0.2 grams a day, it means 80 kilograms of drugs is needed every day to satiate demand, or 2.4 tons per month and 29 tons per year,” he said.
Indonesian consul general in Hong Kong, Chalief Akbar Tjandraningrat, said there were 28 Indonesian citizens currently embroiled in drug cases in Hong Kong.
“Twelve of them are still in detention, while 16 others have been sentenced. In Macau the number is 10, and most of them are couriers and most are women,” he said.
Under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration, the government has implemented tougher measures on drug offenders.
Declaring a “drug emergency”, President Jokowi has called for the death penalty for drug dealers and has rejected clemency pleas from convicted traffickers. Despite protests from human rights campaigners and the international community, his administration executed 14 convicts — including foreigners of multiple nationalities — in January and May of this year. 
 Jakarta Post 24th August 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Death Penalty Statistics

                                                Death Penalty Statistics 31 May 2015

Trial stage
Drug case
M 387 F 50

                                                 Total prison population 23 July 2015
                                     Male 263,077       Female 44,417      Total 307,494
                            Thailand has the sixth highest prison population in the world
                          The rate of imprisonment of women is the highest in the world
                                                   Crime Distribution in Prisons
Data from Department of Corrections Website:



Indonesia also may extend the death penalty

Hard on the heels of Thailand which has resurrected legislation to impose the death penalty for corruption, muslim clerics in Indonesia, are joining the same chorus.
"Muslim clerics across the nation have urged law enforcement agencies and courts to be steadfast in dealing with corruption and money laundering, and to be bold enough to hand down death sentences to those found guilty of corruption.
Religious leaders from the country's largest Islamic organization NU, having 90,000,000 followers, said corruption and money laundering were extraordinary crimes against humanity because of their adverse impact on the nation, state and community: "We clerics are in favour of the death penalty if conditions are supportive and requirements are met" NU board chairman for legal affairs, Ahmed Ishomuddin told media in Yogyakarta. "Among the requirements are if corrupption and money laundering are committed at a time when the country is in peril during economic or social crises, or committed repeatedly" he added.
Meanwhile, Umar Faroeq, another leader said that clerics also studied about the death penalty handed down to corrupt people from the viewpoint of Muslim clerics long ago: "It exists in the Maliki and Hanafi Islamic teaching schools, and the condition is very clear, that is, when it is done repeatedly" said Umar. He added that an edict on the death penalty for corrupt people had not been issued by clerics from long ago becuase they were very careful and paid attention to aspects of human rights. "But now we are in a time of crisis and it's time to implement it" he added."
Jakarta Post, 30th July

The argument that the death penalty is part of Islamic teaching "long ago" is to appeal to a religion that ignores cultural and historic development, condemning us to a tribal morality of the past. All religions suffer the temptation to be locked in an imagined past, leading to the disaster of religious intoleraance, and, in particular, the survival of the death penalty. In fact there are traditions that the founders of the great religions, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim, personally eschewed penalty of death. Today, we reject the death penalty because it is inhuman, because a modern justice regime provides other sanctions to executions ineffective in deterring crime. It is disappointing that Indonesian Muslim organizations, professing to be progressive, are retrograde on the issue of Capital Punishment. 

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Government remains intransigent on the case of Mary Jane Veloso:
"The Attorney General's Office (AGO) announced on Wednesday that it was unlikely that legal proceedings in the Philippines would prevent the death seentence of convicted Filipino drug trafficker Mary Jane Veloso. The government would not respond to requests to free Veloso who had been proven to have smuggled heroin into the country"
Jakarta Post, 30th July

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Executions not a priority: Attorney General of Indonesia

After executing over a dozen drug convicts amid international outrage since January, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) claims that it has yet to schedule a third round of executions, following the most recent one in April.

Attorney General M. Prasetyo said on Friday that the AGO had yet to discuss the next executions, specifically those of Frenchman Serge Atlaoui and Mary Jane Veloso of the Philippines.
“I have not even thought about it yet. We are focusing on other, more important tasks that need to be completed soon,” he told reporters at the AGO headquarters in South Jakarta.
“We hope that it was clear through the first and second round of executions that we will be firm and not tolerate any drug violations,” said the attorney general.

