Sunday, April 19, 2015

Support for appeal by Karapatan to save Mary Jane Veloso

Abolitionthai is very aware of the miscarriage of  justice exemplified in the case of Mary Jane Veloso. There are many Thai women under sentence of death in other Asian countries, who suffer from faulty systems of justice and inadequate support of their own country. We join hands with Karapatan in their appeal for strong intervention by the OHCHR. In a matter of the death of our women citizens there is no room for ASEAN so called principle of non-interference.
April 15, 2015
H.E. Mr. Joachim Rücker
Human Rights Council President
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
52 Rue des Paquis, CH 1201
Geneva, Switzerland        

 Dear Mr. Rücker:
Karapatan is an alliance of Philippine-based human rights organizations, desks, institutions and individual human rights advocates that monitors and documents human rights violations in the country[i]. We co-convene several platforms for engagements with the United Nations Human Rights Council, including its mandate holders and treaty bodies, to monitor and report on the compliance of the Philippine government to international human rights instruments. The human rights desk of Migrante International, an organization of Filipino migrant workers and their families, is a member of Karapatan.
We write to inform the Council on the plight of Mary Jane Veloso, a 30-year-old Filipina and mother of two children, who was sentenced to death by the Indonesian Supreme Court in April 2010 for drug trafficking.
Veloso’s case was submitted for judicial review, but her appeal was rejected by the Indonesian Supreme Court last March 26, 2015. News reports state that Indonesia is preparing to transfer Veloso from the city of Yogyakarta to the maximum security prison in Nusakambangan Island of Central Java to await execution by firing squad.
Veloso was a domestic worker in Dubai from 2009 to 2010. She left Dubai and came back to the Philippines after her employer attempted to rape her. On April 22, 2010, she was illegally recruited by the daughter of her godfather to work as a domestic worker in Malaysia. When she arrived in Kuala Lumpur, the same person told her that the job was not available anymore and that she would instead be transferred to Indonesia. Upon her arrival at the Jogjakarta airport, Veloso was apprehended by customs officials. It was there that she found out that she was tricked into carrying luggage containing 2.6 kilos of heroin. Hidden inside Veloso's luggage was 2.6 kilograms of heroin wrapped in aluminum foil, with an estimated street value of US$500,000. She had been set up as a drug mule and was arrested by the police.
Mary Jane was not provided a lawyer or translator by the Philippine embassy upon her arrest in 2010. During her trial, the court-provided interpreter was not a duly-licensed translator by the Association of Indonesian Translators. Her lawyer during the course of her trial was a public defender provided by the Indonesian police. The Phil. government did not provide a lawyer during the crucial period of her 6-month trial. Mary Jane was convicted after a very brief trial period – on October 2010, just six months after she was arrested. Public prosecutors asked the court to sentence Mary Jane to life imprisonment but the judges handed down a death sentence. Based on the timeline provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Phil. Embassy in Indonesia appealed the trial court sentence to the Indonesia Court of Appeals in October 2010. The embassy-hired lawyer filed a final appeal to the Supreme Court in February 2011. [ii]
We fully agree with Migrante International, an organization of Filipino migrants handling the case ofVeloso, that the Philippine government’s appeal for clemency for Mary Jane since 2011 was a passive and perfunctory effort, with no further attempts of such after the moratorium against executions was lifted by then newly-elected Indonesian president Joko Widodo. Phil. Pres. Benigno Aquino III only intervened more than a year after Veloso had already been sentenced to death, through a request for clemency with then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono who imposed a moratorium on executions during his term.
This was later rejected by new President Joko Widodo, who lifted the moratorium as soon as he took office.
For five years, the Philippine government and its Department of Foreign Affairs did not actively initiate contact and worked with the Veloso family, nor provide regular updates on the status of her case.According to Mary Jane’s parents, Cesar and Celia, and her sister, Maritess, they learned of Mary Jane’s imprisonment not from the government but from a phone call from Mary Jane herself, and a few days later from her alleged recruiter, Kristina Sergio.
The Philippine government had not done anything to arrest, investigate or even just invite for questioning Mary Jane’s alleged recruiter and trafficker.
Veloso's execution was deferred by the Indonesian government in February 2015 following a formal appeal from the Phil. Department of Foreign Affairs. Veloso claims she did not have a capable interpreter during her trial. Last month, the Indonesian government allowed her family — her mother, sister and two children — to see her in prison.
On March 3 to 4, a two-day trial was held in Sleman to determine whether there was new evidence in Mary Jane’s case. Lawyers argued she deserved a case review because she wasn’t given a capable translator. The head of the foreign language school in Yogyakarta testified that the translator at the time was indeed their student. To support Veloso’s case, her lawyers cited as precedent the Supreme Court’s decision in 2007 commuting the death sentence of another convicted drug smuggler, Thai national Nonthanam M. Saichon, also because of the translator issue. But on March 26, the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected the case review request.
We acknowledge the statement of UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings/Summary Executions Christof Heyns on the dire lack of fair trial and due process in the case of foreign nationals on death row, especially that of Veloso, in Indonesia.
Veloso’s case is indeed indicative of several violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[iii] and the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families[iv], wherein both Indonesia and Philippines are State parties, including the right to appear in court with qualified translators in the State of employment, legal representation at all stages of the judicial process, consular support of State of origin for foreign national defendants throughout the judicial process, inconsistencies in sentences for similar cases, and the application of the death penalty in drug-related cases[v].
Karapatan believes that while gross violations against Veloso are perpetrated by the Indonesian government, the Philippine government should be made accountable as well for its gross inability of the Philippine government to protect its citizens who, in the absence of better opportunities in the country, venture to seek employment abroad despite immense difficulties.  According to Migrante International, Mary Jane Veloso is the eighth OFW put on death row under B. S. Aquino’s watch. Seven have already been executed before her, earning for the Aquino regime the stature of having the most number of OFW executions since the Philippine Labor Export Policy was hatched in 1970.There are at least 125 more OFWs on death row in other countries where capital punishment is also imposed.
We appeal to the Council to exercise its moral suasion on the Indonesian government in overturning the death sentence on Veloso and possibly grant her clemency.  We implore the Council to take meaningful measures, including a review of human rights records and compliance to international human rights instruments of its Member States, to hold the Indonesian and Philippine governments accountable for this injustice on Veloso and her family.
Cristina Palabay, Secretary General Karapatan