Both Atlaoui and Veloso were slated to be among a group of death row inmates who faced a firing squad on April 29 for drug trafficking charges.
The callousness of Attorney Prasetyo is horrifying; what is the reaction of the two condemned to death when they learn that the state has "more important tasks" to attend to than their execution?
Is this the same attitude that we witnessed in the awful film "The Act of Killing"; has the history of the slaughter of over a million persons in Indonesia left behind this lack of sensitivity to killing?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reprieve for Pakistani Woman Condemned to Death

This website is particularly troubled by the execution of women. The case of Bibi Asia is especially painful as the accusers of the condemned woman are also women.
Top Pakistani court stays execution of Asia Bibi, grants new hearing in blasphemy case
Asia Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since 2010 after being convicted of insulting the Islamic Prophet Mohammed during a row over drinking water with Muslim women with whom she was working in a field. Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence, and acquittals in court are rare.

Bibi’s death sentence was confirmed in October 2014 by the High Court in the eastern city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province where the incident took place. She denies the charges against her and in November appealed against the death sentence. A Supreme Court bench sitting in Lahore yesterday agreed to consider the appeal in detail — rejecting the option to dismiss it.

“The Supreme Court today accepted the petition of my client to appeal against the death sentence confirmation by the Lahore High Court,” Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook. The lawyer said the blasphemy allegation was concocted by Bibi’s enemies to target her and had no basis in fact.

The allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009, when she was labouring in a field and a dispute broke out with some Muslim women with whom she was working. She was asked to fetch water but the Muslim women objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl. A few days later the women went to a local cleric and made the blasphemy allegations.

Under Pakistan’s stringent blasphemy laws, insulting the Prophet Mohammed carries the death penalty, though the country has never executed anyone for the crime. But anyone convicted, or even just accused, of insulting Islam, risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.

Bonded labourer Shehzad Masih and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi were beaten by a mob of 1,500 people then thrown into a lit furnace last year in a crazed reaction to rumours they had thrown pages of the Koran into the garbage.

July 22, 2015   Pakistan’s Supreme Court has stayed the execution of Asia Bibi, and ordered a new hearing on her case. Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five children, has been imprisoned for six years—including nearly five on death row—after being convicted of insulting Islam. Her lawyers have consistently argued that there is no evidence to support the conviction. Islamic militants, on the other hand, have insisted on enforcement of the sentence against her, and threatened lynching if she is freed. The Supreme Court announced that it would hear an appeal of the Bibi case; a date for the new hearing has not been set. Her lawyers, however, have said that they are confident a fair hearing will result in her acquittal and release.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Saga of Shackling in Thailand

A post on September 30, 2006 tells that all prisoners condemned to death are permanently shackled. A first victory by a prisoner who protested the inhumanity of such a practice was won in a decision of the Administrative Court. The brief of his case was written by Mr. Benny Moafi, a prisoner who had graduated in law during his imprisonment. The brief was a textbook example of an appeal to international law as enshrined in UN conventions ratified by the Kingdom of Thailand. The plea was accepted by the Administrative Court and the prisoner's shackles were removed. However, the Department of Corrections moved him to a different prison where he was re-shackled. At the same time the Department of Corrections appealed against the judgment.
Another post on February 5, 2013 reports the momentous decision to end permanent shackling in Thai prisons and the prisoner who fought the practice was also unshackled. Later his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
Yesterday, 10th July, the Supreme Administrative Court responded to the appeal of the Corrections Department. The Judgment ruled in favour of the Department of Corrections and justified shackling. The arguments based on international conventions were ignored, and shackling was justified on the basis of the administrative rules of the Corrections Department. These rules give details of the dimensions of shackles, and the reasoning for the use of shackles, such as the danger of escape, the danger of self harm or harm to others. The use of permanent shackling is now legally restored in Thailand, and the decision on use remains with the Corrections Department.

A Promise Fulfilled - But Indonesia Repeats, Execution Still Pending

Superstar Filipino boxer Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao fulfilled on Friday his promise to meet death-row inmate Mary Jane Veloso in a Yogyakarta prison. During the visit he reiterated his plea to the Indonesian government to spare the life of his compatriot.
Pacquiao was accompanied by his wife Jinkee Jamora and Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Maria Lumen B Isleta in his morning visit to the Wirogunan Penitentiary, where Veloso has been detained since late April after the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) decided to postpone her execution.
Later on Friday, Pacquiao and his entourage flew to Jakarta to meet with the leadership of the Indonesian House of Representatives. Meanwhile, Attorney General M. Prasetyo insisted that Pacquiao’s meeting with the House leadership would not affect Veloso’s impending execution. “No, [the meeting] will not postpone her execution. Like I’ve said before, we are waiting for the legal process in the Philippines to conclude. We must respect it,” he said.
Indonesia appears impervious to all reason on a case where guilt is subject to reasonable doubt. However, the Philippine people, united in their support for Mary Jane, are a force to be reckoned with. On a previous occasion in 1995, their anger against Singapore for executing a young Philippine house maid, Flor Contemplacion, caused Singapore to avoid arresting another Philippine women suspected of carrying drugs. Instead they allowed her to board a plane and informed Manilla drug authorities of her arrival, thereby avoiding the anger that would follow a second execution. 
          (The story is told in "Once a Jolly Hangman" by Alan Sandrake.)

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Mary Jane Veloso - while there is life there is hope

SEMARANG, Indonesia—Boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao said he will visit Mary Jane Veloso on death row in Indonesia on Friday and also plans to raise her case with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
Veloso was sentenced to death in Indonesia after being arrested in 2009 with 2.6 kilograms of heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase.
She was set to face the firing squad in April with several other foreign drug convicts but was granted an 11th hour reprieve after a woman suspected of recruiting her was arrested in the Philippines. The alleged recruiter and an accomplice now face charges in the Philippines.
After Veloso was given a reprieve, the Indonesian government stressed the decision was only a “postponement” to allow time for police investigations
Huge attention
The single mother of two young children has always maintained her innocence, claiming she was duped by an international human-trafficking gang into bringing the drugs into Indonesia.
The Indonesian attorney general’s office could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Widodo has vowed there will be no clemency for drug traffickers on death row as Indonesia is facing an “emergency” due to rising narcotics use.
Seven other foreign drug convicts and one Indonesian were executed as planned on the prison island of Nusakambangan in late April, sparking an international outcry.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Decider who Failed

On 26th June the vote of 78 years old Justice Anthony Kennedy was decisive in legalising marriage between persons of the same gender in the US. On 29th June the vote of the same Justice was decisive in rejecting a plea to the Supreme Court to end the death penalty in the US.
The persistence of the US in applying the death penalty, in the company of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq, is one of the human rights mysteries of this world, when countries embracing liberal democracy are foremost in its rejection. Democracy and humanism, including an absolute respect for human life, go hand in hand.
The horror of execution is shown by the choice of method. In the past it was considered necessary that execution would take place with the extreme pain of crucifixion, impalement, burning at the stake, or other monstrous tortures invented to inflict the maximum of pain. But the lust for pain lessened and the search began for a painless way to execute criminals, acknoledging that death was the ultimate penalty, and any accompanying torture was meaningless. In its day, the guillotine was welcomed. In one account it was said that the condemned would feel the blade only like the brush of a feather. Or a criminal was killed by firing squad, mimicking the so called honourable death of a soldier. In recent years lethal injection is chosen as an almost medical procedure to induce eternal sleep. But experience of botched executions, of injections administered by executioners with rudimentary medical training, such as that of Clayton Cockett who died in 45 minutes of obvious torment proved otherwise. We realise today that all our supposedly painless killings are little different from the horrific burning at the stake of former days.
In 1996, 76% of US respondents supported capital punishment; today only 56% agree. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court Justice who supported homosexual marriage, persisted in supporting the death penalty.

Comment: "Thailand is a follower, not a leader", a remark made to me by a Buddhist monk. Decisions made in the US on human rights issues are still considered normative by Thai leaders. It is unlikely that Justice Anthony Kennedy is aware of the far reaches of his vote in influencing weak minded leaders elsewhere. It is a mystery that in a Buddhist kingdom, the prime tenet of Buddhism against killing is spurned. But that is how it is. The decision of a wavering US judge has greater influence on moral decision than the dictate of the Buddha!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Death Penalty in Asia, no steps forward, many steps backwards.