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Joko, listen to the world!

France wants halt to execution of its citizen

France has requested Indonesia to halt the plan to execute one of its citizens who was put on death row after being convicted of drug charges, warning that the relationship between the two countries could suffer if it goes ahead.
“If the execution is carried out, it will not be without consequence for our bilateral relationship,” Ambassador Corinne Breuze told reporters in Jakarta, adding that France, which abolished the death penalty in 1981, was opposed to capital punishment in every circumstance.
Serge Atlaoui, 51, was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy and sentenced to death two years later.
Imprisoned in Indonesia for a decade, the father-of-four has always denied the charges, saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory.
He has appealed for his case to be reviewed by the Supreme Court and a verdict on that is expected imminently.
If rejected, his execution and that of other foreigners — including citizens of Australia, Brazil, the Philippines, Ghana and Nigeria — could occur very soon.
Breuze said that Atlaoui was wrongly prosecuted.
“News that said Serge was caught with 138 kilograms of methamphetamine, 290 kilograms of ketamine and 316 drums of drug-precursor chemicals are nonsense and misleading. All those goods were confiscated from the factory along with 17 other people. It’s far too much to consider Serge the only person to be responsible for all the seized goods,” she said.
The French government also questions the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) for putting Serge on the list of people to be executed very soon, while the others detained together with him are not on the list.
“Is it because he is a foreign national?” asked Atlaoui’s lawyer, Nancy Yuliana.
France also questions the Supreme Court’s (MA) ruling to uphold Atlaoui’s death penalty on the basis of his role as a chemist, while the lower court considered him as the mastermind in the drug-running operation.
“Serge is no more than just a technician. His role was minimum in this case and all testimonies supported that,” Dreuze said.
The ambassador expected the Supreme Court, which is currently reviewing Atlaoui’s case, would work professionally and independently.
She elaborated that France believes the death penalty is not a proper response to drug smuggling. “Therefore, France continuously condemns the application of the death penalty all over the world,” she said, adding that the French government is ready to help Indonesia eradicate drug smuggling.
Serge was detained in 2005 in a drug factory in Tangerang, Banten, West Java. He was first sentenced to life in prison by the Tangerang District Court in November 2006. Prosecutors appealed to the Banten High Court, which changed his sentence to death. Then in 2007 Atlaoui appealed to the MA, but his appeal was rejected.
Serge filed for a case review with the MA after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected his clemency plea in 2014. The MA is now studying the case review proposal.
Attorney General M. Prasetyo said that prosecutors had not yet set a date for executing Atlaoui. (saf )