The case of Pakistan: 150 executions in 6 months — Pakistan’s race to kill.

Many may have been offered clemency if they could pay the required bribe or blood money.
Pakistan has executed over 150 people since a seven-year moratorium was lifted on state executions just six months ago. If we continue at this pace, we will quickly surpass China, North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia in the number of executions carried out by the state this year. It is not only the pace of executions that is alarming, it is the fact that many of these cases are marred by corruption, torture and a flagrant disregard for international human rights standards.
A recent case was that of Aftab Bahadur, a Christian man who was accused of murder when he was just 15 years old. His confession was extracted after allegedly enduring prolonged torture, which involved being burnt by cigarettes and having his fingernails removed. Aftab Bahadur was hanged on June 10 despite calls by thousands of concerned individuals, human rights organizations, Christian leaders, and even the United Nations to grant him a reprieve. Shafqat Hussain’s story is similar. He was also sentenced when he was a juvenile, and his confession too was allegedly extracted under torture. Shafqat Hussain was arrested along with several others for the same crime. According to reports, while the others were freed after paying a 80,000 rupees (US$786) bribe, Shafqat was not because he did not possess the funds. Doubts about his guilt have led to the postponement of his sentence four times, but he has yet to be exonerated.
While Pakistan is racing to execute people, most of the rest of the world is moving in the opposite direction. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all countries have abolished the death penalty due to the growing belief that it is cruel, inhuman, degrading, discriminatory and ineffective in deterring crime. In the US, where the death penalty exists in 32 out of 50 states but is practiced in only a few, stories of innocent people being sentenced to death periodically surface. The Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to reforming the US justice system, has successfully exonerated over 300 people, some of whom had been sentenced to death, largely through the use of DNA testing — a facility not readily accessible here. In fact, since 1973, 154 people have been freed from death row in the US after spending years in prison because their guilt could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
If the US justice system, which many would cite as being one of the most robust, can make so many mistakes, one can only imagine how many wrongful convictions there have been in Pakistan where corruption plagues every level of the state’s structure, particularly the police.
Application of death penalty is inherently flawed, with members of marginalized groups far more likely to receive death sentences.  In the US, you are three times more likely to face execution if you are African American than if you are white. In Pakistan, among the marginalized are members of minority communities some of whom have been sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy. While more Muslims have received the death penalty for allegedly committing blasphemy, minority communities feel themselves at far greater risk because of their religious, caste and class identity. Despite this, many in Pakistan blindly support the death penalty because they believe it deters crime and is sanctioned by religion. Not only does this overlook the countless studies, which prove that states that apply the death penalty do not have lower murder rates, it mistakenly assumes the state acts in a manner that is fair and just. Interestingly, many of those who support the death penalty do not trust the state with their alms or even their tax money due to fears of rampant corruption, but yet they trust it with deciding the gravest of matters — that of life and death.
There are more than 8,000 people who are counting the days till they will be called to the gallows. Many of these people were likely tortured in order to extract their confessions, some when they were children. Many may have been offered clemency if they could pay the required bribe or blood money. Many were probably the victims of some personal enmity on the part of the accusers. Many are mentally challenged or ill. And many more were just the most convenient and vulnerable suspects who could be found at the time.
The state has taken a respite from executions for the holy month of Ramadan. This represents a small window of opportunity for the Pakistani public to reflect on the effectiveness of the death penalty as it is applied today — by a severely broken and corrupt justice system.

Comment: Asian countries tend to be followers, not leaders. We watch each other carefully; when one moves we all move. Above all, this is true of the death penalty. Countries in the region shuffle along, always hesitant to take the ultimate step of abolition. When the Philippines took the unusual step of abolition, the others reflected that the move was influenced by Philippines non-asian adherence to Catholicism. A Thai senator remarked to me, referring to Philappine addiction to asassination killings, that Philippines doesn't need the death penalty as they shoot each other. However, backward steps are more easily taken. Like India, its rejected twin Pakistan had begun a moratorium on the death penalty. And like India, it took the step backwards. Where does that leave Thailand, now approaching a de facto moratorium, the ultimate alternative to choice?