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Indecisions of Joko Widodo and of others

How is one to understand Joko Widodo? He personally tries to save the lives of Indonesians sentenced to death abroad, while refusing clemency to those condemned to death in his own country.

Efforts by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to secure reprieves for hundreds of Indonesians on death row in overseas prisons met a sudden setback on Tuesday with the unexpected execution of a mentally ill Indonesian worker in Saudi Arabia.
The Foreign Ministry announced that migrant worker Siti Zaenab Duhri Rupa was beheaded in the city of Medina.
“The Indonesian government expresses deep condolences to her loved ones and hopes she receives the best place in heaven,” the ministry said.

Please question him about his inconsistency at:

Meanwhile Philippinos protest the failure of their own government to act more firmly in pleading for the life of a Philippine woman scheduled to be executed in Indonesia.

"Mary Jane Veloso is a victim not only of soulless creatures who took advantage of her desperation. Ultimately, she is also a victim of this government and our society that still push our poor, young and hopeless to leave everything and risk anything in order to put food on family tables and chase their simple dream of living like human beings in faraway lands—20 years after Flor Contemplacion.
Twenty years after Flor Contemplacion, Mary Jane Veloso is yet another dispensable commodity of a government that now falls all over itself to save her after apparently doing too little and too late—again. Serious and credible allegations that she was not only deceived and set up but also effectively denied basic due process to adequately defend herself mandate that she be given a fair chance to legally establish her innocence. After all, there is no further motion for reconsideration in the afterlife.
Twenty years after Flor Contemplacion, seemingly hard and cold yet fallible laws in faraway lands are poised to ignore all humanitarian pleas storming the heavens with prayers to save the life of Mary Jane Veloso.
Twenty years before Mary Jane Veloso, we did not want to see Flor Contemplacion’s stoic face or hear her pained moans crying for mercy and justice as she was delivered to the gallows.
Against all odds, fast and furious steps in local and international venues are again being explored and exhausted by a team of Filipino human rights lawyers just recently retained by Mary Jane Veloso’s family to help stop her unjust execution in Indonesia—20 years after Flor Contemplacion."
EDRE U. OLALIA, secretary general, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers,

Note: SINGAPORE—On March 17, 1995–18 years ago–the Philippines wept when Singapore hanged Filipina overseas worker Flor Contemplacion, a death that apparently unraveled the chilling tragedy behind the government’s labor importation policy. There were serious doubts about the guilt of Flor, who confessed under duress. Singapore, as was its custom, ignored pleas for clemency from abroad.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Return to a Savage Past

In Asia there is a trend to reintroduce the death penalties in countries which appeared to have abandoned the practice, and were approaching full abolition. This is a sad ending to the slow advance to universal abolition which still continues throughout the world. There is a saying that those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat its mistakes. The awful mistake of believing that capital punishment is an appropriate and effective counter to evil has been made and oft repeated over thousands of years. Notable examples were the drastic legal code of Draco, the Greek Dictator, 622 B.C., which inflicted the death penalty for almost every crime, and the “Bloody Code”, a term used to refer to the system of laws and punishments in England between 1688 and 1815. At its height this criminal law included some 220 crimes punishable by death, including "being in the company of Gypsies for one month", "strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age" and "blacking the face or using a disguise whilst committing a crime". It took centuries for humanity to progress to an understanding of human dignity, and to elaborate a penal system capable of humane punishment. The step backwards to the failed method of capital punishment can be made instantly by countries that have not progressed to formal constitutional and legal abolition at both national and international levels.

Indonesia: A de facto moratorium in effect between 2008 and 2013 was never an official one. Reportedly, the stoppage in executions in 2009 was due to procedural questions before the Supreme Court. Reports from August 2010 indicate that despite resolution of those questions in favor of allowing more speedy executions, the government did not resume executions until 2013. That had been interpreted as a hesitancy to execute, rather than an official moratorium. Indonesia is now flaunting a renewed enthusiasm for the death penalty. Five persons were executed in 2013, six in this year, while prisoners are already installed in the antechamber for execution on the island of Nusakambangan.
Vietnamese woman bravely walks to her execution in Indonesia. She declined to be bound or blindfolded as she stood facing the firing squad. How could soldiers open fire on this woman? 

Pakistan: A communication was recently sent from Pakistan's interior ministry to all provincial home secretaries, instructing the latter to carry out death penalties against death row prisoners who have exhausted all legal avenues for appeal or clemency. Following a Taliban attack against a school in Peshawar in December 2014, Pakistan announced that it would resume carrying out the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism charges, lifting its six-year moratorium on executions. 24 individuals have reportedly been executed in Pakistan since then. This recent announcement by the government would expand the resumption of executions to all death penalty crimes, putting hundreds of death row prisoners in Pakistan at imminent risk of execution.

India: The last two executions to take place in India were the February 8, 2013 hanging of Muhammad Afzal, convicted of plotting the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament, and the hanging of 2008 Mumbai attack gunman Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab on November 21, 2012. Prior to these hangings, the last execution in India had taken place in 2004, when Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed by hanging for the murder and rape of a 14-year old girl. This, in turn, was the country’s first execution since 1995.

One lesson to be learned from this ebb and flow of application of the death penalty is that continued attention to education on abolition is necessary even in countries which have abolished the death penalty with full international ratification. Comments in Australian newspapers show majority support for the execution by Indonesia of Australian citizens, albeit that these co-nationals are of Asian origin.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

International Women's Day

In India the cycle of violence predicted by Mahatma Gandhi is rising. Two of the men who raped and killed a girl in Delhi and already condemned to death have been lynched by a mob.
See the film "India's Daughter":

Friday, February 27, 2015

President Widodo, hold your hand.


                              Nusakambangan Island

In the first place, the death penalty belongs to the past, just as torture and slavery. Since the 1948 trumpet call in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. In the words of the Preamble, the Universal Declaration is “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”. This includes Indonesia, and applies to you its president. Our call to you is not interference in the affairs of you and your country; our appeal is to our shared humanity which transcends all national boundaries. Your order to kill our brothers and sisters, offends our humanity, lessens its value, and takes side with others who defy the world by taking human life for whatever reason.

You are transgressing against international law, which in a world where the death penalty has still been granted some legal tolerance, still grants exception to execution for premeditated homicide, but not for drug related crimes.

Your use of the death penalty is ineffective; there is no proof that execution deters crime, even to a marginal degree.

The world indeed suffers from a plague of drugs and it is our common challenge to find remedy for this curse on civilization. Please pay heed to the countries which have learned at the cost of countless lives that Capital Punishment is not the solution. The problem of drugs is a challenge which must depend on a concerted effort of all countries, who unite on the affirmation of the value of every life. It is also the task of every country to use all the resources of its beliefs, cultures, and traditions to counter the awful threat of drugs, a problem embedded in an addiction to gratification and a commercialism that pervades all. Play your part in this struggle to save our peoples from the plague of drugs and their trade.

Halt your preparations for death, the world holds breath as you get ready your island of death: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved with Mankind” John Donne
Please sign the protest at: